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The Village That's Raising Our Children

Photograph by Getty Images

Last summer, my stepdaughter, Chloe, begged for my husband and me to let her stepsister spend the night with us. We didn’t say no, but we took a few weeks to think about it, especially since the girls’ schedules were making it difficult for them to spend the time together. On the weekends Chloe and her brother Trey were with us, and their stepsister was with her mom.

RELATED: How I Became Friends With My Stepkids' Mom

But when I brought it up to my husband’s family, they thought it was odd. They couldn’t understand why Chloe wanted the limited time she had with us to be spent with her stepsister whom she sees nearly every day. They told us it didn’t feel right, that it sounded like we were asking for trouble and that it wouldn’t end well. One relative even went so far as to say she thought it sounded like that whole “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing and that, maybe, my stepchildren’s mother was sending her own stepdaughter into our home to make things feel fine when they weren’t.

(This same relative went on to say that she saw Elvis buying a Slurpee at the 7-Eleven the other day, but that’s neither here nor there. Just don your tinfoil hats and move along.)

My husband and I didn’t see it like his family did. We listened to our heart and to Chloe. She just really wanted her sister to experience life with us for a day. She missed her when she was gone and she didn’t see anything weird about inviting her over to spend the night with us.

And because of that? I fell in love with my stepdaughter a little bit more. She was safe in our home, she knew that all of her parents got along and, really, didn’t have any hesitations about inviting her stepsister to stay with us for one night. I can’t think of many kids from divorced parents that would feel that way, but it just proved to me what I’ve been thinking for a long time: Our kids are so darn lucky.

"Did you ever think all four of us would get along so well that we’d all just be one big family?"

So David and I said yes and, one Friday after school, Chloe’s sister came home with us to spend the night.

We had a wonderful time taking care of all three kids, and after their sister left, Chloe and Trey both told us how much fun they had. Trey, naturally, was insistent that his 1-year-old brother should also spend the night with us, but we promised him that would happen when he was a little bigger. I basked in the joy that these kids were exuding, and I smiled at my husband.

“Did you ever think we would be like this? Did you ever think all four of us would get along so well that we’d all just be one big family?” I asked him.

He shook his head, “No, I really didn’t. But I love that it is like this.”

I can’t help but agree. Because when I think of these kids, I’m thinking of all four of them. And when I let my mind wander I see even more kids. I see the kids I hope to have with my husband spending the night at my stepchildren’s mom’s house. I see all of us together at a birthday party or a T-ball game. I see Chloe’s mom holding a baby of mine soon after it's born. I see teenage Trey taking all of his younger siblings to the ballpark, and I see Chloe and her sister helping to wrangle them all up for a family picture.

I see a support system. I see a family.

RELATED: The Stepmother Rules

One of the most beautiful things about being a stepparent is seeing this enormous family your stepchildren have now. Chloe and Trey have nine grandparents alone, not to mention all of the aunts, uncles and cousins. They have all of these people they can turn to when they need help or when they need encouragement. I love that about our family, but what I love even more is knowing that their siblings have my husband and me, too. And thinking about our future children and how—God forbid—if they ever needed help and I wasn’t around they could turn to their sister’s mom without any worries.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I don’t think Hillary Clinton assumed one family would be the entire village, but here we are. We put these kids first, and we love them like they were our own. Every single one of them.

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