Saturday, June 25, 2011

What's Your Excuse?

On Monday night as Roger and I were getting into bed, I asked him how we got so lucky to have three awesome kids.  He didn't really have an answer.  Our kids have committed to a 2-week program at church, which began this week. It is a discipleship program where they do bible study, prayer, community service and they also have some fun.  It is a big commitment and a long day, since they are at church by 9:30a and don't get home until 10:00pm.  Also, this isn't something we suggested or pressured them into, this is something they asked to do.  In fact last year, they voted to go to the church program rather than go on a two-week family vacation.  Needless to say, we rescheduled our vacation so they could do both. 

The reason I mention this is because our kids have an excuse.  They have a reason to be bitter, sad, melodramatic.  They have a reason to have an attitude, get bad grades and feel sorry for themselves.  Their parents have been divorced and in addition they have been thrown into this world of blended family...both things they didn't ask for.  Our kids however, have never used that excuse.  They choose to rise above it, overcome it and live beyond it.  This is not to say our kids have never had a rough time, but it is how they have chosen to deal with it that has made a difference.

When the boys were in the 4th grade, I was helping out at lunch/recess one day at school.  This was fairly soon after Christian's dad and I had gotten divorced.  I was watching the class play on the playground when all of a sudden Christian came up to me crying surrounded by a few friends (girls of course).  He had been playing and as kids poke fun back and forth, one of his friends shouted at Christian:  "Well at least my parents aren't divorced!"  UGH!  The guilt, the pain I felt in my heart, the anger - how dare he! This was a friend who was in our cub scout den (which I led).  I was friends with his parents.  Why would he say this?  The girls that surrounded Christian, all chimed in that it was OK because their parents were divorced too!  When we went back into the school after recess, I explained to the teacher what happened.  I wanted to ring that little boy's neck!  The teacher offered to talk to him for me....I agreed...I was way too upset to deal with this rationally. 

The next time I saw his mom, she apologized to me.  She was so embarrassed.  I was hurt - mostly because my son was hurt. There were a lot of things I wanted to say but didn't, I accepted her apology. We moved on.  That summer at cub scout camp, that boy apologized to me.  I had forgotten about it by then, but of course I forgave him. He was a kid and it takes a lot to apologize to an adult.  I was impressed that he did that.  Do you know how Christian handled it?  He forgave the boy right away.  The next day they were friends again and he put it behind him and went on.   Ultimately, that little boy's father was the pastor who married Roger and me. Ironic isn't it?    

I think it is a lot harder for adults to do what Christian did - forgive right away.  We hold grudges, over analyze, keep a list of wrong doings.  It seems like the better approach might be to forgive, we don't have to forget, but we can learn from it and move on.  Our kids have done a great job of this. They forgive us for our mistakes, and we have made plenty (stay tuned for the list in future posts).  We all have our moments and get upset with each other every now and then.  I mean, we ARE a family, but we forgive, get over it and move on.  Maybe we could learn a lesson or two from our kids, rather than them learning from us all the time. We might be better people.

So, what's your excuse?  What could you do better when dealing with people?  Let me know - leave a comment.  Also, sign up as an official follower of my blog, I appreciate it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Other Parents

I really wanted to write this post about Alex's high school graduation.  She graduated a week ago today and since it was a pretty monumental event in our household, first child graduating and all, I thought THAT is what I need to blog about.  So, I mulled it around in my head, and nothing seemed to come together.  See, I am sure that some read this blog for entertainment, and others just because they are curious about our family or want to read about someone else's life, but I also believe there are also some who read this blog because they too are in a blended family.  For those folks, I hope that you know that you are not on an island.  Therefore, today its about the "other parents".  First let me say that I will never use this blog to "dog" the other parents.  I may not agree with their parenting methods, but criticizing them doesn't help anything and it doesn't make my kids feel good. 

I have read a lot of books over the past several years about step parenting, and living in a blended family, and how to deal with the other parents.  Two things are consistently present:  1) Never, never, never, talk bad about the other parent in front of your children and 2) you should work with your ex to co-parent your child(ren). 

I completely agree with number 1.  I am pretty sure 99.99% of the time both Roger and I have done our very best to never talk bad about the other parent.  There have been times I have needed to be honest about the other parent, but have done my best to do it in as positive way as possible.  The child may not have wanted to hear the truth, but it wasn't done in a disparaging way.  There have also been times when I have just had to keep my mouth shut, because as my dad used to always say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."  Roger is probably the best with this, as he goes so far as to encourage the time and relationship between the kids and their other parent.  He truly shows love towards Alex and Adam's mother, even though she is probably his least favorite person on earth. I commend him and think that all parents in a divorce situation should keep their negative comments out of earshot of the children.  It doesn't help anyone and it makes the kids feel bad because those parents are a part of them too.

In regards to number 2, co-parenting, I can't say I am completely sold on the concept.  I believe that in theory this is the way to got.  Both parents should be able to work together for the good of the children, because after all, the children didn't ask for the divorce and/or re-marriage.  However, not all parents are willing to work together.  Sometimes the divorce is still too fresh to play nice.  I felt this way in the beginning.  I was hurt, and although I tried to work together I didn't get the response I hoped for, so I stopped trying.  I do however feel that you should back up the other parent.  What I mean by this is, if they make a decision regarding the child, unless it puts him or her in danger, you should reinforce this decision with your child whether you agree with it or not.  It's hard, but it still shows your child a united front and that one parent cannot be pitted against the other.  I like to believe that this has worked in most cases over the years in our family, but to be honest we don't know if the other parent really held up their end of the bargain or not, since we aren't in their house.  Believe it or not, we just have to trust them, ironically the one that that was destroyed along with the marriage.

