There Is No “Step” In My Love For Her…

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I stayed up long after my family went to bed last night just so I could decorate the kitchen for Valentine’s Day.  We have been snowed in here in North Carolina since Tuesday, so I had to think of a homemade way to tell my family just how much they mean to me on this special day.

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They ARE my life… nothing else matters.

I made a heart for each person in my family and I wrote all the things that I love about them.  On Joe’s, I wrote a letter telling him all of the many reasons I love him.  This is the heart I made for my daughter Crawford:

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So many people have a cynical view of Valentine’s Day, but even though I have spent most of my life not celebrating it with a “Valentine,” I see it as such a joyous celebration of love and life.  It’s a day that makes me want to be even kinder to everyone I encounter – whether it be at work or Starbucks.  No matter who you are, you know that it feels good to be loved.

When my husband walked out of the bedroom this morning, I literally popped up in bed with a smile.  I can’t explain the joy I felt just knowing that he would feel loved when he walked into the kitchen and saw his heart.  I reached over and read an email telling me about the death of my friend’s husband who has been fighting cancer.

My heart fell… and it fell far.

What a juxtaposition of feelings I was feeling.  The joy of love and life.  The sadness of loss and death.  All within a few moments.  My sweet husband brought me breakfast in bed soon after and all I could do was think about my friend losing her husband… on Valentine’s Day.  It certainly set the stage for a pretty sad day.

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He loves me…

It was slow moving this morning as I got ready for work.  I started letting everything bother me.  I got sad thinking about not having my daughter and son with me on Valentine’s Day.  Silly, I know.  It’s not like it’s a “major holiday,” but I was disappointed just the same. My heart was feeling very weighted down.

Then my sweet step-daughter came skipping into my bathroom and said, “Do you want to dress up with me today?”  She wanted to wear a heart bathrobe and a pink hairbow to go to work with me.  In a quick dismissal I said, “It’s a place of business, so we need to look nice.”  As she walked out of the room looking disappointed, I decided in that moment that I couldn’t let the bad news ruin my entire day.  I needed to live my day to the fullest and do whatever I could to make the day a little better for someone, ANYONE, else.

So Hattie and I headed in to work and she said, “Since I am not at school today and can’t tell all my classmates Happy Valentine’s Day, I am going to tell everyone I see Happy Valentine’s Day from this point on…”

And she did.

For the rest of the day, that sweet girl said “Happy Valentine’s Day” to EVERYONE she encountered.  One of my co-workers took her down to get cupcakes for the office and she said it to every person in the cafe (including my boss – who she didn’t know was my boss).

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Yummy cupcakes from Cafe Carolina

When we left work, she spoke to every person we passed on the way to the car.  Once in the car, she yelled out the window to people on the side of the road and people pumping gas.  She said it to the homeless man sitting alone in the corner at Starbucks.  She said it to the old couple getting in their car next to us.  Here is a quick video I took: http://youtu.be/jQJrw8OAFso.

She had said she would stop once she got to 30, but once she got to 30 she said, “You know how sometimes you have extra valentines, so you give those out too?  I’m going for the extra.”

SHE MADE MY DAY.  And not to mention she made the day of numerous people all over Raleigh.  And all by showing just a little bit of kindness and a smile.  And that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.  It’s not about romantic love.  It’s about showing those around us love and by showing those we love just how much we love them.  THAT is what it’s all about.  It’s about making others feel good.  It’s about spending time when people. It’s about telling our family and friends WHY we love them.

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My valentine for my dashingly handsome husband….

Tonight at dinner, when my step-daughter said to my husband, “We had the best day ever,” I realized just how much joy she brought to my day.  And then she looked at me and said, “I have a poem for you for Valentine’s Day: Roses are red, violets are blue, Yes I have a big smile, but you do too.”

Yes, sweet girl.  I do tonight and it is because of you…

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Where Is This “Supposed” Boundary Line?

Being a step-parent may very well be the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life.  Parenting is tough enough in and of itself, but at least with the children I birthed I know that I can make a major parenting mistake and they will laugh at me and forgive me for my shortcomings and then forget about it by the time they get home from school.  It seems like no matter what we face, we begin each day with a clean slate.

It’s different with my step-children.  I find myself worrying that I may at any moment make an irreversible mistake which could cause them to harbor resentment until my last breath is taken.  I often dance around issues and walk on eggshells and probably coddle them more than is even necessary.

