How Does It Feel When Your Family Changes?

Jul 8, 2016

Families grow and change. What does that feel like? We asked kids to tell us about their families, and we speak with author Amy Bloom about how love is not something that needs to be divided up, like a pie, but can expand and multiply.

When there's a new baby in the family or a new sibling through marriage or adoption it's normal to have feelings of jealousy, but also to have feelings of love, and that can be confusing. For some kids it's not a sibling at all who changes your family dynamic, it's a new parent.  

Sometimes reading other people's stories can give you some ideas about your own situation.

Author Amy Bloom wrote a short story many years ago called "Love is Not a Pie." It's a story for adults, not kids, but its message is one that resonates at any age. What she means when she says "love is not a pie" is that love doesn't have to be divided up, like slices of apple pie. It can grow with each new individual person you decide to love. Here's some of what Amy told us:

"If there is any stage in our life when it is true that love is not a pie is when we are kids. The way your life is and the way you are in the world and your role in the world, love does not have to be a pie.

"It may be difficult sometimes because what is required when you're a kid to think about how you really feel and what you want. There may be times when you decide 'I don't want to divide myself in any way,' and other times when you feel that you have plenty to go around.

"There's a real difference between a new little person coming into the world and having to find your way in a relationship with a big person, with another adult.

"In my experience, what's hard for kids with a new grownup or a new stepparent or older half sibling is finding your way in a relationship with a grownup that you don't really know. You don't know how they feel about you. We certainly hope that they love you and like you, but you are both strangers. And one of the things you worry about when you're a kid is how will dad feel about me liking--never mind loving — this step dad? How will mom feel about it? How will I feel about it? How will my sister and brother feel about it, that we have this new half sibling that's 20 years older than we are? That's all really hard to figure out.

"I think that's why this idea that love is not a pie can sometimes help — the idea that you don't have to divide yourself up. I think whether it's a grownup coming into your life or a baby coming into your life you don't have to divide yourself up. You can feel what you feel. Sometimes it's going to feel great. If it's a baby, it can be awesome when you're holding the baby or looking at the baby or when the baby smiles at you or says some kind of word to you. Those are wonderful moments and you wouldn't want to miss out on those because you were in your room being mad.

"On the other hand, sometimes you have to be in your room and be mad and think to yourself 'how come no one is getting me breakfast? How come we're out of cereal? How come everyone forgot that today was my little league game or my softball game? Why were they so busy with the baby that they forgot?' But the fact of the matter is sometimes they'll be so busy with the baby they'll forget. They don't forget they love you, but the yelling baby with the dirty diaper is sometimes going to go to the front of the line. Although it would be nice if no one was ever in the front of the line in front of us, that's not possible.

"I think it's important to tell your parents if you're worried about this stuff. One of the ways that we show people we love them is that we tell them. We say 'this doesn't feel so good.' Or 'I'm worried that when the baby comes there won't be time for me.' Or 'the baby is here and I'm missing this thing that we used to do.' We love our parents and we don't want to make them unhappy, but it is important to tell them how we feel because otherwise they can't help.

"It's also true that our parents themselves are sometimes a little overwhelmed. Sometimes it's a little much for them and they are going to ask for our help. Sometimes it feels great to be able to help. Other times it feels like a lot of work to have to help. But either way it's part of being in a family.

--Amy Bloom, author of Come to Me, which includes the story "Love is Not a Pie."

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