Saturday, July 27, 2013

Carpoolers

Between the months of September and June, when my husband, Roger, is still in school teaching, we carpool most days to work.  We started this several years back when the kids were all in high school and gas prices started going sky high.  Roger only works about 10 minutes up the road from my office, and we figured that we could both compromise a little bit to save driving and gas.  

When we first started carpooling, it was definitely a change.  We were both used to driving alone, left with our own time and thoughts.  We were both used to coming and going on our own schedules and not worrying about what anyone else has going on or if they had to work late.  Certainly there are some days when we don't ride together. Sometimes Roger goes in very early, and sometimes I have to work quite late, so it takes a little bit of communication each day or week to sync our schedules.  After some time, I think we have both gotten used to the carpooling routine.  In fact, when a day comes up that we unexpectedly have to drive separately, we're both a little disappointed. 

Since Roger doesn't teach over the summer, I usually have to drive to work alone.  Since I work in a downtown area, I have to pay for parking (a thorn in my side for the past 17 years that I still need to get over - but I digress).  In my infinite wisdom, I suggested to my son, Christian, this grand idea for carpooling this summer.  His work takes him about 15 minutes up the road from my office, but it would save him a ton of gas money and save me on parking money.  Win-win!  It takes a little bit of compromise for both of us.  I have to adjust my hours so that he isn't at work super early, and he has to ride with mom.  In addition, we have had to learn to compromise on the radio.  I get to choose in the morning, and he gets to choose at night. Sometimes, we choose together.

I don't mind the adjustment for a few months, but I am not sure how much Christian enjoys driving with me.  After the first day of carpooling, I think Christian said something like:  "I don't like riding together." (in his best whinny voice).  Hmph, I guess this blows my fairy tale vision of quality mother and son time when I get to hear all about Christian's dreams and desires in life.  It probably hasn't been a bed of roses for me either, but as any good mom does, I will make the sacrifice of 'fun' to help my son save money and get a little further ahead, as I would with any of my kids.  I also decided that I can use this time positively to hopefully help Christian develop his interpersonal communication skills,
( i.e. Hello, How are you?).  

When Roger and I carpool, the first 10 minutes are greetings which open the door for further sharing of thoughts and the day, and well....life.  With Christian, this is a task he is developing, but one that is important as he gets older, and deals with more people in his life.  It is an important skill for all young adults coming into the world, and sometimes a difficult one to learn. It is one that I had to learn, and often still work on.  It's not that I don't care about others, but sometimes, I just forget to ask.  Our son, Adam, is a pro at this, asking about my day, or how we are, if we haven't seen him lately. Our daughter, Alex, does pretty good too.  She's not quite the conversationalist Adam is, but she'll at least ask....most times.  Christian is more like me.  I'm sure he cares....yes, I'm sure he cares.  He just forgets to ask.  

I think that is part of our job as parents.  I know once the kids are off at college and out of the house, we have grown weary of this thing called parenting, but this is no excuse to just let things go.  We have been assigned the task to raise up our children and teach them in the way they should go, and so we must.  This doesn't mean a constant nagging or lecture towards them, but the subtle interjections of the ways of the world.  Thank goodness we are carpoolers!  Maybe one day Christian will thank me - or at least maybe his wife will. 





Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Go-To Parent

Remember when you were growing up and you wanted something from your parents?  Remember how you knew just which parent to ask for whatever it was you wanted?  Maybe it was always Mom who said yes, or maybe it was always Dad, or maybe it was one or the other depending on what it was you wanted.  You knew how to work the system.  You knew who it was you had to sweet-talk for you to get your way. 

My parents were pretty clever, in that sometimes if I asked Dad, his first question would be, "Well, what did your mother say?"  I hated that.  It meant that I wasn't going to get away with anything, and now I had to go back and ask Mom first and then go and talk to Dad.  Way to work as a team, Parents.

