Monday, February 27, 2012

Living by the Rules

I think in the "Rules of Life" book, it mentions how you are supposed to get married first, then have children.  I think somewhere in there (probably a few chapters later), it also mentions that once you are married, you are supposed to stay married until you die.  I think it is safe to say that I haven't played by the rules too much when it comes to the rules of life. 

This would make Roger laugh, because he knows I really am all about playing by the rules, but I guess I didn't necessarily start out that way.  I was a single mom when I had Christian, and was a single parent for most of his life.  I got married after having Christian, and well...once again broke the rules, because I am not still married to that same person. 

Looking back over the past (almost) 20 years, I can see goods and bads to the choices I made.  I wouldn't be the mother or wife I am today, if it hadn't been for many of those choices.  I wouldn't give up what I have today for anything, but at the same time, there are moments in my life when I wish I would have played by the rules.  I wish I would have had someone to share the baby years with me; the joys of pregnancy and birth and all the new discoveries that babies make.  I wish I would have had someone to share the hard decisions with me when it came to life.  I wish I would have had someone to share the fears and the laughs in those early years too.  Mostly, I just wish I had someone to share anything with.

I am so thankful for the relationship that Roger and I have developed in our marriage.  Now, I have that person to share things with, but even in our marriage, it took time to build that foundation.  Before we were married, I had already built a relationship with Christian for 10 years.  Roger was new and it was hard to be able to set aside the foundation that Christian and I had already established and let this third party in.  In the beginning of our marriage, it was hard to say that the relationship with my spouse was more important that the one with my son.  I could trust Christian, I didn't know if I could trust Roger yet.  I knew Christian, I didn't really know Roger yet.  In a marriage, the spousal relationship is THE most important, but is that true in a blended family too?  It is.  It is true in any family.  The spousal relationship needs to be the foundation of any marriage, or that marriage will not work.  It is important for the parents to be as one, whether it is a blended family or not. When the parents are one, the children know there is no breaking that rock.  They know they are safe.  It wasn't easy to relinquish what I knew and trusted and put my faith into this man I called my husband, but I did.  I had to if I wanted our blended family to be a success.  My son will grow up and move on to live his own life, and when he and Alex and Adam are gone, Roger and I will be all that's left.  If we haven't cemented our relationship (the foundation), we won't have anything to stand on, and then nothing will be left. 

Whether you are in a traditional family or a blended family, take time to evaluate your relationship with your spouse.  Do you show them respect and love?  Do you give them 100% of you?  Do you stand behind them when they make a decision - even if you don't agree?  Can you list 5 things that make you smile about your spouse?  Think of all the things you did when you were first married...why not rekindle some of those things, just for fun.  Maybe you didn't play by the rules in the beginning, and maybe things got off on a rocky start, then this is your chance to change yourself (because you can't change other people).  You are the only one who can control your actions.  It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day things of life - make a decision to be unique and do things better.  I will make that commitment - will you join me?  Remember, this is the person you signed up to spend the rest of your life with....you might as well enjoy your time together and have some fun!

Monday, February 20, 2012

We Win!

As a parent, I often feel as though my kids are in competition with everyone else's kids.  We have friends and acquaintances who share the successes of their kids and although I am sincerely happy for them, I wish I had a similar story to share back with them about our kids.  I know how great our kids are, but I really want everyone else to see what I see.  I am sure this is probably what every parent wants.

When Roger and I were first married, my desire was for him to not only accept Christian for who he was, but I also to see him as the awesome kid I knew as well, and vice versa.  It was important to me that both Roger and Christian saw in each other what I saw in both of them.  I am pretty sure this is what Roger wanted as well in relationship with me and Alex and Adam.  When you love someone, you want everyone to see what you see in them.  In a blended family, this takes time, but can happen with patience, encouragement and the building of relationships.  I think we have come to a point in our family where for the most part, we do see these attributes most of the time. 

