Monday, August 30, 2010

Blending Families

To give you some background, my fiance & I have been engaged for about a year and a half. We've known each other for just over 3 years however...he is my next-door neighbor.

I have my son full-time and live with my parents in the house I grew up in. My son sleeps in the same bedroom that I did as a child.

My fiance (aka: Neighbor Boy) lives at his mom's, in the house next door. He has custody of his daughter every weekend.

First outing with the kids, to an Easter egg hunt at the park. Oh, such baby faces they had!

It started out three years ago. My (then three-year old) son and his older brother would play in the front yard on the weekends. My parents had recently completed an overhaul by removing the wooden walkway, railroad-tie flower beds and all the plants. All that was left was the big Mulberry tree. Then they leveled the ground, had Easy-Turf come in and put in a great artifical lawn, set paving stones so we had a patio and then fenced in the entire yard. I bought some swings to hang from the tree and the kids had a save place to play.

One day, shortly after the yard was done, I looked out and Neighbor Boy's daughter, we was also three-years old at the time, was running around in the yard with the boys. Her dad and grandma were watching her over the fence. This went on for a few months, they would bring her over to play with the boys. She would run around and squeal, ride one of the tricycles, and ring the doorbell...boy, did she love to ring the doorbell!

And where was I?

Inside, peeking out the window, watching the interaction from the safety of the house. See, I'm really quite shy and to see a young, good-looking man hanging over my fence...well, I couldn't bring myself to go out there. Not quite yet.

Finally one day I worked up the nerve to step out onto the front porch. The week before my little guy had accidentally knocked Neighbor Boy's daughter in the face while he was swinging. I'd seen it go down from inside the kitchen window and felt terrible. Not only did I feel badly that my son had hurt her, but I felt badly that I'd been watching from the window and was too shy and embarrassed to actually go out at the time.

Second outing with the kids, hiking at Mission Trails Park

That was the catapult I needed to get myself motivated to speak to him for the first time. I was surprised to discover that I felt very at ease with him because I'm usually quite fumbling and awkward! He is well-spoken, introspective and smart. We share a love of God and faith, of being active, and care for the health & well-being of our children.

Which brings me up to this past weekend. The church we attend for Sunday service was hosting a "Blended-Families Ministry", a sort-of mini-seminar that will lead to a small group meeting starting next month. Most of the couples in the group had been married for a few years. A few of the couples had children that lived with them full time and also had children that went back and forth to two homes (like my son is with me full time and Neighbor Boy's daughter is only with him on weekends).

Both kids march to their own drummer! On an outing in Balboa Park.

We are concerned about how when we finally do blend our family together into one household, how is that all going to play out? Some of our issues now come down to the fact that we do 90% of our family activities together on the weekends but don't live in the same home. Neighbor Boy would like to request more time with his daughter, perhaps a full week on/full week off but logistically until we were in a house together this scenario wouldn't work out (Who would put her to bed on the nights he has school?). Of course with living together full time comes other situations because I do have my son full time so he's always with us. Issues like discipline, privacy, and simply dealing with two very strong-willed 6-year olds have already come into play.

There are some days that I just want to lock myself in my room, sit behind the sewing machine and applique away all my frustrations. There are some days that he feels very overwhelmed, says he's not sure he can do this, isn't sure he's ready to take on so much responsibility yet.

Are we alone in those thoughts? Doubtful. The families in the group from this weekend noted that they went straight from the wedding to being thrust into a full-fledged, ready-made family. There was no "honeymoon phase" for them, no time to learn about each other as a couple or to take things slow.

On our first vacation, in Monterey Bay

Right now, since we do live right next door to each other and we do spend a considerable amount of time together, I hope that is sort-of easing our kids into how things would be once we live in the same house.

Is that a fantasy? Probably!

But I daydream of how smoothly I will be able to run a household, complete with an organized desk by the front door for paying bills and sorting mail, a designated homework area for the kids, homecooked meals every night (purchased on a budget with coupons, of course) and eaten on a dining room table that is never cluttered. And we'll have a family game night every week, the kids will go off to bed without a fight and nobody will argue or slam doors and everyone will happily do their chores and...sigh!

See, they are sweet kids, they could make my fantasy come true!! A snuggly moment while camping

Okay, okay so it is a bit of a fantasy... but it's one that I'm willing to work at to make it a reality. I don't see any reason why those things couldn't happen. Why, just because our children come from different parents, couldn't we bring things together and make it all work? I'm looking forward to talking more with the parents of the blended families we met this weekend, perhaps join their small group and get to know their situations, see what worked for them and if it will work for us. It's always so helpful to get first hand advice from couples who have been there. Yeah, not exactly the same situations of course, but still helpful.

It's hard, yes, but anything worth having is worth working for, right? I'm ready to jump in, let me at it!
Last month, at Wild Animal Park

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