Blended House

Mike and I are unique among our friends for a few reasons (and not just cause we build stuff out of papercrete and use baking soda for just about everything).  Most of our friends don’t have a ‘blended’ family.  Most don’t have step-kids.  At our house every other weekend our kids go off to the other parent’s or grandparent’s house.  We have Dumpling 1/2 time and Pistol is with us all the time except for certain holidays.  In the summer Pistol goes off to her Dad’s house in CA for at least 6 weeks and Dumpling is away for 3 weeks between overnight camp and vacationing with her Mom and Step-Dad.  I’m pretty used to being away from the kids for more than a week although it can make still make me weepy 🙁  .

Both Mike and I grew up in households where our parents were married, to each other.  Growing up I had several friends that were in a blended family but I never asked them how they liked it.  It was what it was.  I now wish I had interviewed them and written their thoughts down in my journal (if I had actually kept a journal which I didn’t.)

When Mike and I started dating we knew early on that we were walking down the path of a long term relationship.  The girls were 3 and 4.  We knew bringing our two halves together was going to be tricky.  Right away we enlisted the help of a psychologist.  He was our godsend.

Our blended family circa 2003

While Mike and I were in the love bubble, the girls were being pushed into a whole new life.  A new house, new step-sister, new step-parent and for Pistol a new town.  She would no longer live next door to her grandparents either.  For the most part the girls loved to play together… for the most part.  There were also moments of crying and temper tantrums.  We would walk into the psychologist’s office so frustrated and walk out with such a sense of compassion for our girls and each other.  He has an amazing gift for getting Mike and I to pull our heads out of our butts and see things from our kids’ perspective.  This was in no way a ticket for them to walk all over us.  If Pistol was throwing a fit and making Dumpling miserable she was sent to her room to calm down.  I would go in and talk to her.  Ask her what she was feeling and do a lot of listening.  She always had a lot to say (and still does).  Once she got it all out I would let her know that it was OK to have those feelings and that she couldn’t attack Dumpling when those feelings came up.  For the most part it worked.  Sometimes better than others.  There were times I couldn’t hold my tongue and I would scream at her.  Not proud moments but they did happen.  Over the years Dumpling has learned to stand up for herself and Pistol has learned that she doesn’t have to jump to ‘mad’ to get what she wants.

The girls as (suburban) forest nymphs

The results of learning how to make dandelion chains. Pistol on the left, Dumpling on the right. (Photo by Grandma Jane)

Mike and I are coming up on our 8th wedding anniversary.  Problems still come up but it’s no longer toddlers roaring and screaming at us.  The big transition is behind us.  We have gotten comfortable in our day to day.  The girls will still ask us why each of us got divorced.  I answer in the most honest way I can.  As they’ve gotten older I’ve added in more detail.  The girls have gotten to the point where they can hold two very different sets of feelings: 1) I wish my parents were still married and 2) I love my stepparent and don’t want them to go away.  It doesn’t make it all better but it makes me think that they are amazing kids.

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