Blending families can be just as challenging as splitting them for everyone, but especially for the kids. Blending families can also result in a beautiful family with friendships and love that lasts through the ages, for everyone but especially for the kids.
My mom tells a few stories about when our big family first started the blending process, but there is this one that always grabs my attention the most.
A little necessary background first: When my mom and stepdad married, I was 3 years old. My brother was 7. And my new stepbrothers were 6 and 8 years old, respectively. So we were a preschooler, a first grader, and two second graders and a couple of parents starting a new marriage, recovering from broken ones, and learning what it looks like to now have a family of six people under one roof.
Yeah, I know. YOWZA. That’s a lot.
As a wife and mom now myself, I do occasionally wonder how they decided it was a good idea, but they made those crazy early years work nonetheless and we all survived, with only a few wild stories to tell.
One of them being this one she tells of my brothers. I think she was in the kitchen, cooking dinner for our six hungry bellies, I imagine, and she heard a scuffle outside. She looked out the window and there they were, my brother and one of my new stepbrothers, both angry, both with their fists up going around in a circle, like two men in a movie.
When my mom tells the story, she says she was not certain what she should do, so she decided to just watch and see how it played out. For whatever reason, neither threw the poised punch and it fizzled. Not super exciting, perhaps, but you can be sure my mom was probably glad!
Were my brothers actually that angry? Maybe. Were they just being elementary aged boys? Perhaps. Were they dealing with a heap ton of emotions as they processed divorce, blending families, and all the change in their lives? Probably.
If nothing else, I would say those two boys with fists up are at the very least a great metaphor for what every family member feels inwardly at some point in the process of the literal blending of families.
It’s quite a task really, if you think about it. Bringing two families together with as few emotional casualties as possible.
For me, I don’t remember a fists up kind of moment when that side of my family blended. In fact, I was so young that I kind of went the other route.
One such example of how I handled it goes as follows: I was in the fourth grade in Ms. Suttle’s class. It was lunchtime and we were assigned to our seats, perhaps because we’d been too talkative again. I remember specifically sitting at a table with a boy named Sammy. Somehow, in the process of our 28 minute lunch, the topic of families arose. I must have been talking about my family, my big brothers, or something when Sammy interjected that if two of my brothers weren’t “real brothers,” they didn’t count. According to him, I had to call them half brothers because they weren’t real.
Boy oh boy, that did not sit well with my little spirit. I remember feeling like I was going to cry because I was so upset and honestly wanting to fight him about it, but I didn’t know how.
For whatever reason, Sammy and I had been raised to think of the members of our family very differently. (And if we’re honest, he technically didn’t have his blended family terms correct because they are my stepbrothers, not half-brothers!)
I was just so young when my mom remarried that to this day, I don’t remember a time before I had three brothers. The only difference was that one went with my to my dad’s and the other two visited some other mom I didn’t know.
I was in my 20s before I realized my “brothers” might have had a different experience than me.
We were lucky though. Our families did end up blending well and we’re all still friends to this day. We consider nieces and nephews all cousins, and there is little red tape.
Similarly, on my dad’s side, I remember at the age of 6 when he married his wife. It felt a little different to me because I didn’t live there full-time, but I vividly remember feeling gratitude for the arrival of another female to the scene. They had a little girl several years later, and though there’s a large age gap, I think she and I will continue to grow to be friends throughout the years.
It certainly hasn’t been perfect on either side as my family has blended and grown, but as an adult, we are all doing okay and I feel grateful for the weird and wacky branches off of my family tree, blood relatives or not.
I am not naive enough to think this is everyone’s story.
I don’t know where you are in the blended family process.
You could be dating and considering blending families for the first time, scared out of your mind for what it means for your kids.
You could be well into the process of blending families and noticing some things are a little haywire with one or two kids as things change.
You may be worried about your new spouse and your child’s relationship or sometimes even more challenging, you may be worried about your child’s other parent and their new spouse.
All in all? Blending families can be just as challenging as splitting them for everyone but especially for the kids.
Blending families can also result in a beautiful family with friendships and love that lasts through the ages, for everyone but especially for the kids.
So, what do you think causes the main difference in those two outcome?
Personally, I think it is several of the things we have talked about time and time again. Things like these:
1.Children who are noticed, thought of, considered, and ultimately know they are loved.
2.Parents who are present and aware, doing the hard work of showing up for themselves and their family.
3.Supportive communities like grandparents and friends and youth groups who walk with you through the transitions and the hard days.
4.Flexibility and wiggle room in our families as they grow and change
5. Grace for ourselves and for each other as we fall down and make mistakes along the way and the courage to get back up and try again.
Blending families may not be for everyone at every stage. I don’t know what is best for your family. I don’t know if you are ready or if your kids are. I cannot sit here and tell you that you should definitely start dating again or that this marriage is going to be better or that your kids and his or her kids will totally get along one day. I don’t have all these answers, though it might be nice if I did.
What I can tell you is that you and your people (and probably a trusted therapist or mentor), through hard work and perseverance and heaps of personal growth and grace, can figure out what is best for you and your children.
Every family’s story will be unique. And every family’s story can be beautiful, for the parent and for the kids. Our hope for you is that yours feels beautiful to you and each of your precious family members.
We would love to hear your thoughts as you and your family make this journey!
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