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.