Addie: “I colored a picture of our family and I’m going to hang it on the fridge.”
A family picture, displayed proudly on a child’s “wall of art” (a.k.a mom’s fridge). But, this is not a typical family picture; you wouldn’t find me posting this and commenting about my beautiful family, you wouldn’t see it framed in my home, or kept safe in my scrapbooks. This picture is different. This is a family picture, drawn by a little girl, whose parents divorced when she was very young…
Her “family” isn’t her dad, her step mom, her and her two brothers.
Her “family” isn’t her mom, her, and her brother and sister.
Addie’s family picture includes everyone of us. All together. Every time. Because, to her, we are all family. The back and forth, separate homes and split schedule means nothing. We are ALL hers. And, we are ALL considered equal.
Addie is only seven; but, she knows how to love under the toughest circumstances, her smile and laughter are contagious, and her heart’s desire shines through every family picture she creates. Shakespeare said it best, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” She is forever inspiring me to do better, work harder, love bigger, and most recently, to see our blended family though her perspective…
She doesn’t understand why.
Simply put, divorce isn’t God’s design. Because of that, being a part of a blended family can be really messy, at times. It can be unfair. It can cause tension. It comes with pain, hurt feelings; one parent is always missing their children, and the children are always missing one parent.
To be completely honest, I didn’t really grab hold of this until I had a child of my own and had to leave him, for the first time, to go to work. I was only away for eight hours, but my heart ached for my child. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t there either; and although he did well, he still searched for me. He still doesn’t understand why I have to leave him, where I go, or what I’m doing.
Same goes for a child of divorced parents. She doesn’t understand the situation and she doesn’t know why mom and dad are no longer married, why they are living separately and why they’re always with one, but without the other. Divorce is far too complex to ask her to wrap her mind around the “why”.
She gets confused easily.
I am learning that what’s said in one home may get relayed differently in the other home. And, it often gets relayed in a way that makes one home look bad. Think of it this way, have you ever played the game where you line up a group of people, and the first person will whisper a statement into the ear of the guy next to him, then that guy will whisper what he heard to another, so on and so forth, until it reaches the end? Typically, that statement becomes a completely different statement…
Addie has made statements that don’t always line up with what’s really going on. We strive hard to keep on the same page, but it doesn’t always happen. It’s so easy for the kids to get confused when they are simply along for the ride. There’s a lot of growing, adjusting, and learning that goes into being a blended family, not just for the parents, but for the kids too. And, it’s a lot to take on at such a young and innocent age.
She doesn’t want to choose.
I come from a split home, and I’m so blessed that this was modeled for me, as it’s helped in my learning to be a stepmom. My mom and dad had their story, they had their disagreements, and they didn’t particularly care for each other. But, they never, ever, put the other one down in front of me or my brothers. They spoke kindly of one another; even when they disliked each other.
That’s huge! Addie loves her mom and she loves her dad. She doesn’t care to, nor does she deserve to, hear their disdain for each other during the tough moments. Talking down on the other parent, in front of a child, inevitable forces the child to choose sides. This is one of the easiest ways to create trouble; but remaining united and respectful will create the freedom, for the child, to love and have both parents.
She counts us ALL as hers.
Before Jeffrey and I got married, Addie would draw her family pictures and include her mom, dad, brother and sister. I was not in them, and the first time that happened, my feelings were hurt. I didn’t understand her way of thinking and I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t separate her parents. Once we married, I was added to the picture, but still her mom was not removed. Again, I didn’t understand it.
Now, here we are, two plus years later, and it has finally clicked. Addie simply calls us ALL hers. She doesn’t want to split us up; she wants us ALL there for her little life’s biggest moments. I learn something new every day, and if I said I was “totally prepared” coming into a blended family, I’d be lying. I’ve picked up a few things in my few years of doing it, and I continue to grow into the stepmom that the kids need and deserve! I’m far from perfect, but here’s a few things I’m learning as we grow…
- I’m learning to approach conversations with an open mind and gentle heart.
- I’m learning not be offended when one of the kids wants their mom over me; or is in a season of wishing, out loud, that mom and dad still lived together. It doesn’t mean they don’t want me, but simply that they are missing their mom.
- I am learning not to jump to conclusions if one of the kids make a statement that doesn’t really make sense.
- We are learning to communicate, plans, schedules, doc appointments, etc. via a group text, this really helps keep everyone on the same page. It’s smart to have a planner, as well, that travels with the kids noting all important dates. (holiday schedule, doc appointments, vacations, etc.)
- I am learning to include their mom in things I wouldn’t normally think about including her in, like birthday parties and special occasions. It’s about balance, there’s a time for just us and there’s a time for everyone.
Most importantly, let them be little! I’m learning to let them live in a world where it’s okay to be one big family. We can’t make all their dreams come true and we can’t change the past; but with a little effort, from all parties, we can create healthy balances and stability in their life. We are beautifully broken and I wouldn’t trade Addie’s “family picture” for the world!