This morning’s SF Chronicle’s Pink Section has an article about the movie “The Other Son,” directed by Lorraine Levy. It’s about two families – one Jewish, one Arab – in the city of Haifa.
It’s a fictional story based on historical events, in this case, the Israeli conflict in 1991. The maternity hospitals had to evacuate, and stories have emerged about infants being given to the wrong families in the aftermath.
“The Other Son” shows us two families who discover they have this problem when the Jewish son has a blood test before joining the air force. I haven’t seen the movie, but here’s what interests me about it: the mothers in both families react to the discovery by setting an extra place at the table.
That’s my take on motherhood, too. To quote Levy,
“…The women are mothers, and if there is a child to be loved – on the other side of the wall – that is still a child to be loved, and the need has to be addressed right away…”
Not every woman will react this way, but for me, a child is a child. Children are not responsible for the faults of their adults, and they should not have to suffer for them. I remember once working with a young woman who had married a divorced man with a daughter from his first marriage. The daughter was 12 years old, and this woman resented her deeply. She told me that she did not want the girl in her life, and how she wished the girl would just go live with her mother and never come over. The girl was needing her first bra and this woman was furious that she had to be the one to handle it.
I could not understand her resentment and I told her so. I told her that the daughter wasn’t responsible for the actions of her parents, that she was an innocent victim of their mistakes. She needed a stepmother who would welcome her, and be a steady, reassuring presence in her life. Resenting the girl was the worse thing this woman could do.
I don’t know if she took my words to heart. I hope so, because what good does it do to create more strife in an already difficult family dynamic? You want to have a peaceful, happy family and life? Then act like it.
My children have a stepmother who loves them, and I have always been grateful for that. My children have a half-sister and I regard her as just another of the bunch. She is as welcome in my home as any of my own. Why would I ever try to exclude her? She is the sister of my children!
This ability to “set another place at the table” is one of the best of human qualities. Whether it’s a step-child, a foster child, or a friend of your child, putting it to daily use in your life will bring a lifetime of positive results and happiness. You may discover the good results reach through many lives and generations. And you know what? It’s just not that hard to do.