In our family, we have realized that an interesting phenomenon occurs.  The go-to parent is almost always the biological parent.  For Christian and Alex, this is hands down the case 99.9% of the time, to the point of ridiculousness.  For example, yesterday, Christian couldn't find his shoes. Now, it wasn't that he misplaced them, it was that I had put Adam and Christian's shoes outside to air out and forgot to bring them back inside before I went to bed.  Since I left for work very early yesterday, I wasn't here when the boys got up and around for work and as a result wasn't available to remember about the shoes or let them know where the shoes had gone.   Christian looked everywhere throughout the house, but wouldn't ask Roger if he knew where his shoes were. Finally, Roger asked him, and...problem solved.  Alex will do the same thing.  It takes me asking her, for her to give in for help from me.  Both Alex and Christian will both go to the ends of the earth to find their biological parent to ask them something before asking the step-parent.  It's quite humorous.  On the other hand, Adam, will pretty much ask either one of us whatever, when he is looking for something. 

All of our kids will respond similarly when seeking permission to do something, or advice on a situation.  They will go walk past the step-parent a dozen times, just to find and talk to their biological parent.  If the biological parent isn't available, they will wait, or if worst comes to worst, give in with obvious disappointment and ask the step-parent.  If we were in our first years of marriage and just blending our family, I could completely understand this marvel, but now that we are almost 10 years into our family, it just seems silly.  Maybe it is out of habit, or maybe it is out of comfort, but the biological parent remains the go-to parent.

The funny thing is that when it comes to big conversations, you know, the big life decisions that every child needs the parental blessing, we often end up sitting down together with the child to discuss as a team. Either that, or Roger and I will discuss together and come to a consensus before the biological parent has the final discussion with that child.  The fact is, however, if Adam or Alex were to come to me with something big, my first question would probably be:  "Well, what did your dad say?"  Hmmm, I wonder where I learned that from.  That's good parenting teamwork.

It doesn't hurt our feelings that the kids still seem to bee-line it for their biological parent. Its just kinda funny.  I guess these occurrences just help give us a good chuckle and not take this parenting job too seriously.  I just hope each one of our children, step or biological, know that we are both here for each of them, all of the time, whatever the need.  Oh, and if you can't find your shoes, we can help you find those too, just ask.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

We're Not Doomed!

I think it's a pretty well known statistic these days that 50% of all marriages end in divorce.   Are you also aware that those statistics increase for second and third marriages?  The rate increases to a 67% chance of divorce for second marriages, and 73% divorce risk for third marriages.  Those aren't great chances of success. The odds are against you.  Did you also know, that technically, I've been married three times?

Roger is my third husband.  I was marriage twice before him.  The first marriage was a short three months, and I was very young, and looking back, I was probably too young.  It didn't end in divorce, however, but rather my first husband died of a terminal illness.  Then, many years later I married my ex-husband, and our marriage was also his second.  His first marriage ended in divorce.  Our marriage was shorter than I had planned and shorter than his first marriage.  Then, Roger and I got married and I don't plan on living up to the statistics.  So far, so good, as it's my longest marriage yet!

I've heard these statistics before, but they came across my computer at work earlier this week, and a few co-workers gathered to chat about them not to far from my desk.  I wasn't included in the conversation, which was between ladies who have never been through a divorce.  The conversation was very hush, hush, but I am pretty certain, I heard my name thrown out there a few times.  I just chuckled to myself because I don't believe I have to live up to every statistic I hear.  I like to beat the odds.  I don't think other second or third marriages have to live up the statistics either.  It's your marriage; it's your choice how it develops.

From what I read, theories that surround the high divorce rates are because often times people are on the rebound, or perhaps haven't dealt with the ending of the previous marriage.  Another theory is that there isn't a commonality in second or third marriages.  The claim is that there isn't the same sense of family, and children can be a point of conflict in the marriage.  I can buy into that to a degree.  Yet another theory is that maybe they haven't learned their mistakes from the first time around and so are doomed to repeat history. Perhaps that is true too.  My theory is that it's an 'easy' way out.  The pain from the earlier divorce is gone or numbed, the situation you are in now is hard, and it seems 'easiest' to divorce again, rather than working on the issues at hand.  You got through the divorce the last time, you'll get through it this time, right?  Well I am here to tell you, it isn't the easy thing to do, there is another way, and just because you've been through divorce before, you're not doomed to do it again! 

