I love tranquil homes, classical music, organized life, laundry done, and floors clean...and oh yes - quiet after 6:30 pm please.
But 3 weeks ago, a 10 year old boy landed on my doorstep. My Mexican stepson. [So from now on he will be called the Mexican recognizing that not everyone likes to have their children's names and identities splattered over the internet. Since he is my stepson I will keep his name for himself but I can't help but share the rest.]
The decibel levels just went up in my house 10 fold. My daughter who liked dolls now likes shoot-em-up games. She has no idea who Pokemon is but insists that now we should go play with him at the rec centre.
So yes, I am adjusting but probably nothing compared to what my stepson has to adjust to; a new culture, new language, new family, new bed, new school, and new climate...new stepmom.
When I forget about feeling for myself, I feel for him. It has got to be tough. I don't care how much the traditional family is trashed in the media today, it still is worthwhile. Yes, I get that marriage can be a hard thing to get through but as my daughter says about everything standing in her way "You can't go over it, you can't go under it, you gotta go through it!". And I think that in many cases (obviously not all), working through it is better than the alternative that awaits with divorce, particularly when children are involved. As G. K. Gesterton says, “The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis.”
The blended family is probably one of the greatest challenges out there facing people in second marriages and those hoping to parent with consistency (and without too much financial instability).
It's tough. And yes, I signed up for it willingly and knowingly. But I can recognize what would have been the ideal alternative and there is no reason the world should stop aiming for that.
That said, I am learning so much even in the first few weeks of living in my new blended family.
1) Don't assume your new kids know and appreciate the same things your own kids do.
The Mexican was watching me breastfeed my infant and he looked with astonishment at what I was doing (after two weeks of doing this in his immediate vicinity)
"Are you actually feeding him from your breasts?"
"Oh my God, I thought only animals did that."
"Fortunately, I am an animal so we don't have to worry."
"Does it hurt?
"Does my Dad know?" he asked as though he was sure I was keeping this mortifying secret to myself.
I was tempted to say no but since I am married to his dad I figured I had to tell the truth or it would come out.
"Yes, actually. He is aware."
Fair enough. It is kinda crazy. I am feeding my child with liquid produced, when he needs it, though my body.
2) The relationship between siblings is more special than any other peer-to-peer friendships or friendships with other children (besides cousins) your kids will likely ever have.
I read this before in Hold On To Your Kids by Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufeld. But it didn't sink in until today. My infant isn't old enough for Ysa to really forge a meaningful relationship with yet. But when the Mexican arrived, Ysabeau found the most important person in her life outside of her parents. Her older brother.
Despite being 8 years apart, they seem to appreciate instinctively that they are siblings. They fight, they love, they play, they cry together. She knows he is her brother.
Blended families or not, siblings can be one of the best gifts you give your own children if you are blessed with the chance. I know this in my own life. And yes, maybe those relationships will stagnate later in life, maybe only blossom in parts, or maybe not at all. In all likelihood the relationships will change as siblings weave in and out of eachother's lives. The gift might not even be the relationship itself but rather what we learn from being a sister or brother.
My stepson can count among his many incredible qualities, brutal honesty. I like it. It hits hard at first but is also delightfully refreshing.
"This spaghetti...it's good. But no offense, my grandma's [in Mexico] is way better. You would think so too if you had it."
Well, I better get her recipe.
"This house - its very small for five people - don't you think?"
Well, now its beginning to feel a little small.
"Maybe you should save up for a TV. Its a pretty important thing to have in your house."
Alright kid. I get it. He's adjusting and so am I. I won't take it personally. Mostly, he misses his mom. And I don't blame him. I've been there myself...23 years ago. Nothing made sense in my new home at first.
I am just praying for the grace I need to be here for the Mexican and my own two kids....oh yeah, and that guy I married.