But the most challenging part about being a step-parent is not crossing the imaginary “boundary line” to which so many parents and step-parents refer.  We are expected to love the children like our own… but not too much.  We are expected to make decisions regarding our home… but not specifically regarding the step-kids.  We are supposed to be interested in their lives… but not too interested in what they do at the other home.  We are supposed to go to their sports activities and cheer them on… but not offer to assist with the activities. We are expected to treat them like our own… but not really.

WHERE IS THE BOUNDARY LINE?

As both a mother whose children have a step-mom and as a step-mom myself, I honestly have no idea where this supposed line is.  It changes completely depending on the parent and I am pretty sure I have unknowingly crossed that line as both a mother and a step-mother.  The fact of the matter is this: I may not have always willingly accepted it, but my children’s step-mom essentially acts as their mother when they are with her.  Unless it is a major medical or educational decision regarding my children, then she and their father make the decision together if it is their custodial time.  I trust in them and I know if it is something that is the least bit controversial, then they will consult with me.  If I didn’t want that to be the case, then I should have stayed married to their father.  I didn’t, so here we are.

I admit that when my ex was newly married, it would infuriate me when he would copy his wife on all of our emails.  I would always “reply” without hitting “reply all.”  Each time I did that he would add her back on when he replied.  I remember thinking, “WE are the parents! SHE is not! Is she keeping record of all of our correspondence in case he takes me to court?”  It’s much easier emotionally as a mother to designate the role of the step-parent as one of someone who sits on the sidelines and smiles at the appropriate times, but nothing more.  A step-parent worth a grain of salt would never settle to be merely a “cheerleader.”  One day my ex plainly said, “I need her included in the emails because she plays a major role in picking up the kids and getting them where they need to be and she needs to know if the calendar will work out for all of us.” <insert my blank, idiotic and sheepish look here>  I felt like a fool.

Until that moment, I had not seen her as a valid part of our parenting arrangement.

It was in that moment that I realized that I should always include her in my correspondence.  I began reaching out to her specifically about things like clothes or medicine, since she would probably be the one to handle that.  After that email, I realized that she is a woman just like me and it’s not just MY life… it’s OUR LIFE.  What a disservice I was doing both to my children and to her by trying to exclude her from our equation.  We now truly respect each other and share this important role in raising the kids.  After eight years of working together, we don’t have this supposed boundary line in our relationship.  We have something better – TRUST.

Unfortunately, not all step-moms and moms respect each other like we do.  Some are truly out to hurt the other person. A friend of mine reached out to me a few days ago for advice.  She said that her ex-husband, who was very controlling and still angry about the divorce, had remarried an equally controlling new wife.  My friend and her ex have shared physical custody of the children and joint legal custody.  Her kids began a new school in the fall and my friend has noticed that she has been missing important events and has not been receiving information like she should from the school.  She reached out to the school to find out that the step-mom had put HER name in as “mother” on all school paperwork.  My friend’s information was nowhere to be found.  Here’s the kicker: the step-mom had informed the office that she and her husband had full custody and that all of the info was to go to her and NOT to the mother.  My friend had to fax her custody agreement to the school to PROVE TO THEM that she was in fact the mother and had parental rights for her daughter! Can you even imagine??  After doing a little more research, it turns out the step-mom had changed EVERYTHING – soccer contacts, dentist, orthodontist, pediatrician.  My friend is currently trying to figure out how to handle the situation from this point, but this is an example of someone who didn’t just cross a boundary, but POLE-VAULTED over it!

I may not know where the line is, but I know it was crossed in this particular situation – far and purposefully.  I suggested she talk to her ex and plead to his softer side by asking him how that would make HIM feel in the same situation…  She told me that she tried that and his response was, “Too bad… you shouldn’t have divorced me.”  Wow.  I would love opinions from my readers on how my friend should handle this situation with a step-mother who has clearly leapt over that boundary line.

I truly believe there is a balance that can be found between step-mother and mother as long as there is respect on each side.  As many friends have told me though, sometimes that respect is just not there.  While it comes naturally to me to always fill out paperwork with my name and my ex’s name as the parents’ info and the step-parents info under “emergency contacts,” some people refuse to do that – claiming the other parent doesn’t pay or just avoiding putting the information in out of spite.

