Saturday, May 16, 2015

Save the Date!

I had lunch with a friend recently who was telling me how she has stressed to her teenage son the importance of three days each year.  She's told him that if you remember nothing else, remember these three days:

Mother's Day
Her Birthday
and
Christmas


When I heard this, I thought, "How profound!"  I mean, she's right, as a mom, those are the three most important days I want my son, Christian, to remember.  In fact, I would go so far to say that if he forgot any of those days, I would really be disappointed.

The more I pondered her remarks and these three days, the more I thought how much for me this applies to my step children too.  I continued to consider if this would apply to all step-parent/step-children relationships, and I thought why not?  The way I see it, there are all different types of roles for a step-parent to fill, in the life of a step-child.  Even if the role is not one of a parent/child type relationship, I would hope that there would at a minimum be a mutual respect between the two people.  Now, I know, in reality, this doesn't always happen, but maybe it should...or at the very least maybe it could.  So to take it even further, even if there is no respect between the step-child and step-parent, couldn't the step-child also recognize that this person is important to their biological parent and then, out of the love for the parent, acknowledge the step-parent on those three days?

We just recently passed Mother's Day.  As a mother, I love Mother's Day!  My son, Christian, always hangs out with me and makes me feel very loved and wanted from sun up to sun down.  As a step-mother, Mother's Day can be scary, sad and sometimes disappointing.  I am never sure if I will receive any acknowledgement from my step-children, but I of course, always hope to.  I don't expect them to hang out with me all day like Christian does, because they should be spending that time with their biological mother.  I will, however, accept texts, phone calls, and even a Facebook message.  This year, my step-daughter, Alex did it right.  She texted me in the morning and later put a post on Facebook acknowledging the 'moms' in her life, her mom, me and some other ladies she is close to.  I appreciate how she did it, and it made me feel loved and special.  On the other hand, I didn't hear a peep from my step-son, Adam.  Whether it was intentional or not, it was disappointing and hurtful, especially since in our family, I helped raise Alex and Adam and feel very close to them.  And so I say, "Adam!  Always remember these three days for your mom and me:  Mother's Day, Birthdays and Christmas!"


We moms and step-moms work hard for our families.  Some of us even have a little side gig we call a full-time job that we do in addition to all the other stuff. We don't do it for pay or even the recognition, the real reason we do what we do, is because we love you.  It may sound silly, and you might not understand why, but all we ask is that you remember these three days:

Mother's Day
Our Birthday
Christmas

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Time for Change

Our family is going through a lot of change right now.  The biggest and latest change is that my husband, Roger, got a new job.  Not just a new job, but a new career too. It is exciting and motivating, and scary all at the same time.

I'm not against change, in fact I like to think I embrace it.  I find, however, that change is a lot easier, if you know what is going to happen in the long run.  What will the end result be?  If we knew that, it would be easier to accept the change in the beginning.  Of course, that is rarely, if ever, the case when it comes to change and so often times fear, anxiety and stress come into play.

I imagine that must be how children feel when there is a change in their family dynamics. Whether their parents are getting divorced, or whether they've been divorced and are now entering into another relationship or marriage, it seems there must be some element of excitement and a whole lot of scary. We, as the parents, don't really think about the change so much because by the time we introduce the scenario to our children, we have already accepted the change. We have already visualized and mentally experienced how that change will affect us and what the final outcome will be (or we hope it will be).

We know, by our life experiences, that it will all be OK in the end.  It might not always be what we want, but its not going to kill us, and things have a way of working themselves out.  In most cases, our children don't have those same life experiences to fall back on.  In addition, they didn't ask for this change, but yet they are subject to it anyway.  So then, how can we help minimize their anxieties and fears?

It seems that in a world of uncertainty we want to be able to have control over something.  With chaos around us, helping to have somethings the same helps reassure us.  As your family is going through your change (divorce, remarriage, etc.) keep some consistency with your children.  Do you always eat dinner together and then watch TV?  Then keep that up and maybe let them have control of the remote.  Do they like to ride their bikes or go for a walk with you?  Make a point of still doing this and let them choose your route.  Don't compromise on your values or what needs to be done, but maybe give a little bit of flexibility on how or when so they feel like they have control over something.

