Although the term, “step-family” or “blended family” has become quite normal terms to hear every now and then, it is still a bit of a secret as to how to have a happy and healthy step-family. There is a plethora of family books out there for information on everything under the moon, but when it comes to step-families I think there are too many variables to write a really good book about it. Jason and I don’t know any other step-families and the one family I do know of, just sortof shrugged and said, “it all worked out”, when I asked a question. Well, yes, I know of course that it will all work out as life usually does, but if it can be improved then lets at least talk about it. I know, how silly of me…
Jason, the kids and I have been doing this step-family thing for about a year and 8 months. My children were small and pretty accepting of Jason for many reasons. Their father had already been married to his new wife for over a year when the kids and I moved in with Jason. We all have a really good relationship, especially Jason and I, and again the kids were little. Upheaval was a pretty firm part of their world at that point. Jason and I took things slow and eased the kids into this new “family”. We’ve been moving along ever since.
Now Jason and I have a little one on the way and I really felt that I needed more information about step-families, hoping to be prepared for the change an “ours baby” might bring. The books I found were crap and few and far between. I was able to find a book that was more like a case-study that gave me a lot of good information without giving any real suggestions which allowed me to make up my own mind. This book entitled, Stepfamilies (how appropriate) ;o) did a ten year study and broke families (only consisting of the dynamic of a mother with her children and a step father) into three categories by the end of the study; Matriarchal, Romantic and Neo-traditional. The Matriarchal is the family where mom rules the nest and the stepdad is more of a buddy. The Romantics are the ones who try to replace the first family (or father) with the second and who feel threatened by the bio-father. The last is the Neo-traditional. This family is the most healthy because all parties adapt and change recognizing that the bio-father is not a threat to the “new” family and that the stepfather plays an important role in his own way. It also held some statistics in the conclusion that were very helpful to my new perspective.
I felt as we were a little of all of these families. I found that I wanted to replace Patrick with Jason (obviously the better role model), and I felt threatened by Patrick in the sense that when he was involved with the kids that somehow put a crack in our family (completely untrue and for the record did not stop me from encouraging interaction between the kids and Patrick), I also had an idea in my head of the kind of family we should be. I was not happy with Jason and Noah’s relationship (that of dictator and soldier) and of course wanted them to bond. The book raised questions about that ever happening which allowed Jason and I to talk objectively about how he feels about Noah, about his relationship with Noah, and about how he feels about our family and whether or not he is an outsider still. This to me was the best part about gaining new knowledge. Keeping these thoughts to ourselves was inhibiting a lot of our growth as a family. Growth that according to this study would take two years (at least) to transition. I also realized that I had allowed Jason to become the main disciplinarian (because I believed that he was better at it, also untrue), which was also inhibiting his relationship with Noah. Not so much with Nora because she was one when they met and are a lot alike. Noah accepts Jason’s authority, but this interaction had evolved into Jason trying to “fix” my children.
I started to interject more, taking back my role as the disciplinarian and giving the parenting roles more balance, which enabled Jason to relax. We took the pressure off of Jason having to be everything to Noah that Patrick isn’t and just allowed him to bring to the family his love and perspective. Anything else would be a bonus, meaning that if he and Noah develop a bond, great, if not, well that’s okay too. Patrick is important because he is the bio-parent. He will always be important to the kids for that reason, but Jason will also become important to them and Patrick is not a threat to that development. Releasing that fear has been wonderful. Releasing the expectations has been very beneficial also.
Jason and I talked about doing things like Cub Scouts with Noah without looking at it as an opportunity to fix Noah and more as an activity to get to know one another. Getting to know Noah, but also allowing Noah to get to know Jason as well. Our family life has become more relaxed and the kids are excited about the new baby. The new baby seems to make us complete somehow in a way that time has let us learn to love each other. It’s been a few weeks now and the other day Noah gave Jason a silly band (a most coveted object to 7 year olds). Jason asked what it was for and Noah replied that he loved Jason. As simple as that. If you aren’t in a step-family, you might not understand the significance of this small act, but it is great indeed. Also, the fact that Jason has been wearing this silly band (a most trendy and appalling object NOT desired by 30 year olds) for about a week is also very significant. Progress people. That’s all I was hoping for. :o)