Because I am in a positive situation, I find it shocking when people choose not to make it work when kids are involved.  Through my writing/research though I am learning that this blatant disregard for the best interests of the children is far too common.  And the very best thing for the children involved in divorce is for there to be no need for these supposed “boundary lines.”  If we all work together with open communication while putting the children’s best interests and needs ahead of our own, then we can raise happy, healthy children… together.  Erase the boundary lines and trust each other.

We Can Get Through Anything Together

As published today by Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-deloach/blended-families-we-can-get-through-anything_b_4557028.html

Our party of six had our first family drama this week.  I’m proud to proclaim that it took almost eight months of marriage before it happened (which admittedly is MUCH LONGER than I expected it to take with four kids in the house).  Joe was picking the boys up from youth group when the girls got dropped off from church.  I was cooking dinner and it was a seemingly peaceful Sunday evening – the proverbial calm before the storm.

It was one of those times when I was happily humming and doing what I love to do best when one of the girls came in the kitchen crying… and all hell broke loose.  Apparently one of the girls overheard the other saying ugly things about her while they were at church.  Another friend was involved who apparently stirred the pot a little too.  As a result, my step-daughter was saying that her mom would come get her and my daughter was refusing to discuss it.

And Joe was not home… so I was left to handle it alone.  While my negotiation skills and people skills serve me well in all areas of business, they are no match for two upset preteen girls.  Although Joe was not there, I knew it had to be handled and that I was the mother in the home.  I knew where to turn… I prayed.

I prayed for strength and knowledge.  I prayed for the strong foundation of love that these girls clearly have.  I prayed that the right words would come to me.  I prayed that I would remain unbiased and not be too hard on either one of them.  I prayed that God would be with us.  Then I called them downstairs for dinner.

Of course they were none too happy because I made them sit in their regular seats at the table (next to each other) although no one else was at the table.  And then I began, “I know neither one of you wants to talk about this and I am not going to make you… but I am going to make you sit here and listen to me.”  The words just flowed from my heart… about love and forgiveness and family.  I stressed the importance of communication and how no matter how uncomfortable it may be to communicate it is worthwhile to avoid situations like this.   How if things are not discussed, then they can build up inside.

My daughter said, “But it’s HARD to tell someone something when you know it’s going to upset them.  You’re an adult. It’s easier for you.”

Boy was she wrong.  It is not easier as an adult.  Even with Joe, my soul mate, it’s hard to broach sensitive subjects.  My heart beats fast and I get the nervous sweats, but once I get it out, I feel so much better.  Holding it in and trying to just move on will not help the situation improve in any way.  That’s the very thing that ends friendships and leads to the demise of marriages.

It’s especially hard to broach difficult subjects in co-parenting situations when you feel very strongly about something and want to discuss it with the other parent.  This is someone to whom you no longer have emotional ties but you would like to have a heart to heart about your children.  You have to take a leap of faith when trying to discuss the topic since while seeking honest communication, you may instead get chastized or ignored completely.

Silly girls on the day they became SISTERS.

Silly girls on the day they became SISTERS almost 8 months ago.  They wanted in on the marriage action so they re-enacted Joe proposing.

Thankfully, since we consistently encourage open communication in our home, the girls calmly took over and talked about what happened.  They semi-apologized (enough for me to be satisfied for the moment anyway) and went their separate ways for a while.  Joe got home and I was snuggling with my step-daughter on the sofa.  We all chatted a little and then my daughter came downstairs and snuggled up on the couch with us.  They exchanged what this time seemed to be heartfelt apologies and the night seemed to end on a positive note.

While I know this is just the tip of the iceberg with two girls who are quickly approaching their teens, I am very proud of how they handled the first true controversy in our home.  My step-daughter had the initial “flight” feeling, but we stressed that no matter what happens in our home, we can get through it as a family.  Neither girl will be allowed to run away from problems.  We are teaching our children to face their fears and any controversies.  We are raising strong leaders, not quitters who place blame on others.

Last night while the girls were sprawled out on the floor in front of the fire in their jammies watching a movie, giggling and being silly, I made eye contact with my amazingly handsome husband and we just smiled at each other.  Our hearts were filled with joy and my husband even commented on how he didn’t want the night to end.  We were witnessing firsthand the forgiveness of siblings and the strength of their love.

First lesson taught and it was a success.  Our family is strong.  Family comes first.  Friends are fleeting but siblings are forever.  No one in your life will have your back like your siblings will.  No running away from controversy.  We face any adversity life may throw our way (no matter how uncomfortable it may be).  And we learn from it and grow closer in the process.