Most importantly, reassure your children that regardless of the change you, and their other parent still love them.  Acknowledge that this is a time of change. Things are different, but that doesn't mean they are good or bad, just different than they used to be.   Think about what you would want to know if you were in there shoes.   Remind them that you are always there for them and nothing will change that.

Finally, cut them some slack.  Children might look like little adults, but they do not have the same emotional or mental development that adults have (I know - big surprise).  In other words, don't be surprised if you see a temper tantrum, crying, anger or shut down from your children. They don't always know how to express what they are feeling. They may even regress to the behaviors of a child several years younger than them - even if they are currently a teenager.  In their minds, the changes they are experiencing probably stink right now, but keep your cool, listen to them, and love them. The more you allow them to feel what they are feeling and reassure them, the sooner they will accept the change and move forward.

Face it, change isn't easy for anyone, but it is a part of life.  If we can help our children navigate these difficult changes early on, in a healthy, safe, comfortable environment, think about how well adjusted they will be for big changes down the road in their lives.  You can help them to change the world.




Saturday, February 21, 2015

Playing Defense

No parent likes someone to tell them how to parent their child.  At least, that is the way I feel.  It's the one job we have in life where we are the ones completely in charge.  As the parents, we get to decide the rules, what we are going to do, and how we are going to do it.

In a traditional family, most parents enter into parenting with discussions on how they are going to do things with their kids. Together they decide the rules, what flies, and what doesn't.  I have never been a parent in a traditional family, so since I have been a parent, I have been the one who has decided what is best for my son, Christian.  Well, until my husband, Roger, and I got married, then I had to take his feelings into consideration.  In our blended family, we have both had to work with each other to figure out the best course of action with our kids.  Frankly, I hate it.  I want to do what I want to do as a parent, and I don't want to be wrong.  Without hesitation, however, I can say there are many times where Roger has had a better point of view on the situation and ultimately had a better course of action as we parent together.

In our early years of marriage, issues about the kids were our biggest point of contention.  In fact, there were very few other things that we argued about.  We just did things differently.  I can't say one way was right and one way was wrong, just different.  It was true, as well, that Roger knew what worked best for my step-children, Alex and Adam, and I knew how best to attend to Christian.  As the years have gone on, we have learned to listen to each other better, take each other's advice and discuss situations so that we are both on the same page before jumping in with both feet.  Our parenting has become like a fine waltz, although there are still times when I think I should slow dance, and Roger wants to disco.  

Things still come up with our kids that we don't see eye to eye on how things should be handled, and if it is something concerning Christian, I still see myself automatically jumping on the defensive, rather than listening and considering what Roger has to suggest.  I guess I feel as though I still know Christian best and know what he will receive, but there are also things that Roger knows better than I.  He knows what it is like to be a 20 year old young man - I have no clue.  He knows what a man needs to feel and act like a man...I really can't relate.  He also knows about being a dad, which is different than being a mom.  

Having gone through so many years as a single parent, I think it is easy to stick to that "I'm in this alone" mentality, when in fact, I don't have to be.  It's the beauty of the blended family.  It takes time, and work, but we entered into this arrangement, marriage, life, because this was a person we wanted to partake in everything with, and that includes parenting. So, why aren't we letting them in and letting them help?  (I'm preaching to the choir here)  Why aren't I letting Roger help me with parenting?  We have been do-si-doing for 10 years now...isn't it time I let him hold my hand?  As with every job, it's easier with a team - many hands make light work.  

So the next time a situation arises, when your spouse is suggesting something that is hard for you to hear:  Stop, listen and consider.  Talk it out and figure out how the two of you can work together as parents for the best of your children.   You're in this together....accept their help.  They love you and all that you are, and that includes your children. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is it a Happy Valentine's Day?

It's Valentine's Day.  It can be one of the best days of the year, or one of the worst.  I've had my share of both.  I remember being single and not having a valentine.  Then, there are the lucky times like now, where I get to spend my Valentine's day with my wonderful husband, Roger, doing whatever we want to do, and sometimes that means nothing at all.

One of my most memorable Valentine's days wasn't so much on the day, but what happened happened the week after.  It was when my ex-husband asked me for a divorce.  Ironically, Valentine's day had been great.  In fact, he brought me flowers at work.  I'm sure we did other great stuff too, but mostly I remember the flowers at work because the next week, when he asked me for a divorce, those flowers were still there staring at me, haunting me, reminding me that it was an insincere gesture.

