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Ex-etiquette: Grateful for ‘yours, mine, and ours’

Jann Blackstone

I’m a big toaster. For years at the holidays I tried to kick off the dinner by raising our glasses together and counting our blessings.

We are a yours, mine, and ours bonus family and the people at the table are an uncommon bunch.

There are exes and current partners, there are kids from each coupling that have all been raised together — and now there are grandkids. It’s been a struggle sometimes, but the years have mellowed everyone and tolerance has kicked in.

After the toast I suggest we go around the table and have each family member talk about what they are grateful for. I get shut down every year. They’ll go for the toast, but the “This is what I’m grateful for” offering? I’m booed out of the place.

The funny thing is, each one at some time during the day or evening will personally tell me how grateful they are for being there. One will say how glad they are that I am still there (because I am not longer married to their dad) or thank goodness that their grandma is recuperating.

They’ll express how well their daughter is doing after struggling with ADHD or how happy they are that I’m making that orange thing with the marshmallows, although they can’t put their finger on the ingredients.

Now and then I will hear how sorry they are that their sister can’t be there — the only one who is related to everyone — the “ours component to the yours, mine, and ours — but how proud of her they are that she’s in New York and working so hard at her craft.

So, although I’d like everyone to acknowledge their gratitude in a formal setting — they are doing it, and that’s what’s important.

Over the years — and we are going on our 28th year as a bonus family — I hope I have let my kids, both bio and bonus, know how grateful I am to have them in my life. I have learned something different from each one of them. They have made me more tolerant, more accepting, more forgiving, and more trustworthy. They have made me toe-the-line far more than I would have liked to because I knew they were watching.

I didn’t do it right all the time, but if they hadn’t been there needing direction, I’m not sure I would be the person I am today.

My family, yours, mine, and ours, (kids and exes, alike), have made me be a better person. And for me, that’s a huge bonus.

So, at this time of of year, let us all acknowledge the good in our lives — that we have done the best we could this year, but thank goodness there’s next year, just in case we’ve made mistakes.

Let’s make a commitment to our families, to our community, and to ourselves to be more loving, more accepting, compassionate and open to the differences in the people who have and will become our family in the years to come.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website at