The other day I met a friend for lunch and spent the meal venting about a challenge I was facing. I was frustrated and overwhelmed and feeling like no matter how I approached the challenge, I just couldn’t seem to overcome it.
“I’m just no good at this,” I told her.
“Yet,” she replied.
“I’m just no good at this, yet.” I repeated, trying it on for size. Adding ‘yet’ felt good. Hopeful, as though I wouldn’t always be stuck.
Since that lunch, I’ve been adding yet to all my negative thoughts. I can’t run a 5K (yet). I can’t proactively plan my work week (yet). I can’t fight a bear and win (yet). Perhaps yet doesn’t always apply, but it allows for the possibility that the current negative situation will change.
In that spirit, I thought I’d share with you the five things that Gabe and I just can’t seem to figure out in our blended family. Yet.
How to Assign Chores
Our kids manage their own responsibilities fairly well: laundry and lunch packing and room cleaning happen fairly regularly and without too much drama. It’s the chores that benefit the full family that we struggle with assigning evenly. With our schedules swirling, it’s hard to remember who fed the bunnies last and who hasn’t emptied the dishwasher this week. We end up asking the same kids over and over, and completely overlooking others.
What to Do When Stepsiblings Disagree
Our six children generally enjoy each other’s company. We carefully planned our custody schedules to allow for time all together and time in smaller family groups. Our home has private spaces to retreat and lots of outdoor space to roam. Still, the children sometimes disagree. This is real life, after all.
We manage disagreements between biological siblings well, but we struggle to find our way when stepsiblings disagree. We sometimes get all mixed up in our own grown-up stuff about whose child is reporting more accurately. We haven’t figured out how to manage it without one kid feeling disciplined by a stepparent, something we try to avoid.
It’s gone so badly in the past, we’re slow to act. We listen to each side, retreat and discuss, call them back in and ask questions, retreat and discuss. By the time Gabe and I decide what we’re going to do, the kids have forgotten what happened.
What to Call Extended Family
First names? Aunt? Uncle? Adding step to everything seems weird. Calling grandparents by their first names when three people in the car call them Grandma also seems strange. We haven’t settled on anything that works and generally throw out all the names in a giant pool of awkwardness.
How to Address Family Culture Differences
In my single-mom house, we ate dessert rarely. Disagreements were discussed after lots of hand-wringing and thought. Anger was quiet and long-lasting. Weekends were spent lounging, with no plans and lots of recharging time.
In Gabe’s single-dad house, dessert was on the menu every night. Anger came on like a summer storm: thunder crashing and rain pouring and all of it over in an instant. Gabe’s weekends were filled with children’s activities, his crew often on the road from early morning to after dinner.
As we’ve blended our families, we’ve struggled with how to address those differences. What’s the right answer? How do we talk about those differences without assigning value to them? What do we tell Lottie after she sees Sara and Amy shouting at each other and worries they won’t ever speak again?
How to Accept What Is
We want for this to work. Today. It still feels tangled and hopeless sometimes. Gabe and I struggle with just allowing that to be. We want to talk and change and push through. We want to fast-forward to a time when things are easier, and it doesn’t all seem so complicated. It is hard for us to sit still through the uncomfortable parts, even though we know that’s often when the learning happens.
The list of things we haven’t mastered in this blended family is twice as long as a hopeful Monday’s to-do list. Conversations that continue to trip us up, subjects we avoid. Issues we think we’ve tackled, only to face them again unexpectedly and with a new perspective. Topics we don’t talk about here, and all the things we don’t know we don’t know.
We’re just no good at this stuff. Yet.
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