As we recognize these qualities in our blended family, we want to share them with the rest of the world, so they share in our revelations too.  It's like making a new discovery and wanting to share it with the world.  When our friends and acquaintances share those successes of their children, I don't always feel like I have anything to reciprocate.  This is what I hear:  so and so received a full ride scholarship to the college of their choice; my son just won this state competition and if he wins nationals, he gets to meet the President; my daughter was just crowned Miss America.  My kids are smart, but they aren't the valedictorian, and they work really hard at things but don't always win the competition.  I am very proud of my kids, I just don't have a lot of worldly accomplishments to brag about.  Here's what I've got:  my kids are good kids....no, they're great kids.  They respect us and listen to us and I can honestly say, I cannot relate to the expression:  "Ugghh...Teenagers!"  My kids love God.  They are on fire, Jesus loving, church going, young men and woman of God.  Can anyone else see that?

This weekend was quite a whirlwind of excitement at our house.  It was Sno Court for Adam and Christian, which is basically a mid-Winter Homecoming, and we found out last week that Christian had been nominated by his fellow classmates to the Sno Court.  The student body then votes from among the Senior nominees who will be the Sno Court King and Queen.  It was all pretty exciting, just the nomination alone was something to be excited about.  I even said to Roger, "Now, I finally have something to brag about with our kids."  Roger's response was, "We have good kids!"  He's right.  In retrospect that comment sounded like I have nothing good to say about them, which is the farthest thing from the truth.  I guess what I really meant was, now people finally see what I see in them.   With much awaited anticipation, we attended the Friday night basketball game, where they introduced the court at halftime and announced the winners.  I am excited to say that Christian was crowned King. 


It was quite the evening, followed by the dance the next night.  Not only was Christian crowned King, but he had Adam and loads of friends surrounding him and excited for him.  It was like everyone is finally seeing what I have seen in Christian for the past 17 years.  It is a great memory that Christian will have from high school and I am so glad he gets to enjoy it.  I am very proud of him.  When all's said and done, what really makes my day is when I go to church and random folks mention to me what a blessing our daughter, Alex is to them; or when Adam's teachers talk about how engaging he is and a pleasure to have in class; or when other parents comment on how much they appreciate Christian's helpfulness and what nice young man he is.   I hope people see what we see in Alex, Adam and Christian, because I think these three are pretty awesome.  Sure, its not a full ride to college, but that only lasts four years anyway, these characteristics will last them a lifetime. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Ideal Step-Family

Today at church I was happy to lend an ear to a lady who was riddled with step-family issues.  She needed to vent and as I listened to her stories I learned how different her blended family is from mine.  Whereas our children have lived with us full time since we have been married, and both Roger and I were always the primary caregivers of our biological children, her family is different.  Both of her step-children are grown (in their 20's), and only come to see her and her husband on alternating weekends.  They have never lived with her full time, and she and her husband also have young children of their own. 

At first, I was very saddened to hear about all she was telling me, mostly because I didn't think I could relate.  Here I am with a heart to help other step-families and I had not experienced what she was telling me.  She went on about the discord between her and her step-daughter and other uncomfortable issues between her and her step-children.  What I also heard was that even though their issues sounded superficial, they went much beyond the surface, and she had gotten to a point where she just didn't want to do it anymore.  I could relate to that.  I wanted to tell her to keep pressing on; keep doing what she is doing and eventually they will see she is on their side but I didn't say any of that.  It was that moment in the conversation when you realize the other person doesn't really want to hear what you have to say unless they ask.  Instead I said, "In a step-family so many issues seem to be magnified and get blown up bigger than they really are."  She agreed and I continued to listen.  What I heard next was not so much that there was an issue with the step-daughter but with the family as a whole. 

She made me think about what it would be like to have the "Ideal Step Family."  I imagine it would look nothing like The Brady Bunch because I don't ever remember any of those kids talking about their other parents (whether deceased or divorced).  In a blended family, we don't have just the kids to deal with we have the other parents too.  I think ideally we all need to learn how to get along.  Is that so far out of the ordinary to hope for?  A blended family should be a situation where the kids don't feel like they are still in the middle of divorcing, fighting parents but yet one where the parents work together for the good of the children.  I can't say we live this out in our family.  Frankly, we try to avoid the other parents at all costs if we can.  I know....its awful.  We do make sure we never speak negatively about the other parent to our children, because that doesn't do anyone any good.  We also encourage the children in their relationship with their other parent as much as we can.  We're pleasant when the other parent is around but we really don't want to be near them and I am sure they feel the same way about us. 

