Life with a bonus family: My journey to vulnerability


Anna Anderson

My entire family and I in Florida this past February, during one of the more recent times we were all able to be together.

Anna Anderson, Staff Writer

I was 12 years old when I met my future stepsisters in a Taco John’s parking lot… perfect for a first impression, right? My whole life it had been my little sister Abby, my mom and I against the world. I had my walls up so high I could barely see past my own clouded rage. This was absolutely the last thing I wanted to be doing. My sister ran up to the car and was eager to start talking and screaming through the car window at these new strangers, in typical Abby fashion. I was mortified, feeling adamant on remaining stone-faced and not saying a word in hopes these people would learn not to talk to me. But alas, in our short time spent together in the most unusual of circumstances, these three strangers melted my heart in a way I have never experienced. It was there that I was exposed to love at first sight in its truest form, and it’s been crazy beautiful chaos ever since then; What more can you expect in a house with five girls?

I vividly remember the day my mom and stepdad got married. Leading up to that day there was a large debate on whether or not I would dance with my stepdad during the traditional “mother-son” dance. Because his mom had passed away just a couple of years prior, he saw fit that he would take turns dancing with each of his daughters in memory of his mother. I immediately was against this idea, once again putting up the guard that these people weren’t and would never be my real family. I was transported back into that angry little girl’s body where the only thing I could seem to wrap my head around was that this man was not my dad, would never be my dad, so why in the world would I dance with him at the wedding? There was no way. My mom pleaded with me and tried to get me to see the bigger purpose of why this was so important but I was too immature to listen. My stepdad, reassuring her that it was ok, that I could make my own decisions, was too heartbroken at my cold response. I now realize that at that moment I was self-sabotaging all the progress I had made. Did I really deserve this type of love? Was he asking me this for the right reasons, or was it only for his personal benefit? However, when that moment came, after weeks of telling everybody no, I decided to dance with him. It took over as an instinct. We both cried the whole time. There’s not a caption that could explain a moment like that, for me or for everybody else. It’s like I could feel my heart melting all over again. 

After years and years of retraining my brain in various scenarios and situations, I learned the valuable lesson that blood does not make a family. I can confidently say I don’t think I would have ever learned this lesson if not for the addition of my bonus dad and sisters into my life. It is through vulnerability and openness of love to others, that people are able to learn different perspectives; to see beyond the box many are conformed to. It is through them I learned to appear just as I am, with all of the hurt, pain and suffering that comes along with it, which is one of the biggest acts of bravery. Because maybe the tragedy I went through was so I could experience this, the family that I always wanted, and that I always deserved.