Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Renew Your Mind

This past weekend I attended a ladies conference at my church.  It was really great, we had some wonderful speakers and frankly it was just a nice getaway for some "girl" time.  One of the topics during the conference was transforming yourself by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).  After the conference I started to think about how this applies to stepparents and stepfamilies. 

In our family, Roger and I are the primary caregivers for all of our children, and so we have had to transform our thinking over the years and still continue to do so.  I think the biggest way we have done that is by not identifying anything as his, mine and ours - its just all ours.  Even with our kids, they are OUR kids.  We aren't denying that our children have other parents, and we are not trying to take the spot of the other parents, but we have found that when we look at them as ours rather than his, or hers, or "step" you begin to have a vested interest.  "Step" allows you to distance yourself, but when something is "yours" you take much better care of it then when it is someone else's.  (Disclaimer:  you will hear me reference "step" throughout my blog, just for clarity sake - when Roger and I talk to others and introduce our family - we introduce as our children - only in rare instances when further clarification is needed do we use the term step).

I have also had to transform my thinking when it comes to my role as a stepmother.  I so want to be an important part of all of my children's lives.  I love them all very much.  When it comes to Christian, I know I am important because I birthed him - I also know I can fail because we already have that bond of unconditional love.  However, when it comes to my step-children, I have felt as though I have to be perfect with everything.  I felt as though if I made a mistake, that was it - they wouldn't like me anymore, they wouldn't listen to me anymore, I lost all chances of building that relationship.  More recently, that all changed. 

Several months ago, I came across a paper that Alex was writing for school.  I don't think she intended for me to read it, but I was cleaning up some old files on the computer when I came across it.  It was about me..."the other mother"...or at least how she felt about me being a part of her life.  The paper began talking about how much she didn't like me and how she didn't want her dad and I to get married and how she cried and cried about it.  I have to believe that the paper was still in its early stages, because although there was a lot of detail at the beginning, her wrap up was a simple statement about being happy in her family today.  I'm sure had it been the final draft she would have gone on about how glad she was I am here and how I am a super duper stepmom...right?    OK - so one can hope.  Although I was a little hurt after I read the paper, it actually helped me to be a better stepmom.  See, what I learned was that I didn't have to be perfect.  I had tried that already, and it didn't work.  It didn't make her love me, or even like me, so I didn't have to try so hard anymore - I could just be myself.  Whew - what a relief, because being perfect is really hard, and I am not very good at it at all! 

I do hope that as our children grow older they see that we do want the best for all of them and that we are here for them in every way.  Roger and I constantly have to remind ourselves that we don't know what it is like to be in their shoes.  Our parents weren't divorced.  Mine have been married for 44 years - and I will never know what it is like to not be able to live with both of them at the same time, or celebrate Christmas with them both at the same time, or have to go visit one once a week (or whatever the arrangement is).  We don't know what it is like, and so we need to be empathetic to their feelings and just make sure they feel loved.  They didn't ask for this - we did, so we need to be willing to change.  We need to be willing to transform ourselves by the renewing of our mind - in other words:  change our thinking to be better parents.

  Tell me a revelation you have had as a parent, stepparent, or as someone with a parent.  Leave a question or comment and make sure to officially follow my blog.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quality Time

Yesterday was the second Sunday I have gotten to sleep in since January of this year.  I really love sleeping in, and while Christian and I were training for our marathon, we really grew to miss it.  As much as I enjoyed sleeping in (for the second week in a row), I also realized how much I miss my Sunday morning runs with Christian.  Sure, we got up at the crack of dawn and were in a lot of pain when we were done, but we were able to enjoy a good few hours together just the two of us.  I miss that.

With any family, there are so many dynamics and so many different things going on at once, that having quality time with one particular child, or with your spouse is not only important but often only happens by making a concerted effort to do so.  In a blended family, I think it is twice as important, and perhaps, more difficult.  See, in a blended family, you are not only trying to maintain and pursue the existing relationship with your biological child (or children), but you are also trying to build a new relationship with your stepchild(ren) and at the same time strengthen your relationship with your spouse, which is often times in its infancy.  You are definitely pulled in all directions at once.

