All Are Welcome Here

I removed this post for a while.  In adding it back I chose to edit it but kept the essence because I think it has some important tips for unschooling families.  It's my perspective as is all of this blog .I've let go of the hurt for my own peace of mind.  For Broc's sake, I still hope that his daughter will share with him what in the world this was all about to bring him some peace and perhaps one day offer him an apology. He certainly is worthy of so much more but that would at least help him see that he has a bit of love and respect.   As for me, I won't silent over injustices or unkindness ever again. None of us have that kind of time.


This is a difficult post to write.  I'm sharing it for two reasons.  First, I have been honest at Hummingbird Haven about not only our adventures and unschooling lives but about our ups and downs with a blended family.  We have worked so hard to be inclusive but this story is about something that didn't go well.  Second, my hope is that by sharing it, I can offer some insight that may help parents reading here with the issues of social exclusion with their children.

Broc's daughter got married last week. The wedding was in Texas and both Broc and I flew to Austin. However, out of his entire family, only he and his three children attended the celebration.

Broc and I had been looking forward to this wedding since we first heard about the engagement last year. I imagined all five kids hanging out like they used to do all those summers in Florida. Broc and I started taking dancing lessons for the upcoming occasion and making travel plans. We looked forward to a happy and joyous celebration with them all.

We have always felt our relationships with his kids were loving and solid including his relationship with his daughter.  We also thought we had a mutually respectful relationship with the other parents, the children's biological mom and their step-dad.  Even though we do not live in Texas, we would have invited them for dinner if they had ever been in our part of the world.

A few months before the wedding, we were in touch with his daughter about what and when we could contribute to the wedding expenses. She seemed very happy about it all.  However, as time got closer, we discovered  that no invitations would be sent to any of us until they received money from us. Unbelievable as that may sound, that is exactly what happened. As we couldn't contribute until a work bonus was paid,  very invitations were mailed after they received money from us. So late that even if many of Broc's family had felt welcomed, they would not have had time to make arrangements to attend.  We knew then that we were not welcome. Paying to get an invitation to any celebration especially your own daughter's wedding?  Ummm......what?

Then, Broc's daughter called to tell him that only her step-dad would be walking her down the aisle. That was heartbreaking to him but he still wanted very much to be a part of her wedding day.   We continued to make our plans with only him attending but with me as support crew for the trip. At the wedding, he did not walk her down the aisle. He was not asked to dance first with her.  He was not asked to give any sort of a toast at the reception. Only, the step-dad was involved.   Broc was effectively and quietly excluded from his daughter's wedding except for being part of the photo taking. He was treated as less than a Dad.  Way less.

Broc has always had great respect for the step-dad and after the wedding he shared with me that he truly thought that he would step up and include him during the wedding.. He is a previous pastor and has always been very kind to Broc.

 I'm quite certain that Broc was gracious during the wedding and reception as he always is.  We were staying close by with some dear friends in Austin and I was so glad that I was there for him when it was over.  Tough days, my friends.  So heart-wrenching for him.  Those potential memories that could have been made with his daughter at her wedding are forever gone.

So, how do we recover from this?  We've talked it though and have both been sad but mostly confused. It truly didn't make any sense to us or to our friends and family. Why in the world would people be so unkind to a man whose children are the biggest joy in his life and who has been such a loving Dad?  Why was there not enough love and compassion to include him on this day that celebrates love and family? There were two on each side of the bride to walk. His daughter had promised him the first dance, yet she texted him to change that on the day of the wedding.  Not even the opportunity to give a toast to his daughter and tell her how much he loves her. Broc is heartbroken but doing his best not to let on.

We are still talking and working through it as best we can. Letting go and moving on to happier times.  We were surrounded and are so grateful to  friends and family both in Austin and around the country who checked in throughout the weekend and are still holding Broc up with phone calls and texts.

One of the question posed to us and that we asked ourselves was this. Why didn't someone within that circle of family and friends step up and say "This is just not right or kind."? If they did speak up, why wasn't that at least shared with Broc.  We honestly don't know the answer.  The question remains.  Why?  Why not choose love and inclusion for all your family on a day celebrating love?