We can get through anything TOGETHER.

Life Got in the Way!!!

I am not one to ever wish time away.  As a matter of fact, I often have that feeling of wanting to freeze time.  I look in the mirror every morning (well, after I put on my glasses so I can SEE myself) and wonder where this 39 year woman has come from?  I feel like I was 29 just yesterday… but ten years have just FLOWN by.

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29 years young at the beach with my babies

And the kids???  How in the world have they gotten to be so OLD?  My youngest child, who I feel like was born YESTERDAY, started cotillion a couple of weeks ago and is almost as tall as I am already! I feel like the past 10 years have just been a blur, so I now find myself just staring at her (which makes her terribly uncomfortable, by the way).  I crave the moments we can spend together.  I LOVE Tuesdays because it is the one night that I can focus all of my attention on her since the other children are all with their other parent.  We can get sushi and just catch up on life…

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On her way to her first 5th grade cotillion!

My first born is a full blown teenager now.  He is growing every single day and will pass me in the next week (if he hasn’t already today).  He is filled with that teenage angst and wants to argue with every single thing I say (while showing me how cut his abs are, of course), but I am still proud of him in everything he does.  Even when he talks incessantly about things that I have absolutely no interest in!  Some days he seems to put forth effort into his schoolwork and some days he absolutely couldn’t care any less about it.  I try my best to be encouraging when he does well.

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Throughout the years of their childhood I have often wanted to just yell, “STOP GROWING, NOW!!!!!!!”  I have wanted to just freeze time so that I could enjoy that moment forever.  Admittedly though, I am ready and willing to close the book on the last month of my life.  September 23rd was my birthday, which seems to be when everything peaked.  It has been DOWNHILL ever since.

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My birthday celebration with my kids and three of my nephews… happy thoughts.

Since then, we have had strep throat, lice, unknown stomach pains (that still are not resolved), meetings about educational “issues” (results coming soon) and a spot cut from my temple (still waiting on biopsy results).   I had a friend who had to have surgery on her wrist (so I cooked dinner for her family) and my son had a friend who unexpectedly lost his father.  I ran the Bull City 5 Miler only two days after suffering a stomach virus and now two days later I am still having trouble walking (mental note: don’t run 5 miles when you haven’t even hit the pavement in a month).  I know I looked like some sort of fool trying to walk down the stairs of my parking garage coming to work this morning.  And there is no telling what kinds of germs I picked up since I had to use the nasty handrails in a stairwell that more often than not smells like the pee of the local homeless people.

Lately I have been able to relate to the new song, “Wake Me Up” by Avicii.  The video is below:

The song begins with him talking about how he feels his way through the darkness.  I too feel like I am “feeling my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart.”  The darkness is this new life as a blended family and just the fact that life is passing by so quickly.  My sweet husband is so helpful in every single way and I can see how it pains him to see me struggle with my emotions.

I love our life and I love our kids, but I find myself in a constant state of worry over all of our kids because I want everything to go well for them.  I am not the kind of person who will blindly walk through life and project my happiness on those around me.  Instead I spend my time worrying that others are NOT as happy as I.  So on top of the external pressures of the past month, I have also been putting a tremendous burden on myself to make sure everything is going well for the rest of the family.  The death of my friend’s husband has also caused me to fear the loss of Joe.  It took us 20 years to reconnect and I am counting on at least 30 more years of newlywed bliss with him.  That has been weighing heavily on my heart.

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Immediately following our 5 Mile race on Sunday… we can run together to stay healthy!!!

As with everything in life, I know that these crazy emotions will rise and fall like the tides I love so dearly at the coast.  I know that this too shall pass.

I think the problem I am having right now though is that I do want to savor and enjoy every single second of this life with my handsome husband and our amazing kids, but lately life has dealt me some pretty crappy cards.  And it upsets me tremendously when I don’t know how to handle what is put on my plate.  I remember my grandmother saying, “I know the Good Lord won’t give me more than I can handle, but I sure wish he didn’t have so much faith in me.”  Amen. And AMEN.

The song continues with, “I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start.”   I know that I need to start TODAY.  I need to focus on the good and not let the insignificant, petty things in my life affect who I am and how people know me.  I am proud of the fact that I have an annoyingly positive attitude.  I love that my friends know if they are having a bad day they can call me and I will make them laugh.  I love that if either of my girls are feeling down, they know I am a few steps away with a big hug to help make things better.  We don’t know where this journey will end, but we must make the most of each and every day before it’s too late.