Without a doubt a second or third marriage is a very hard and complicated situation, but running away doesn't make it better.  The whole reason I started this blog is because being married again and being in a blended family situation is very challenging. It's exactly why there are communities out there, online and in your town, which offer their support to you in your second or third marriage.  It is the reason why you need to cultivate friends who are also in blended families or second marriages. It isn't easy, but it can be done.  It takes hard work, but if we stick together and lean on each other for help and resources, we will all beat the statistics.  If you don't know where to start, I'm glad you're here. This is a great place to begin.  Another great resource is Smart StepFamilies. It is a great website with books, conferences and articles.  I also strongly recommend, that if you know another blended family (and I'm pretty sure we all do), invite them over for dinner, or coffee.  Open up the conversation of supporting each other. I would bet they have been through, will go through, or are going through the same things you are in your family.

Surrounding yourself with friends who are encouraging and supportive is the way to succeed with any challenge.  Friends (and I use that term loosely) who think you are going to wind up a statistic, aren't the best resource for support.  Call me the eternal optimist, but I sincerely believe we can all have successful second or third marriages.  I believe that we didn't enter into this promise, just to bail out when things get hard.  I believe that Roger and I will be married until death do us part and that if that is what you want in your marriage, you will have it too.  It's our second chance to do it right, and everyone deserves a second chance.

As always, if you have a question or just need some step family support and don't know where to start, you can leave a comment, or email me at blendedfamily5@hotmail.com.  Remember, we're all in this together.




Saturday, July 6, 2013

Feeling Guilty

I really enjoy spending time with my husband.  Roger and I have so much fun together. We enjoy doing many of the same things, and we just seem to have fun doing them together.  I have to admit, however, that sometimes, when we have done things together...alone..without the kids...I have felt a little guilty. 

I didn't used to feel guilty.  When Christian was quite young, I appreciated the break. It was just the two of us, so a night with the baby sitter or Grandpa and Grandma gave me a bit of needed time off.  I saw a change after my divorce. Christian and I were alone once again, and this time I didn't like to do things knowing he was home with a babysitter or at the grandparents' house. I felt bad about going off to do my own thing without him.  I think it stemmed from the fact that now, I had to share my time with him.  Before the divorce, I had him all the time, but after the divorce, I had to share.  As a result, I got very selfish with how I spent my time and how things got prioritized.

When Roger and I were dating we did a good job of respecting the time we each had with our kids.  We tried to arrange dates and time alone, when our kids were with their other parents.  When we got married, we continued to try to arrange alone time when all the kids were at their other parents, but schedules were inconsistent and it just wasn't as easy to plan as one would think.  So, when we would plan to do something alone together, and the kids were home, I felt guilty.  I felt like we were leaving the kids behind and forgetting about them.

In actuality, we were simply building our relationship as a married couple. We were learning about each other and spending necessary quality time together.  Since in our blended family, we both brought children into the family with us, we had to figure out how to build our relationship without pushing the kids aside.  If you think about it, we knew and loved our children first before we knew and loved each other. We relied on them and spent unending hours with them first because they were all we had for so long.  But when we got married, we made a choice to have this other person around to spend the rest of our lives with, and when we would do things alone, I would feel....guilty.

The reality is that our children are growing up and moving out to pursue lives of their own.  Which is good, because frankly, we really don't want them living with us forever.  It is also amazing how they clearly do not feel guilty when they make plans that do not include us.  In fact, I would say 99% of their plans do not include us.  So, I won't feel guilty anymore and it is OK to do our thing, because even though we knew and loved them first, their job is not to provide us companionship for the rest of our lives. That is our job for each other, and that is why we chose each other to enjoy, and spend time with until death do us part.

I guess sometimes I still feel guilty when we do some things alone, but it's not because I feel bad about leaving the kids, it's more of the fact that I wish they could have as much fun as we're having.  Then the feeling passes, and instead I am overcome with a feeling of thankfulness that I have such a great companion in Roger and we have so much fun together.