But the more I think about the people who live under this roof, the less blended I feel.
My first marriage produced three boys, while Richard’s created two.
In May of 2014 we got married and became one big, striving for happy, blended family. Or so I thought.
Blending means to mix substances so they combine together as a new mass. That’s what society calls what we are doing. But when I imagine blending in my mind’s eye, I see separate ingredients being forcefully manipulated to become one. That doesn’t sound pleasant.
Our family now consists of two parents and five boys that didn’t have the advantage of starting out our lives together. In the years before our first marriages dissolved, we each developed rituals and routines, idiosyncrasies and quirks, special ways of being together and special ways of being ourselves. These ways of doing things can be as big as how are we expected to behave in public, to how Christmas is celebrated (does Santa wrap the presents or leave them unwrapped under the tree) to which brand of peanut butter someone prefers (crunchy, creamy, organic or not), to how we fold t shirts and bath towels.
You get the idea.
When two different families join together after years of living a certain way, it is quite hard to blend. Rarely are things seamless or smooth and everything tends to matter, even when you try to let it go.
For instance, kids have bad dreams, sleep walk, or just plain and simple want to snuggle with mom or dad in bed. When your biological child crawls in bed, it feels like second nature, an extension of yourself. You might not necessarily want them there, but it’s not altogether foreign. For me, when one of my step children climbs in bed, it still feels a little odd. Do I snuggle or do I scoot over and give dad and son some additional room? If I get up will it look like I’m being weird or if I stay is that weirder? I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable, nor do I want to take away from their together time, but it’s just not the same. Definitely not blended.
Yesterday one of the boys got an email from a teacher at school asking us to address a few issues she was having with him in class. Dealing with discipline and parenting as a new family has been interesting. Again, we approach things with our own ideas of how it should be done, the ways we were disciplined as children and the strategies we’d incorporated with our former spouses. ‘Blending’ our methods and beliefs takes an extreme amount of hard work and patience. As the non biological parent, I think it is much easier for us to see things about our step children more objectively, but that in no way makes things better or simpler. In fact, it can complicate things. At the very least it can hurt feelings.
We knew it would be hard to join together, but I also believe we were quite naive about this whole thing. I think we thought that love would be enough to see us through. And maybe it will be in the end. But love itself requires hard work and dedication, understanding and acceptance, forgiveness and grace.
The longer I think about this and live it, I don’t want to blend these two unique and wonderful families. I wouldn’t want any of the boys to have to lose their inherent properties, personalities, and gifts to become ‘one’ with us. Each of them is special in their own way and who they are because of where they’ve come from.
Rather, I envision us as a mixture. A mixture refers to the physical combination of two or more substances where the identities are retained. The identities are retained. That is crucial.
For us to continue to grow and thrive as a new family (which, by the way, we are), I think it’s best if we see ourselves as a mixture, not something blended, like a smoothie.
Yes, a mixture. We are definitely more like Grandma’s fruit salad at a pot luck dinner or a bowl of mixed nuts.
Yeah, that’s us…a big bowl of nuts. And that’s just how I like it.