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25 sittin’ on 25 mil….

The next couple of stanzas of the song really make me think of my years as a single mom.  I let life with my children pass me by because I was so busy focused on making money and trying to meet someone.  Although I had friends who tried to tell me that I needed to prioritize, I thought I had all of the answers so I ignored them.  I tried to “carry the weight of the world” because I had too much pride to just ask for help.  Most importantly, I was looking so hard for something but in the meantime didn’t realize that I was lost to myself.  I needed to be happy with ME before I could be happy with anyone else.

“Wake me up when it’s all over.  When I’m wiser and I’m older.  All those times I was finding myself, I didn’t know I was lost.”  It’s unusual for me to feel this way, but I sometimes find myself at a loss – not knowing how to deal with my son or not knowing if the lice will come back or trying not to let ex-drama affect me.  Not to mention that all of this chaos in my life has prohibited me from doing the one thing that I truly love – writing.

So starting RIGHT NOW… I am going to do three things daily to get me out of this funk:

1) Smile and focus on the here and now.  I’m not going to let the actions of others bring me down.  I will see those actions for what they are – sad attempts to take away the happiness I have in my life.  I am going to spend every second I can with my kids so their memories of their childhoods are of US and not things I gave them.  I’m not going to worry about them anymore, I am merely going to do everything in my power to make sure they communicate with us if something needs to be changed.

2) Write, write and write some more (daily)!!!!  I have always been best when it comes to getting my thoughts and feelings on paper.  Sometimes I have trouble expressing myself verbally, but if I sit down at my laptop then I can write for days on end.

3) Take care of ME.  I need to exercise daily, take my vitamins and drink lots of water.  It’s hard to feel down when you are at your best!!!  Plus, taking care of myself will hopefully ensure many, many more happy years with Joe and our kids (and future grandkids).

With all that being said, sorry for my little break in blogging… LIFE GOT IN THE WAY.  But I’m awake now and am thankful for every minute of every day (and have two more blogs ready to post!!!!).

This is HOME.

It has been a tough week for me… and I AM TIRED.  And it’s only Wednesday.  I think we all experience these back to school blues to an extent.  We crave the structure and routine that starting school brings, but it takes a few weeks to really get back in the swing of it all.

 

Considering it is “Hump Day” (which by the way, if you have not seen the Hump Day Geico commercial above, you have GOT to see it to get a laugh), I thought it appropriate to write about the lows and highs of my week thus far.  The ups AND the downs…

This week definitely started out with a low.  TWO WORDS – head lice.   My sweet daughter had her obligatory case of “welcome back to school” head lice.  My heart again goes out to her stepmom because it was once again discovered while she was at her dad’s house for the weekend, so I only had to deal with the stuff at our house and not the actual creepy crawlies…

So my weekend was spent washing sheets and pillowcases, bagging up stuffed animals from her bed, boiling brushes, etc.  Thankfully I am very OCD when it comes to sharing any kind of hair stuff (since this has become the norm once a year in our house) so it appears for now that the rest of us are clean.

But WHAT IS IT ABOUT LICE that make everyone itch like crazy just talking about them?????  I have not stopped itching since she made the call to me to tell me that they had found a bug.  BLAHHHHHHHHH… We were sitting up at North Hills watching a Johnny Cash Tribute Band when she called me and my friends who were with us can tell you that I went downhill FAST.  I hate that I have such a weak stomach that the mere discussion of lice made us have to cut our night short.

And then we had to send the dreaded text to Joe’s ex to make sure everyone there was clean, which they thankfully were.  Then I had to call her best friends’ moms and tell them so they could check their girls (always a FUN call to make) and email the teacher so she could send a letter home with everyone.  I also had to go to Ulta and buy some lice repellant shampoo.  Hey, ANYTHING like that is worth a try!!!!

With that being said, it infuriates me that obviously she got it from somewhere and if other parents knew their child had lice and didn’t report it, then it is just NOT OK.  Checking their hair is not something I do daily, but apparently I need to make it a part of my routine.  Thankfully, it appears we have it taken care of… and I will re-treat her hair on Friday and continue to check her hair daily.

On Monday, my son had to go to the dentist and have four permanent teeth extracted so that he can get his braces put on next week.  He has my teeth (bless his sweet heart) and since his teeth are so big his poor mouth just can’t hold them all!  I had a headache all day Monday worrying about his anxiety over going to the dentist.  It’s hard to know that our children are upset and know that there really is nothing that we can do about it.

