Parenting | Advice | Life Lessons
It’s a Delicate Dance
After years of single parenting, you’ve finally met the right person and are planning to move in together.
It’s a big step. Don’t enter into a blended family relationship lightly. There’s a great potential to seriously affect the lives of everyone involved.
When you combine families, you enter into a dance of parenting each other’s children, trying to be supportive but not too intrusive.
The good news is, it may be the best decision you ever made.
Be On The Same Side
The most important thing you can do is follow each other’s lead. Talk to your partner and respect their different parenting styles. When you present a united front it gives your children a sense of security. If you don’t, they will soon learn which one of you is the easy mark and you’ll end up in the middle of a conflict.
If you have a different approach than your partner, give yourself a time out together and work out a compromise.
When two people get married, they have a one on one relationship. The first child complicates the mix by increasing the interactions. This continues within the family unit and includes grandparents and other family members.
When you blend families, you increase the number and variety of relationships in a way that can sometimes seem like an explosion. You have two sets of grandparents, multiple cousins, aunts, uncles and other friends. If one of you have an ex, their families may also be part of your expanded circle.
It takes patience, but as long as you remain calm and stand in solid support of your partner, you will navigate these waters.
Everyone Is Not The Same
If you’re a parent, you know it’s impossible to treat everyone the same. Each individual will develop their own relationships with family members.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you who was the favourite child in their family growing up. There’s always one who had to meet the highest expectations. Often the oldest is the one who has to set the bar and the youngest is the baby, allowed to do many things the older siblings weren’t allowed to do.
This phenomena might have to do with personalities and individual preferences, but I am more inclined to think parents become exhausted over time. They’re more likely to give in because they’ve used all their energy, and have let go of the hard held convictions that new parents hold so closely.
Try and spend special time with each child, yours and theirs. Building a relationship takes time and effort.
You Mess With Birth Order
When you blend families you mess with birth order. Someone loses their place as the oldest and someone loses their place as the youngest. You both need to ensure each one of them feels loved and enough attention is given to each person according to their needs.
Don’t Forget About Each Other
Early in our relationship we realized we needed a date night away from the children so we signed up for ballroom dance lessons. Once a week we would arrive at the hall to take our lessons, our minds full of the struggles of that day. Ten minutes into the first lesson, we were lost in concentration, forgetting anything else. It was a really good break in the week and the bonus was learning how to dance.
Extending the Blending
Relationships become more complicated when you add grandparents and family friends.. Some of them do a great job of blending and some just don’t get it. I had a situation where one of the grandparents insisted on making a big deal about special accounts she’d set up for her two grandchildren, while ignoring the hurt feelings of the new grandchildren in the mix. A long time friend of the family would make a big fuss over some of the children and would do nothing for the others. To this day, she doesn’t know their birthdays. And she wonders why those children don’t feel welcome at her house and why they don’t make the effort to join in activities now they are adults.
When the children asked why it was happening, I could only point to those who loved them and say — some people do a wonderful job of blending, while others do not.
They know not what they do.
When I receive a card to celebrate my birthday from someone who doesn’t celebrate the birthdays of all my children, I‘m angry and frustrated. In these moments I feel I can’t speak up because I will look ungrateful.
When I know something is not right and I don’t speak up, I try to forgive myself and vow I will consider the situation and speak up against a similar injustice in the future.
Letting Go of Expectations
I still hold pain in my heart from these moments and it is time to let it go. They are adults now and don’t need to be protected from the slights of those who didn’t understand what they were doing. The adults who excluded them had no idea of the pain they were causing. They probably felt their relationship was special to the other kids and there was no room in their hearts to include any more.
In The End, They Grow Up and Move Away
I’m happy to say our children have their own lives now, despite our choices. They are safe and well balanced individuals despite our occasional stumble as parents in a blended family.
In The End, Be Forgiving
I forgive it all. For those who were hurt — I send love and peace. For those who meant to harm, I send love and peace. For those who intended their actions to be loving — I send love and peace.
For those who didn’t understand, I send love and peace. For those who understood, I send love and peace. For those who did nothing, I send love and peace.
For those who were made to feel they were better than others — I send love and peace. For those who felt less than others — I send love and peace.
For the guilt I have been carrying on their behalf, I clear that and send love and peace to myself.