I never understood the challenges of blending families until Jenny and I blended six daughters. That’s right, six girls! Me and my two daughters married Jenny and her four daughters as four of the girls were teenagers, and two were in elementary school. Wow!
We were totally overwhelmed within hours of “I do.”
All of the emotions, the hurts, the insecurities, the pain of moving two families from what was to what is – well that’s not for the timid and fearful among us! Each spouse has hurt and fear and a former life that they bring to life’s new party. Every child brings their concerns, previous experiences and expectations to the party. Put all of those into a blender and push the “smoothie button,” and just watch the mayhem.
Ten years later, here are seven things I’ve learned. Two of our girls are now married, two more have finished college and succeeding in their new lives, and two more are in college. We now have five grandkids, and life is really great, but we sure learned the hard way. Here you go. Proceed with caution!
- Don’t expect the kids to be on board with the new numero uno in your life. Regardless of what they say to you, every child is wrestling with what this means to them. They are not remotely close to thinking what is best for the greater good of the new family.
- Stop trying to accommodate everyone. Can’t be done! The more you try, the more you create a chasm of unmet expectations. Just “fess up.” You are not Superman!
- Don’t ask friends that have never tried to blend for advice. The information you desperately need requires a new and exotic set or parenting rules. Most of them are written and hidden in some deep cave in the Amazon, not available to you. But you can create new friends that have been there, and done that.
- Try to say the same thing to everyone at the same time. Calendaring is harder, communications are more challenging, and speaking with clarity is virtually impossible. Kids don’t mean to be manipulative; it comes naturally to every child older than 4. I’ll promise you that you think you can talk to “your kids” and your spouse can talk to “their kids.” NOT TRUE! Say the same thing, with the same inflection and same body language, or you will pay the price.
- Commit to telling and displaying (for your kids) that your new spouse is the new number two (right behind God). And they are number three. You will be tested on this (daily). If you cannot commit to it, don’t get married. Keep the drama down and just “date.” Everybody will be happier. But if you do jump into blending, jump off the high dive and get a wedgie. There is no kiddy pool involved here.
- Be consistent in your correction. Just because you disciplined “your way” in your previous life doesn’t mean that it will work in your “new chapter.” Set ground rules. Live with them. If you want to call an audible, speak first with your head coach (spouse). Determine the outcome together. You’ll eat far less crow and you’ll limit the drama by at least 50%.
- Stop getting bent out of shape about things aren’t significant. Things like former traditions can be incorporated into new traditions without burning the bridge. How you vacation isn’t going to reshape your life. The fact that you do everything different than your spouse’s former mate means nothing. Get over it! Focus instead, on spiritual consistency, loving communication, prayerful parenting, and more patience than you believe possible. Just take a breath and trust the One that brought you together.
There are hundreds of lessons learned over the past ten years, and we are still learning more every day.
But if the Divine has brought you a new chapter and a new love, He can and will carry you through “the blend.” Let Him!