A Tale of Two Families. Make that Three.

This weekend, I made dinner for my in-laws. My stepmother-in-law has been laid up in bed for a while, and my father-in-law needed a break from playing caretaker for a night. So Mr. Ostrich and I went over to provide them with a meal sans prep, cooking, and clean up.

Over dinner, Kittiwake* (Mr. O’s stepmom) told us that she was starting to plan a baby shower for “someone.” Then she launched into her  plan…. But before I go on, a moment or two of background.

Mr. O’s biological parents split up when he was young. It is safe to say this divorce was not pleasant. Throughout most of his childhood, Mr. O had to navigate those heady waters so many children of divorce do– loving two people who cannot stand each other. Holidays in particular were hard. Either he had to shuttle from one parent’s house to the other (resulting in round trip car rides of 2+ hours) or he had to choose. Once Mr. O’s dad (Murre*) married Kittiwake, her family’s dinners, birthdays, weddings, etc were added to the mix.

This would be fine except that no one family seems to like any of the others. It’s like the Hatfields and the McCoys… and the McCoys. I don’t know how to put it, exactly. Each family is a little clannish. They are fiercely loving and supportive of each other, but they all seem to have a difficult time extending this to anyone outside their immediate family. Every gathering requires a mental shifting of alliances. You have to be “theirs.” And then you hop in the car, drive 45 minutes to another person’s house where you become “theirs.”

Luckily, Mr. O and I are pretty easy going. For the last 15 years, we’ve danced this dance like pros. I don’t know if it is age, or having a baby, or what, but… It is starting to get old. Just this Christmas, Mr. O suggested an extended vacation to Hawaii in large part to avoid the drama. If it weren’t for my being 2 months pregnant, I would have seriously considered it.

One thing we’ve agreed on is that we don’t want this for Chick. It’s just exhausting. It also isn’t fair. It is subtle, but you do pick up on a vibe from each family that they are some how better. (Although, sometimes this even is explicitly stated.) I like all my in-laws and their families, and would hope to raise Chick to appreciate each one for what and who they are. This may be a lot harder than it sounds.

So… Back to dinner…

Kittiwake laid out her plan for our baby shower. She and Murre will host one at their house for their family and friends. We can invite our friends, or whoever else we want to come. Mr. O’s mom can have her baby shower “or do whatever she wants.” Bonus: We could get twice the presents and cake! (These are all her words, not mine.)

I sat there a little bit stunned. First of all, I haven’t really thought about a baby shower. I’m still easing into this, frankly. But something about this hit me the wrong way. Mr. O and I just said we’d think about it and get back to them.

My instinct screams “Hells no.” I’m not one for baby showers, at least how most people approach them. I have no desire to play games like “Guess that Poopy Diaper!” or “Pin the Tail on the Pregnant Lady!” I hate opening presents in front of other people– especially when everyone expects you to coo over the tiny onsies they are giving you. I’m not one for cooing under any circumstances.

All sorts of questions start popping up. Which shower will be “better?” Which one will be “the real one?” Our friends aren’t going to go to both. My dad and sister have said they might like to come up. Which one should they choose to attend? This is how a slippery slope starts.

But more than that, I don’t want to begin my family with a metaphorical game of Ping Pong. This isn’t about “their” families anymore. It is about “ours.” And I mean that in the most inclusive way I can think of. I want ALL OF THEM in one room, acting like humans not sectarians.

And just when you think I’ve made up mind… Something struck me as Kittiwake started going over her shower plans.This is shower is her “coming out” party as a grandmother. Kittiwake never had children of her own, so Mr. O is it. She has been such a wonderful support to him and to me over the years. Even so, there is always the implication that she wasn’t his “real mom.” She very graciously took the back seat to Mr. O’s biological mother at major life events, like graduations, our wedding, and all the rest. Now it’s her time to be a 100% bonafide matriarch.

I get it.

But I still don’t want two motherfucking parties.

*Kittiwake and Murre are bird names! Seriously, I love how many weird and awesome names we have for various birds.



  1. thebarrenlibrarian · March 18, 2015

    Oh, sister. I totally get ALL of this, except it’s MY parents and they’ve only been divorced for a few years. Families are effing hard.

    • thecommonostrich · March 19, 2015

      They ARE hard. It sounds a little bit hypocritical, but there is a part of me that wants to tell them to put their petty stuff aside and think about ME! (Yes, I know how that sounds, which I why I never say it outloud.)

  2. My Perfect Breakdown · March 18, 2015

    Oh, this is going to be tough! I don’t know how you are going to decide what to do! I suspect on the one side it is easier just to have two separate ones to keep the sides from publicly killing each other. On the other hand, it’s important to have the two sides start to come together in the interest of Mr. O and your baby and honestly are you going to be expected to have 2 family birthday parties every year? That will get old really quick! I wish I had advice on how to handle it, but instead all I can do is wish you peace as you sort through the family drama.

    • thecommonostrich · March 19, 2015

      Yes! I started thinking “Does this mean we have to have two birthday parties from now on?” When you start extrapolating, it all starts getting ridiculous. I know what I need to do, I just don’t want to be the one to do it. Ah… the challenges of being the grown up in the room…

      • My Perfect Breakdown · March 19, 2015

        Sometimes it just sucks to be the only real adult in a room of adults! It sucks and it’s really confusing too, because seriously how can other people not see how crazy they are being?

      • thecommonostrich · March 20, 2015


  3. labmonkeyftw · March 18, 2015

    Oh dear, this sounds a lot like Pea and I, except we’ve got four families to balance. His parents at least get along, but the dancing between engagements has been a part of my life for ages.
    At the end of the day, more grandbirds who care and love your little Chick is seriously a wonderful thing. It’s all coming from love.
    However, a parental arms race over a babyshower sounds exactly like the kind of drama you have zero interest in or time for. You will probably have to have a shower at some point though because people want to show you some love. My sister was faced with a very similar situation, and instead had her sister (that’s me!) and best friend host it in her house. Boys allowed. Cupcakes initially and beer and pizza once the gifts were done with. All parents invited to attend and expected to behave themselves. Sibling-as-host derails the parental competition if there was any.
    If Kittiwake is really deeply excited about hosting, then it is trickier, but there’s likely a role she could play? Or maybe other parents are more blasé about this and would be happy the perceived responsibility is not on them? tricky.
    Mostly, hugs, because I know this dance well and it’s never a particularly comfortable one.

  4. thecommonostrich · March 19, 2015

    True, true… The fact that there are so many people who want to celebrate Chick with us is really touching. At the same time, I don’t have the energy for multiple parties- I just want one to rule them all. I may see if I can get a friend to host it so that this gets diffused a little… Good call!

  5. lucy50 · March 20, 2015

    Families. Good times.

  6. Pingback: There’s No Place like Not Home for the Holidays | the ostrich

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