I think the crux of many step-family issues comes from the fact that the child's original parents don't get along.  I think there becomes a constant battle of Us vs. Them.  Everyone is trying to pull the child(ren) this way and that and everybody wants their own way.  It seems that regardless of what the other parents (either custodial or non-custodial) try to do,  its not good enough; fault is found and bitterness remains.  Perhaps if we stepped back and chose to show love to the other parent, our relationships in our own family and with our step-children will flourish.  I know many folks were hurt very badly in their prior marriages and that's why they don't exist anymore, but remember how Jesus told us to love our enemies?  I think this might be what He means.  So who am I to preach?  Well, I'm one who can learn too. So let's all give it a try.  What will it hurt?

In a few months my boys will graduate from high school and unlike last year, I will have not just one other parent to deal with but two. I cannot control what the other parents do, but I can control how I act and react.  I can show kindness and love...and it might be really hard, but it will be my big chance.  Who knows...maybe we'll experience that ideal step family.  Regardless, my kids win.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Pillow Wars

Sometimes I really don't like being in a blended family.  Don't get me wrong, it's not my family that I don't like, it's the blended part.  I just wish we were "normal"...and I use that word loosely.  Sometimes I feel that because we are in a blended family little things get magnified but yet, the are probably still little things.  I feel like sometimes we have to be extra cautious and tip toe around because we are surrounded by fragility.  In reality, we probably aren't that fragile, but sometimes it feels that way.

I have to admit that as much as I want to write this, I don't just as much.  It was kind of a traumatic situation for me, and probably more so than it was for anyone else.  Some might say, it's because I over analyze things, and that might be the case, but mostly I was just...hurt. 

In our family, we like to joke around a lot.  We can be serious too, but we like to laugh and have fun. 
Tuesday, after getting home from work, Christian decided that he was going to have all the couch pillows (that's 6 pillows) surround him like a wall.  He was basically lounging on a bed of pillows while watching TV.  After awhile I decide stealing the pillows is a good idea.  Between he, Roger and I, we start a bit of a pillow war.  It wasn't any big deal, we were just joking around and having fun.  We laughed and finally stopped.   A short time later, as Roger leaves the room to go to upstairs, he steals one of the pillows from Christian.  Christian, grabbing all the other pillows in his arms, follows after.  From there, I hear some laughing, then what sounds like wrestling, then some shouting, then....anger.  I don't know what happened up there, and frankly, I don't really want to know the details.  What I do know is that the two people who matter most to me in my life were arguing.  Not just arguing but fighting.  At first it made me mad.  I mean, seriously.....it's a PILLOW!!!  Let's put this in perspective, folks.  We're talking about one of these:


At this point, I am so mad about this argument over a pillow that I ban everyone from the pillows for a week!  That has to teach them something, right?!  Then I lay into Christian.  I mean it MUST be his fault.  He was hogging the pillows...he's the kid...isn't it always the kid's fault?  I really don't say much to Roger because I'm mad and  now I am all done talking.  Except, not only am I mad, I am also just really hurt to the core.  How could they do this?  Their relationship has been really growing.  Why did this happen?  I felt like I had been hit in the stomach.  

The realization of the ridiculousness of the situation must have hit them both overnight.  Whereas they weren't buddy-buddy first thing in the morning, they did talk about it the next evening.  Roger took responsibility for his actions and apologized to Christian and Christian did the same.  Then, Roger apologized to me too.  He understood how badly it hurt me and regretted the whole situation.  I loved that they talked about it.  I loved that Christian listened and Roger listened back.  It gave me confidence in our family.

At one point during the night of the Pillow Wars, I yelled , "You're tearing this family apart!!"  Christian wisely said, "If our family is that fragile, then we have a lot more serious problems than this."   He was right, pillows weren't tearing our family apart, nothing was.  It was a situation that got magnified because we are in a blended family.  In fact, I would say that in this instance, it was probably better that we are in a blended family.  In a traditional family, many fathers and/or mothers would have blown it off with the attitude of:  "I'm right because I'm the parent and you're wrong because you're the child."  In our family, that wasn't happening.  I couldn't let it go, and neither could Roger.  He made it right with Christian and probably strengthened their relationship because now Christian knows, they can get mad at each other, and then they can make up, move on and Roger still loves him. 

So, come on pillows, bring it on!  Score:  Pillows - 0  Caudill's - 1!  We win!