I had to miss work on Tuesday because he was so swollen and still had quite a bit of pain when he woke up (not to mention the bloody mess he left behind on his pillow).  Right before he went to bed on Monday he also pulled his final baby molar out – so he lost FIVE TEETH!!!  That is a crazy amount of teeth to lose in one day.

I found myself feeling bad for being so concerned with my daughter’s head lice and my son’s teeth since the daughter of one of my best friends from growing up was in an accident this past weekend and fractured her skull.  Worrying about lice when your friend is worrying that her daughter won’t wake up makes you feel quite silly.

Please please please warn your children that they can get hurt for their inattention.  Children these days are so glued to their phones that they can find them in the hospital just like my friend’s daughter.  She was on a golf cart and was looking at her phone.  I assume the driver made a sudden move that she was unprepared for and she fell out head first and fractured her skull.  Thank the Lord her prognosis is good now and she is recovering, but with any brain injury it will be a long road ahead for them all.

There have been some high notes in my week as well and I need to remember Philippians 4:8 (the verse read at our wedding day four months ago today), “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  Rather than be consumed with head lice and dry socket I need to think about all of the good we have had happen this week.

My mother came to visit yesterday which was a major bright spot in the week!!!  She came to town and walked my daughter home from school and went with us to piano practice while Joe went to my step-daughter’s choral performance.  We then did a girls only dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant (think, “where everybody knows your name….”).  We love it there because the sushi is good and they know what we want without us having to order.

After dinner, my daughter went to her room to do her homework and mom, Joe and I sat on the sun porch (my favorite room in the house) and drank wine and laughed for hours.  It was so refreshing to have her here.  I often wish that we lived close again.  When I lived in Greenville it was so nice to be able to drive across town for a quick dinner with my parents.  It’s important to me that my kids spend as much time with their grandparents as they can.  They are blessed with many wonderful grandparents and they can learn so much from each one of them.

Our kids are each a blessing in their own way also.  I am amazed every day by all four of them.  My son is such a loyal and honest young man.  I am so proud of his dedication to working out two hours a day, while making sure to finish his homework first.  It blows my mind that we don’t have to hang over him to make sure he does what he is supposed to do.  He does it because he is supposed to.  My step-son is such a kind-hearted soul.  He wants everyone to be happy and he tries to make sure that he doesn’t do anything to cause anyone to be unhappy.  He’s so extremely talented as well.  He has just recently started playing the piano at my house and I am so impressed by his amazing talent.   My daughter is so crazy tall and athletic.  She can truly excel at any sport that she puts her mind to and really seems to enjoy it.  She is also a talented piano player and is loved by everyone in her class.  She impresses me with her strength and her ability to ignore negativity thrown her way.  That will be a huge asset as she grows into a teenager.  Finally, my sweet step-daughter.  She is so focused when it comes to her homework.  It’s so nice to have a child who sits to do her work and just knocks it out without having to be put back on task.  She is very talented at singing and seems to get better all the time.  She is a definite leader and will no doubt do great things as an adult.  She will MAKE things happen.

And the biggest blessing of all to me is my handsome husband Joe.  He works so hard in every way to make me a priority and is quick to jump to my defense in any situation.  He is also my biggest cheerleader and he encourages me to do what I love – write a novel, coach soccer, spend time with my friends and family.

I have to keep my focus on him whenever I have a week like I have had.  He is my North Star.  He is my home.

When we started dating we marveled at how often the idea of “home” would come up – in church, on the radio, through Joe’s stepdad in his advanced Parkinson’s disease.  Because we grew up in the same hometown, we couldn’t ignore the fact that we had the same home. Greenville, NC was “home.”

But we quickly realized that the “home” we were hearing about went much deeper than our hometown.  Our “home” is together.  It’s no coincidence that we both wept a little when the offering song at church this past Sunday was, “This is Home.”  We know where we belong… and I am so thankful to have him as my HOME.

“And I got my heart set on what happens next
I’ve got my eyes wide, it’s not over yet
We are miracles
And we’re not alone

Yeah, this is home
Now I’m finally where I belong, where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I’ve been searching for a place of my own
Now I’ve found it, maybe, this is home
Yeah, this is home”

– Switchfoot

 

Discipline in a Blended Family

I solicited help on some blog topics and got so many great ideas that I have had trouble deciding what to write first!  Thank you to everyone who contributed.  Your continued support inspires me daily to keep doing what I love.