I guess it just goes to show you, that its not what happens on Valentine's day that makes or breaks your relationship.  It's not the flowers and candy that you get, or the nice meal you eat, or the jewelry or any of it, really.  A true valentine loves you unconditionally.  A true valentine loves you all year round, not just on one day.  Someone who truly loves you, takes all of you, the good, bad, weird and make-up-less and loves you just the same.

When knowing that marrying me meant loving my son, and bringing along all of my past baggage, but Roger wanted to do it anyway, I knew I had someone special.  At times when I made a mistake on how I handled a situation with my step-kids, but knowing my heart was in the right place, and then Roger forgave me....I knew I found love.  Even though I sometimes get a little obsessed with things being just the right way, because in the big scheme of things it is a very little thing, and Roger goes along with me anyway, I know that love is unconditional.  When I get a little bossy and try to sass my husband around, and Roger just chuckles at me and makes me laugh too...I know I've found joy.  At the end of the day, when I turn to my husband and say, "I forgot to put any make-up on today!" and his response is "You don't need any make-up; I didn't even notice." I know I have found my true valentine.

It's not what gift you get that makes the relationship a good one.  It's how you treat one another, how you speak to one another, how you resolve your differences and show love and respect.  It's something you need to do all year long, not just one day out of the year. When you give yourself to that someone special, you are giving them something priceless.  If you haven't already, I hope you find your special valentine, and if you have found them, hold them close and show them how special they are to you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Parenthood

This past week my husband, Roger, and I watched the last episode of our current favorite TV show. The show was called Parenthood.  Apparently, we seem to be some of the only people who watched the show, which is why it was the last episode ever.  Regardless of everyone else's lack of taste, we liked the show... A LOT!  

If you've never seen the show before, it is the ongoing story of a family, the Bravermans.  There  is a mom and dad and 4 adult children, each with their own families.  Each episode include stories revolving around one or more of the family members and the current goings-on in their lives, and it's like we are right there with them.  In fact, during most episodes, it is inevitable that I have a good cry. All of the family lives roughly in the same area of California and although they have their separate lives, they interact regularly.  Don't worry, I'm not going to rehash the whole show for you, but throughout the program, you recognize that this family has ups and downs, good times and bad, and even though they don't always like each other, they do love each other and in the end...they are a supportive family.

I think one of the reasons Roger and I have enjoyed this show so much is because we want and hope that our family has that same closeness.  Now, we recognize that the characters on the show are fake and that it is TV and real life is not like TV, but we can dream.  I mean, sometimes our family doesn't like each other too, so maybe we're on the right track.  In all seriousness, one of our main goals when we entered into our marriage and continuing still today, is how can we take these five people (us and our kids) and their baggage and make a family.  We don't want to half do it either.  We want kids that when they argue, 10 minutes later they're laughing and playing.  We want aunts and uncles and grandparents who accept each child as though they've been there all along.  We want a spouse that loves the 'other' kids unconditionally...just like they are theirs.  Maybe we are idealistic, but I believe that with hard work, time, and two parents on the same page leading the way it can be done.

At this point in our lives, and in the lives of our children, the task seems daunting.  All of our kids are in their very early twenties, and living their lives here, there, and everywhere.  For them, it is a time for discovery of who they are and what they want in life.  It is a time for them to find their way on their own (mostly).  It was 'easier' working on building our family ties when the kids were younger. They were here, most of the time, we had more control over what they did when, and we could make them spend family time together.  Now, it takes a concerted effort to have that family time.  Even at Christmas this year, we only had about 2 hours where all five of us were together.  

So, what's the solution?  I don't know.  For us, it's a work in progress, but we are trying different things.  In part, making ourselves available to our kids when they need or want to be with us is a start (within reason, of course, I mean we do have our own lives).  Also, making sure that each of them know that when we invite them to do something, we are inviting their significant others or a good friend to join them. We understand that those relationships are important to them, so they are important to us too.  Maybe it's also having a dedicated 'family dinner day'; a standing invitation for a particular day or night of the week, where dinner will be available and as many or as few as can make it are welcome.  