At some point, however, I really think everyone just needs to get over it.  Get over what?  Get over the bad feelings, the resentment, the anger, the hurt, the divorce.  Get over it!  It's done.  Let's move on and get along.  Why can't everyone juts get along??  Which brings me to graduation....

As our children grow up our relationships change.  They become adults and our contact with the other parents is limited to the big occasions.  You know what I mean:  graduations, weddings, birth of grandchildren. The events everyone wants to be a part of, the events that you have to share.  A few days before graduation, I told Roger that we are going to be the bigger people.  We are going to be friendly and kind with Alex's mom.  We are not going to let the whole his/hers, mine/theirs, step/bio, ex/current minutiae get in the way, because compared to Alex's big day - its all small stuff.  I think I may have gotten a little rolling of the eyes with my declaration, but I wasn't suggesting that we all be best friends, just that we get along.  Well, long story short, it all worked out in the end.  I suggested to Alex's mom and boyfriend, that we all take pictures together. She agreed.  It also gave me an opportunity to chat about Alex's open house and find out if they were able to make it.  It opened up other avenues of conversation too.  Now, I'm not suggesting that she's my new BFF or anything, but we all want to be a part of the big stuff, so let's get over ourselves, so we can all enjoy what's important - our kids.

Here is a picture of our kids after graduation:

From left to right, it is Adam, Alex and Christian.  Everybody's happy! 

On a side note:  This Sunday is Father's Day.  If you have a stepfather in your life, please remember to wish him a Happy Father's Day too.  Nothing will replace our biological parents, but all too often, stepparents are forgotten on these holiday's and they are important people too.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's All Fun and Games Until....

I have to admit that for the most part our family gets along pretty good.  Our kids get along good.  They joke, support and poke fun at each other regardless of parent of origin.  Roger and I make a great team as well, if I do say so myself.  I think part of that is our differing personalities and his gift of patience.  For the most part we support each others decisions and back each other up.  Our kids are respectful not only to their biological parent but also to their stepparent.  We've come along way, and learned a lot about each other over the past several years.  Sometimes, however...we disagree.

This past weekend was a great example of how something that can happen in any type of family can get exasperated because we are a blended family.  It wasn't one of the biggest issues we've ever had, but it took some finagling and work around to get everything smoothed out.  Here's what happened:

It is that time of year for high school graduations, in fact Alex's is tonight.  With graduations, come graduation open houses, and we have found that when you have children of the graduating age, you and they get invited to quite a few of these open houses.  In our house, our kids have some friends who are the same, and many who are not the same, so we have had to do a run down of who wants to go where and figure out how to make the majority of the people in our house happy.  This past Saturday we (meaning Roger and I) made grand plans to attend an open house and then drop Alex and Adam off at their mom's for the night.  We thought we were fairly brilliant in our efforts to save gas (at $4 plus a gallon) and combine two trips into one.  We knew they could get a ride to church in the morning from a close friend, and frankly we thought our plan was fairly failsafe.  Unbeknownst to us, all of our children were interested in attending a party that night, in a town about 45 minutes from our house.  Christian had brought this up to me the night before but I kinda poo pooed it, because of the lengthy drive.  When we announced our grand plan for the afternoon, Alex and Adam balked at that idea since they too wanted to go to the party, and were planning on taking the car (the kids all share one car) to their mom's and then onto this party.  In my mind, I'm thinking - no gas savings there,  an extra trip into town and I already changed Christian's plans for him.  It got a little heated for a moment as we discussed options.  OK, mostly it was me.  I wasn't angry at anyone, just frustrated.  From my point of view everyone wanted to get their own way (including me) and no one was willing to compromise.  In addition, it wasn't fair for 2 kids to get to go to the party just because they are staying at the other parent's for the night. 

That's right, I said the "f" word:  FAIR.  Fair is the foundation of a blended family.  Everything has to be fair.  Everything isn't always fair but when you are blending all these people together, it is easy to feel like you are getting the shaft. In a traditional family, it can be easier to say life isn't fair and let them deal with it, in a blended family resentment, jealousy and anger can build against each other and we want to avoid that.  We try to make everything as fair as possible.  It isn't always even or the same, and there are consequences to actions, but we try to treat each of our children equally and make sure they each have the same opportunities.  It takes a lot of thinking, planning, and brain work but we want our kids to know that they are all on the same playing ground. 

So, Roger and I started our brainstorming.  It occurred to me that if Alex and Adam go to this party, they won't get to their mom's until late anyway, and then they have to get up very early to go to church, and won't be home until the afternoon, so why don't they all go to the party together, they can stay home for the night and just go to their mom's after church.  Roger also added, that majority rules: 2 out of 3 children have to want to go to the party or else no one goes and we are back to regular plans.  The plan was accepted by all participants and needless to say they all had a great time at the party.

As with most incidents we have, it all worked out in the end. Why we get so worked up at the time I'm not sure, just human I guess. usual....a little compromise and communication goes a long way -  regardless of the type of family or relationship you are in.  I hope I remember this for next time.