When Roger and I were first married, we set up date nights with our kids.  It was really important to us to not only spend quality time with our biological children, but also build the new relationships with our stepchildren.  We would take two Friday evenings a month, and alternate between bio and step.  So, for example the first Friday of the month was stepchild night:  one of us would stay home with our stepchild(ren) the other would go out.  We would just try to find something fun to do, like rent a movie and get frozen dinners, or go get pizza and go bowling.  Basically, where ever we were we just tried to spend some alone time getting to know our stepchild(ren).  The next Friday night was a family night where we all did something together, and then the third Friday would be biological child night, where we would spend that evening doing something one on one with our biological child(ren).  I don't know if it helped build any relationships, but I like to think it did.  If nothing else, it showed all of our kids that we care about them, we want to spend time with them, and we have a vested interested in our family.  Either that, or they just figured it was a Friday fun night and they didn't really care who they were with.

Its been a long time since we've had a Friday Fun night, but quality time is still extremely important to us.  We eat 90% of our dinners together, the five of us, at the dinner table.  Dinner around the table is super important in our house because not only do I make delicious food, but it gets our kids talking to us and to each other.   That, and we get to poke fun at each other (OK - mostly at Adam - but he's a good sport).

Both Roger and I have also been reflecting on how important we feel that quality time is with our kids and how we want to resurrect that as something we can continue to do as our kids become young adults.  The marathon training was a great time for Christian and I to spend together, but I don't think I can train for a marathon (mentally or physically) all the time and somehow I don't think Christian will go for it either.  Roger is looking to start "coffee time" with Alex and he and Adam will go play disc golf just the two of them.  He is also thinking about starting a breakfast bistro in the summer (idea courtesy of our Pastor), for the kids to join him if they wish. 

It seems that it might be easy for kids in a blended family to feel lost.  There is always change for them to deal with and overcome.  Our jobs as the parents is to make them feel loved, secure and an important member of the family. Quality time is just one way we can do that.

Are you in a blended family?  How do spend quality time in your family (blended or not)?  Leave a comment with your thoughts or ideas.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

This year Roger and I will be celebrating our 7 year wedding anniversary.  I know...we're still "newlyweds."  I've decided that if our children ever have an issue with our family, they have no one to blame but themselves.  It was our boys who were friends first, and it was that friendship which prompted our introduction. And the rest...is history.  Both Roger and I were previously married, and are now divorced from those persons.  Being divorced is not something we are proud of, especially since we are Christians, but it is a fact of our lives.   In addition to still learning about each other, we will also be sending one child off to college while the other two finish up their last year in high school.  So essentially, we are not just newlyweds, but we are almost emptynesters too.

With that being said, you may wonder who I think we are that I should be sharing our stories.  Well, I don't think I am anyone special or that I am doing it all right, but I do feel that God has put it on my heart to be a resource and this is the beginning of that journey.  By far, we are not experts and we are not perfect, but I like to think that Roger and I work together to do the best we can.  I also hope that while we have made mistakes, we have also learned from those mistakes and do things better as a result.  Plus, who would ever believe about my quirky family if I didn't share about it on the Internet?

Right now our family is going into countdown mode.  We are counting down:  1) days until Alex's graduation, 2) days until Roger gets out of school - he's a teacher, 3) days until Alex is done with classes so the boys can sleep in 15 minutes later (because according to Christian, 15 minutes makes all the difference in the world), 4) days until the boys get out of school (I think Adam may have started this count a week after school began), and 5) I am counting down until some well deserved vacation time.

I would encourage you at any time if you have a question, concern, comment or topic you wish to have discussed, please post a comment and I will be sure to address it.  Also, follow me on Twitter @ stajaca

Monday, May 16, 2011

What's This All About

You may have recently been a reader of my blog:  http://runningwithmyson.blogspot.com, which was all about my son and me training for our first marathon.  The saga finally came to a close and I had quite a few people mention how much they enjoyed the blog and that they were sorry to see it end.

So, I got to thinking, I really do have a lot more stories to share.  This is the continual story about our day to day lives:  good stuff, bad stuff, and the mundane.

Here is a bit about our family.  The most important thing to know is....we're a blended family.  That is the 21st century way of saying we have been divorced and are now remarried.  Our family consists of me; my husband, Roger; my son, Christian (age 16); my (step) daughter, Alex (age 18); and my (step) son, Adam (age 16).  All of our kids live with us full time, and go to see their other parents on occasion.  In addition, both my husband and I work full time.

I am hoping that this will not only provide you with a bit of comedy relief, but also let you know that if you're a mom, a step-mom, a wife, if you work outside the home, or if you happen to know any of the previously mentioned, then you're not alone.  I hope our stories provide you with the encouragement that if we can do it, you can do it!

As always, please feel free to leave messages and comments.  Stay tuned for more background information about our family!