Today would have been my mother’s 72nd birthday. It is a bittersweet day for me because it reminds me of many wonderful birthday parties with my grandmother (her mother), her sisters and our families celebrating both her birthday and her older sister’s birthday. Their birthdays were two days apart. My grandmother always made “birthday cake” – a white cake (home-made, of course) with the most beautiful pink icing that she used to make little petite peaks all over the cake.
My mother didn’t get to be a grandmother; she died of gastric cancer the year she was to turn fifty. So, today, more than twenty years later, the bitter comes from having two biological children that never got to have a birthday party with their maternal grandmother. My mom would have been the most amazing grandmother… I can only imagine how all of our lives might be different had she lived to see her grandchildren born and to have participated in their lives. Elaina, my daughter, carries my mother’s name (Elaine). It serves as a lasting tribute and reminder to her of the grandmother she didn’t have the opportunity to know or to be loved by. I make sure to tell the kids stories about her and make recipes with them that my mother made for my siblings and me (Snickerdoodles being our #1 favorite to make together!!). Anything to help them know her in some small way.
Although nothing can replace the potential grandmother my mom could have been, my children haven’t fully missed out on the love and affection of grandmother-like figures in their lives. They are so lucky to have great aunts (TWO Aunt Glendas and an Aunt Kaky – these are on my side of the family). They are also lucky to have a wonderful grandmother via our blended family. I am very grateful for Russell’s mother who welcomed my children with open arms from the very first day she met them. They call her “grandma” and look forward to visits with her and from her just like any grandchild would anticipate such a visit. She asks about their lives and converses with them with kind attention. For this, I am thankful.
In our lives, sometimes we lose people. Those people are not replaceable. My mother is certainly not replaceable, to me or to my children. However, in life, we must also look for sweetness even in bittersweet times. Our blended family has given my children the chance to find just that.
That is what this blog is about… looking for the positives in the blended family
Today as I was holding a ‘trikonasana’ (triangle pose) in yoga, the instructor pushed us to “notice the room created to let things in and notice what we let go of”. As I focused on my practice I thought of how I could apply that in my life. On my drive home from an invigorating practice, I considered how her instructions applied to our blended family.
Consider letting in: your step-children, your step-family, your life
Considering letting go of: frustration created by ex-spouses, difficulties with scheduling, hurt created by missing one another
Apply the above to your blended family, seek to create positive interactions in your crazy, fun life…
This past weekend, on a gorgeous, sunny day, the country club where my children swim hosted the annual “Big Meet”. This is where a couple of hundred kids, ages 5 to 16 years old, from five different country clubs compete for the title of “North Shore Swim League Champions”. As a club, we hosted about 500 people; many parents volunteered to pull off a fantastic event.
In working to define our family, Russell was a volunteer at the “Big Meet’ – just like any other parent.
Working to direct incoming traffic to the correct parking lot (imagine, minivans driven by moms, full of kids and sports cars driven by dads coming with Dunkin’ Donuts — this is a true observation!), Russell’s contribution demonstrated several things:
– despite the three hours distance between us, we are building a presence as a complete family both in Reading, MA and Burlington, VT
– he cares immensely for his step-son and step-daughter – contributing to an important event for my children demonstrates their importance in his life
Find ways to participate in your step-children’s activities – the rewards are great for all!
Russell and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner together while on vacation in Cape Cod this past week. We had a beautiful view of the beach in Chatham with such amazing colors entertaining us during the early evening. The blue of the ocean, the green of the trees and the oranges and pinks of the sun in the distance were amazing.
During dinner we were discussing our relationship and our blended family and how truly content and in love we are with one another. Perhaps a bit sentimental and sappy, but I even shed a couple of tears of joy during this conversation. We continued the discussion about what our success hinges upon and he said something that I believe deserves quote status!
I don’t always agree with you, but I respect you, and with that respect comes knowing that you have an intelligent reason for your position. – Russell D. Beste
I believe respect is essential to any successful relationship – for a husband and wife living 3 hours apart during the week it is a key contributor to keeping our communication channel open.
I’ve been interested in Birth Order for years – I find it so interesting that first-borns tend to behave differently than middle children whom also have different tendencies than the children born last in a family (and of course, there are many other combinations!). Although there are always exceptions, I look at both Russell and myself (we are both first borns!) and our behaviors and expectations are quite similar. After reading some of Kevin Leman’s The Birth Order Book, I became more intrigued about our blended family and how birth order affects our interactions with our children and their relationships with one another.
My youngest is a ten year-old that has plenty of talents. She is an amazing gymnast and enjoys ballet and tap dancing also. She is the youngest of my two children and thus, in our family (prior to LuckySevenFamily) she has been the ‘baby’. Given her status in the family, she tends to be more protected than her older brother. However, in our modern, blended family she is NOT the youngest/baby of the family. Russell’s youngest child is a couple of years younger than her and on top of being the youngest of his three children, she was also born four years after the middle child, giving her the ultimate “baby of the family” status. She is a great soccer player and tends more towards group sports than does my daughter.
The relationship between these two youngest girls is an intriguing one; they are the very best of friends and sisters. Just this past weekend, they were shopping for school clothes together. Ultimately, they chose several matching outfits – so cute! However, there are times when they are ultra-competitive with one another; fighting for their position in the family. Although they are only two years apart in age, my blondie is super tall and Russell’s brunette is a petite girl that looks several years younger than she actually is. This discrepancy in size also plays easily into further “baby of the family” status for the youngest in our blended family. For my daughter, not being the true baby of the blended family can be frustrating; in many ways she becomes a middle child which can be quite annoying for a true “baby of the family”!
Given this observation, we have to be careful about how we react to both girls. Russell and I must work to provide both girls reassurance about their important positions in the family – striving not to always allow his daughter complete ownership of “baby of the family” role and providing some of that experience to my daughter. Similarly, we have to remind my daughter that she must remember she is older and has more mature experiences than our youngest; thus our expectations ARE different.
I could provide plenty of other (very entertaining!) examples of how our oldest children deal with their positions and how Russell’s middle child has his role in our blended family. For another day…
Remember how your blended family affects birth order among all of the children and consider how you can play up the strengths and down-play the drawbacks of these various positions in a blended family! I’d love to hear about your experiences with birth order in a blended family! Feel free to leave under “comments”.
Luckily for the MODERN, blended family they added the USUALLY! Although many families do reside in the same dwelling, others maintain more than one household with success!
“I’m going on vacation. I’ll bring you back a souvenir suitcase. It’ll be full of love, but otherwise appear to be empty.”
― Jarod Kintz, Love quotes for the ages. And the ageless sages.
Limiting screen time is no new topic for families. For our blended family, screen time can consume us! With iPods, iPhones, Kindles, Samsung tablets, and iPads we find ourselves with five kids that are totally consumed with games, texting and Instagram. Given we only spend weekends, holidays and vacations together, our time as a family is limited. We’ve decided to limit electronics on vacations to specific periods that coincide with some much needed “down-time”. Early mornings can be a difficult time for our blended family; two boys that wake up with the sunrise, stomp around, and try to wake the entire household versus two little night owls that prefer to sleep in after a late night of reading make striking a morning balance difficult. Limited screen time in the early morning allows for the early birds to watch lax videos or play games quietly while giving the sleepy heads an extra hour of rest. We’ve also decided to “collect” the electronics in a central, adult-controlled location so that the kids aren’t tempted by their electronics at every turn. This approach gives us controlled quiet time while still allowing for plenty of time for important family discussions and interactions!
I would love to hear how other blended families deal with screen time – give us your input today!