Join Our Community

Email address:


header birth authenticfamily

The Blended Family

tiff

It was the typical blended family beginning: A divorced man with a child and a divorced woman with a child meet, fall in love and get married. In a whirlwind, a new life begins. A new sibling, a new parent. A new child, a new spouse. A new home. New rules, new boundaries, new dynamics. Suddenly, from two “half-families,” a new family is formed. 

My husband, Silouan, and I felt we were blessed with a pretty easy setup when we got married. Though young, we were both in similar situations–established with family in town, a good job, and each with a small child we had primary custody of. Silouan’s daughter Miette was still a baby (and would therefore never remember a time without me) and my son, Parker, at five, loved having a little one to play with, and bonded instantly with Silouan. By the end of the first year, we had our daughter Aryeh, completing the formula for our truly “blended” family.

Silouan and I thought we knew, for the most part, what we were “up against,” when we decided to get married, as we both grew up in complex stepfamily situations. We had been through the same thing as children, hadn’t we? Just on the other end of it. We had an insider’s perspective on what to do, and what not to do. We wouldn’t have the problems our families or other families had. We wouldn’t fall into those traps! It was going to be easy! However, as it goes, in any family–not everything was easy, or within our control. Once real life set in, and issues arose, as they must, Silouan and I both came to the sober realization that just like everyone else, we were going to have to work hard at this, and that we didn’t actually agree on everything.

tiff

"What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with incompatibility." -Leo Tolstoy

Among a slew of typical blended family issues we thought we would somehow transcend, we found ourselves, from the beginning, dysfunctionally operating under the “your child, my child, our child” mentality. While we seemed to agree wholeheartedly on how to raise Aryeh, we argued a lot about Miette and Parker. I instigated much of this (having gotten used to being a young, single mother, and my child’s only advocate in the world) and went into every situation with paws up, ready to defend my cub, suddenly suspicious that my new husband wasn’t going to be sensitive enough to my son, though I inherently trusted him with Aryeh and Miette. This distrust, which I didn’t consciously realize was the root of my overprotectiveness, created a lot of resentment between me and Silouan, as well as a barrier blocking his and Parker’s relationship from developing naturally.

Furthermore, within the first couple of years, we were faced with some serious problems regarding both of our ex’s. We discussed what was fair for the parent and what was safe for the child. We had heated debates about the custodial rights and the influence the parent should be able to have. We went to court, and again and again. We spent a lot of money on lawyers. We had to be very careful in relating the situation to our child in a way that didn’t put their other parent in a negative light as much as possible, while also explaining things truthfully. Though we were eventually granted full-custody of both children, this did not represent a victory, but a loss. We continued to facilitate as much time as was healthy with each of the other parents, but this was not enough to compensate for our children’s feelings of confusion and anger.

 

In the several tumultuous years that ensued, the “blending” of our blended family often felt like actually being blended. Why was everything so hard? Why was it taking so long? Why were there so many complications? Why didn’t I feel like his child was my child, and vice versa? We imagined the process of becoming a family an instantaneous, beautiful, and painless one. In other words, we didn’t expect a process at all.

Yet, how could we know what we were as a family without spending days and months and years becoming one? With very little history to draw from as a family, we had no known foundation on which to rest or anchor us to. We were all together in a little boat, floating on the surface of the vast sea, and still trying to get to know one another!

Aryeh, the daughter Silouan and I had together, really helped us put things in perspective during this time. We both instinctively understood how to parent her, she was our example of what “ours” looked like and felt like. Her only place was our home. She was what melded all five of us together and made us all make sense. She resembled all of us. We were all on her side, rejoicing together at her every little accomplishment. Aryeh was the whole family’s baby, and she became our foundation.

tiff

"Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress." – Bruce Barton

Through her, Silouan and I learned to parent together, which we were eventually able to extend, with a lot of practice, to our other two children. We gradually allowed one another more space with our “own” child, cultivating this budding trust through parenting our third so well together. I got out of the way, and witnessed a beautiful relationship between Parker and Silouan form. Albeit reluctantly, I began to see that there were more ways to parent than just my way.

We allowed the days to pass, and the years to pass, and just kept walking. We encountered more difficulties, and got through them. Slowly, our fears from the past became more distant; our hope in the future, more vivid. We learned to trust one another. To be patient. To be more patient. To give more. To listen more. To love more. To give up trying to be in control. To judge our own parents less. To forgive. But mostly, we learned that things take time.

Complications with the children’s other parents continued, and in response, Silouan and I became more understanding and loving towards our children. Instead of derailing us each time, challenges now seemed to draw us all closer. We stopped fighting about “yours, mine, and ours,” and found great comfort in this sense of solidarity finally being established. Eventually, our kids couldn’t remember a time without us all being together. They didn’t think of themselves as step, or half-siblings, me as a stepmom, Silouan as a stepdad. We were just a family… And somehow, without warning, it seemed we always had been.

tiff

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress." – Frederick Douglass

The truth is, every family is “blended” in one way or another, whether within a stepfamily setting or not. Blended with all sorts of personalities, circumstances, life situations, blessings, and hardships. Families adopt, grandparents raise grandchildren, villages raise children, single parents raise children. Being a stepparent is not more challenging than being a parent is, just with its own set of circumstances. Life is work. Marriage is work. Raising children is work. It is up to us how hard we make that work feel, and toward what end we endeavor.

It took seven years for our family to truly “blend,” much longer than we ever expected. Silouan and I could have easily given up a million times, allowing our idealistic expectations to undermine the natural processes of life, but we didn’t. Through learning to surrender our precious egos, along with our precious ideals, we received something far, far more precious: A family.

Once you have one, you know that any amount of pain, or time, is worth it. 

About the Author
Author: Tiffany Alberts
Tiffany Alberts lives with her husband and three children at the foothills of Pike’s Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, in a yurt. She holds a degree in English from Colorado College and runs a small, organic landscape horticulture company.

Supported by...

advertisement

Purchase This Issue

HPM18

Supported By

Advertisement