 In my entire life, I don't recall a situation where I felt excluded to this extent.  Certainly not with family and I consider my step-kids a much loved part of our family.  I've spent the last few days researching social exclusion and most of what I've read comes back to the term "bullying".

"Being excluded or ostracized is an invisible form of bullying", says  Dr. Kipling D Williams, Purdue professor of psychological sciences.

This was quiet if not invisible because in a social situation such as a wedding, it is important for others not to see any breach of etiquette.  However, I am quite sure that many guests wondered why Broc was not part of the wedding.  It is common when this type of behavior occurs to pretend it's not happening.  It makes others uncomfortable and few people are brave enough to stand up and say anything. That is how bullying of any kind becomes pervasive.

So, what can we learn from this kind of behavior in adults? How can we help young kids learn ways to navigate social exclusion in childhood and to become the person that speaks up for those that are being excluded?  How do we help them learn to include others even if it's not the easiest path and might set them apart from the favored group?

I believe the very best thing we can do is to simply and consistently be accepting and kind to them and to every single person that is a part of their lives. My kids have had Broc in their lives since they were very young.  They also have their biological Dad who is a huge part of our family.. Always welcome.  Always included.

Be compassionate.  Listen to them.  If you happen to be in a blended family, support and encourage their relationship with their other parent.  Do not say negative things about the other parent or step-parent.  Include the other parent. Speak kindly of the other parent. Give your children the opportunity to love all their parents and not have to choose between them.  Be a partner not an adversary.

As unschoolers, my two kids didn't experience the kind of bullying and exclusion that goes on in schools but they saw it within sports activities, camps they attended and classes they took.  Our message through modeling and words was that it is not okay to ignore or make other kids feel left out. I saw my role in those situations as being the one to make sure that child was part of the group in any way I could. 

Dr. Williams says, "Teach kids that exclusion hurts. Exclusion is an insidious form of bullying,  Williams believes, and harder to document because it's the absence of behavior. Talk to children about how much it hurts, whether they're victims or perpetrators."

If your children consistently see you being kind and welcoming to everyone all the time, they have a good shot at becoming the kind of adults who will stand up for inclusiveness in all areas of their lives. 

I came home even more determined to love big.  I will continue to be kind and not let this experience have a negative effect on our lives.  I only have control in how I react to this.  I choose love.

 All will be welcomed and celebrated in our home and any future weddings or celebrations in our lives.  Hopefully, bridges can be rebuilt that have been weakened.  My wish is that all our grandchildren will grow up surrounded by kindness while knowing that all the people in their lives are valued and loved.    



Penta Mom said…
Craziness, craziness, craziness...
I can see virtually no need to continue trying to figure out the whys, just the need to do as you say, continue to model kindness and inclusiveness, as you do so well.
One day, that daughter is going to regret the way she treated her dad on her wedding day. As will some of the others when they recognize the gravity of themselves having chosen to be either the bully or the bystander. We all know who the bullied in the triangle is....

Onwards and upwards! You and and Broc are great specimens of humanity! May there be many people in your lives open to the influence of your kindness, inclusivity, and love. <3
Cally said…
What a beautiful post in the face of such hurt and unkindness. I would have been ranting and swearing and screaming and and and.... Oh wait, what do I mean 'would have been'? It happened - not quite the same, but similar wedding shit resulted in me behaving very badly. Not at the wedding, but afterwards. You guys are amazing. Love n hugs.
Nancy said…
What a difficult situation. It seems like you both handled it with grace, even though you were hurting. When I feel hurt about something that someone "does to me", I try to remember its never really about me, its about them. Its a real shame that you and your husband missed out on the full, loving experience, but I know you will go the extra mile to make sure no one feels that way around you both. Hugs.
Gillian Mayer said…

We have so many great memories of all the ways your family has touched our lives, and included us. Aching for you all. And sending so much love!


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