I thought the best way to do this would be in Q & A format and just answer a question or two at a time.  If you think of more questions, I welcome them.  I enjoy being challenged.

1) Who should the disciplinarian be with the kids and what role should the step-parent play in discipline, if any?

If there is one thing that I have learned from talking to my remarried friends or from reading the abundance of books I have read about successful step-families, it is that no two step-families are alike.  So just because something works for one family does not mean it will work for another.  It is truly dependent on the bonds that have been formed between the step-parent and the step-children.

One of the best Christian books I read about step-families said that the parent should be the disciplinarian at first while the step-parent should play a role similar to a babysitter.  As the bond between the step-kids and the step-parent grows, then the step-parent can gradually pick up more of a parental role when it comes to discipline.  I agree with that completely, but our family has proven to be a little different.

I am very proud of the way Joe and I introduced our families.  Since I had been divorced for many years when he came into our lives, he was pretty much incorporated in our family early on.  My children were more than ready for me to meet a nice man, so they were encouraging and happy from the beginning.  I truly believe that they knew from the start that Joe was good for me and for US as a family.  The kids would actually tell me how much nicer I was because of Joe.  Anytime I would do something extra nice for the kids, my son would say, “Did Joe tell you to do that?”

We waited much longer to bring his kids into the fold.  Joe’s kids did not have the time under their belt that my kids did.  We felt they needed more time to heal and adjust before throwing my kids and me in the mix.  After about six months together, we decided to introduce everyone.  From the start, I made it clear that I would not infringe on Joe’s time with his kids.  His kids came first and they knew that.  I did not want them to perceive me as a threat to their time with their dad.  It was hard, because I wanted to be with the man I loved, but I knew that the kids needed to have time to acclimate.  It has been smooth sailing every since.

You have to give them the time to get used to you so they can know you are not a threat to come between them and their dad.  Our kids have done a very good job at bonding and I think it is clear they have even formed an allegiance AGAINST US, but they are happy and that is all that really matters to me.  And this instant trust and strong relationship that we formed has allowed Joe and me to discipline more than I think would be recommended in new marriages.

Since we have four kids who match up – two boys 13 & 14 and two girls 10 & 11 – disciplining has been easy because anytime I have needed to discipline thus far, it has been to discipline both boys or both girls.  So I can discipline my step-child ALONG WITH my child.  Thankfully so far we have not had any major issues that we have had to handle, but the kids have seemed receptive to this because they see that they all four are disciplined the same.  However, if Joe is home, then I will usually tell him what I think and let him handle it with my step-kids and he seems to do the same thing vice-versa.  So even though we both feel comfortable with our disciplinarian roles, we also know when to back off and let the other one handle it.

As I have said before, our home is about open communication in every way, so we encourage the kids to talk to us if they feel that something is not working and so far things have been going well.  All four of our kids were begging us to get married, so there was no resistance from them regarding having a new step-parent in the home.  I feel certain if there is any resistance, then any disciplinarian role should be brought into play very slowly.

It’s also important to be very clear with expectations.  This is exceptionally important in our home right now because my birth kids are on summer break from school and my step-kids are already back in school.  As a result, my step-kids have to go to bed around 9:30pm while my daughter is up until 10:30pm and my son gets to stay up until midnight.  Surprisingly enough they have not struggled like I expected.  I feel certain that is because my step-kids are smart enough to know that the tables will turn in a month or so when they have track-out.

We tried to set them up for success by letting them know that the rules do not always apply the same to every person and that’s just the way it is.

LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS FAIR.

This was important to us because when we got married my kids quickly realized that Joe is a little more strict than I am.  For example, Joe had always taken his son’s phone and plugged it in another room at night.  My son has always plugged his phone into his alarm clock at night.  One of the first nights we were all together Joe walked into the boys’ room and said, “Let me have your phone” to his son.  The next day my son told me, “When Joe came in and asked for his phone, I was really worried.  I thought he was getting ready to ask me for mine too.”  I explained to him that we were going to do our best to keep the rules that we had in place before marriage.  I think this approach has been comforting to the kids.

Again, let me reiterate that every single family is different and just because this is working for our family does not mean it will work with yours.  In reality, there is no guarantee this will work for our family next week!  Just like in a first marriage family, we are all constantly evolving and growing and we have to do what we can to respect each other while we do so.