Even though I don't have a solution, what I do know is that our family is important to us, and we will keep trying different things to keep building and bonding until we find something that works. Like I said, we are a work in progress, but with two parents on the same page working towards the same goal, we are headed in the right direction.  Whatever your desire is for your family, the key is to make sure you and your spouse are a united front. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Fear Within

This is the first blog post I have written since May 2014.  That was about 8 months ago...maybe a little longer.  I have to admit that when I first stopped posting, it was because I had suddenly gotten inundated with things from all aspects of my life and something had to give.  Since writing this blog doesn't pay me enough to live off of (FYI...it doesn't pay me anything), it had to go temporarily. It was only going to be for a season, and then another season came and went, and so on.  Since so much time had passed, I thought it would be a good time to start writing my book, but that hasn't come to fruition yet and as I contemplated a new post to my blog, I couldn't do it. I was embarrassed that it had been so long, and then my mind filled with doubt and uncertainty.  What if I'm too late to start up again?  What if no one reads it?  What if people are glad I stopped to begin with?  Maybe no one reads it in the first place....I was frozen by fear.

We all have it - FEAR. You might not want to admit it, but it's there, lurking around, ready to pounce and overtake you at any moment.  Fear keeps us from apologizing when we know we are wrong.  It keeps us from trying something new.  Fear keeps us making a new friend or saying hello to a stranger.  Sometimes fear keeps us from doing stupid things too, like jumping off of a skyscraper.  Mostly, fear keeps us from fulfilling many things we are meant to do.

That's all fine and dandy, but this is a blog about blended families, so what does fear have to do with that?! Right?  I'll tell you. Fear keeps us from being completely vulnerable in our new families.  Think about it, we have had a previous relationship in which things didn't work out as planned, so as we enter into this new arrangement, a part of us wants to protect ourselves from going through that same hurt.  This produces a wall to keep that hurt at bay, fueled by....fear.  Sometimes I've been afraid to say "I love you" to my step children, because what if they don't say it back?  I have been afraid to talk to my husband about some things because in my past life, I would have gotten yelled at.  I've been afraid to extend an invitation to lunch or an outing to a stepchild, because if they say no, then that's one more time I've gotten rejected.

Fear puts all the focus on ourselves and takes the focus off of what is important.  What is important for you to do today?  For me it is to rejuvenate my blog and begin posting again.  I think that I have good things to share and people enjoy reading them. I hope they are helpful but at the very least, its like free therapy, and a good laugh for me. It's important for you to recognize what fear is holding you back from.  Is it building that relationship with your stepchildren or spouse?  Is it looking for that new job that you know will make you happy even though it doesn't pay as much?  Maybe its just stepping out and making a new friend.  What ever it is, you won't know the outcome unless you push fear aside and try. A great quote by John Maxwell is "The greatest mistake we make is living in a constant fear that we will make one."

So what will you do today, this week or this month, to shake off that fear and move past it?  For me, I have started by re-posting to my blog so I hope you are excited for posts to come.  Also, I aim to say hello to one stranger each day.  Who knows, maybe I'll make a new friend in the process, and if not, maybe I just made someone's day.

I would love to hear what you're doing, so post your challenges as a comment.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Moms Rock!

I would be remiss without taking a moment to wish all the moms and step-moms a Happy Mother's Day!  I think we would all agree that being a mom is one of the hardest, yet rewarding jobs in the world. We work endless hours and there isn't a retirement.  We get paid in hugs and kisses and sometimes dirty looks.  Even when we are sick we are required to do our job as the mom.  But rest assured, though it often doesn't seem like it, our customers love us and are completely loyal. They may not always agree with the management, but they keep coming back.

As a step-mom, the job is even more challenging because we have to earn the trust of our customers.  They weren't with us from the beginning, but we took them on as clients none-the-less and have done the best job we know how for them.  As the step-mom, we are often forgotten or pushed to the back, but we keep on doing what we think is best.  The pay is sometimes even less than that of a traditional mom, but we hold on to the promise and hope of a big bonus in the end.

Maybe you are both a biological mom and a step mom, like me, or maybe you are just one or the other.  Neither job is easy, we know, and the rewards are unique and sometimes sparse.  Keep on pushing through and doing the best job you know how.  Whether it feels like you are doing the right thing or not, know this:  You are awesome, you are loved and you are making a difference in a wonderful child's life!  Moms and Step-Moms ROCK!  Here is a video to brighten your day:  I Love Moms or Something  Happy Mother's Day!