Family Sized Blender: The Flag

October 13, 2011

Strap in for Jason’s ongoing story. Once a tech obsessed writer/photographer/speaker, he thought he had it all under control – until his family grew six sizes. Now he’s trying to fuse everyone together into a single family. This is Family Sized Blender.

Jason also blogs about making better memories with your point-and-shoot camera. Check out Frame One on Facebook

 

I wasn’t prepared for what happened after the thing that happened.

We’d been all under one roof for a week when the thing happened. We’re fusing together a single family from one mom, one dad, five kids,* who report to three other families at different times during the week. Over the last sixish months, I’ve spent the majority of my time at mom’s house in Guelph. There, we spend our time with three of the kids – an eleven-year-old girl, a four-year-old boy and a bouncy, bubbly six month old (the math makes my head hurt too).

(*plus one at university).

We’ve done a pretty good job prepping this group for what happens next. The move. New school. What to expect. Trouble is, I haven’t done nearly as good a job with the pair – ten-year-old boy, five-year-old girl – who share time at my place in Newmarket – an hour-and-a-half away. This pair hasn’t seen the Guelph a whole lot yet and I spend a lot of time whizzing between the two cities. (See what I’m doing here? I’m trying to excuse myself for not prepping the Newmarket kids.)

It happened last week. We were out for a walk and the newborn had been a smidge cranky when the five-year-old girl offhandedly said “I wish the baby’d never been born.” I took it as a comment that small fries make about crying babies, having done a bit of research on the subject a few years back.

Mom, however, saw a red alert. Now, the stress level around here these days is already kinda high. There are boxes everywhere, parents tuckered out from a crazy long move and a lot of work to go to craft this place into shape. The five-year-old’s comment was a match to dry kindling.

My reaction came off as flippant. “Kids will be kids.” Mom, meanwhile saw this as a pattern that could end up in us raising a Lohan-esque mean girl. There were a few (several) tense days with words exchanged. When the five-year-old made up a song about how she didn’t like the baby, I had to concede that something was going on.

That’s the thing they don’t teach you in blended family school – you come in with blinders on. I think it’s because our kids are really a reflection of ourselves. So if the daughter is being unnecessarily cruel, it feels like I’ve done a bad job as a parent. And it’s one thing to feel that way in front of nannies at the park. It’s quite another if you’re all working to create one team. I felt like I’d let Mom down. I’d felt like I’d let everybody down. The key, I guess, is to be confident in accepting that you make mistakes (like not prepping the team) and move to correct them quickly.

I assume the beginnings of these things are impossible. There are unavoidable issues that seem bigger than they actually are. Things that you’d handle with a traditional or already-blended family with the greatest of ease. Eventually, we’ll get there too. (Please dear god, let me be right about that one).

For now, it feels like I may have unwittingly incited a civil war.

 

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    { 3 comments }

    Lisa October 18, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Trust your instincts. The child is FIVE. I don’t understand how any of that is intentionally cruel to a baby who can’t understand. My 3yo tells me I’m not her friend when she is upset with me. I, too, went into freak out mode, “OMG, is my daughter saying this to her friends? Is she learning emotional bullying skills?”

    Then I got smart and talked to one of her preschool teachers. She had been saying it there, too. Perfectly appropriate for her age and development. Teachers were actually pleased she was able to stand up for herself more.

    So yes it was a sign, but please, please lay off your kid. It was not a sign that she was cruel, it was a sign she needed some TLC, as you deduced. Don’t worry so much about the psyche of a baby who is having every need attended to.

    One suggestion, which maybe you are already doing: Carve out one on one time with each child. Make it official, not catch as catch can. Name it, “Its Suzie and Daddy time!” let it be something they can look forward to and count on. It doesn’t have to be long, just reliable.

    One suggestion: Carve out one on one

    Jason Thomson October 18, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Thanks so much Lisa — great advice overall.

    The challenge, of course, is that two things happened concurrently — mashing together these two families into one great big space. At the beginning, everything felt so amplified, so urgent. Of course, this is rarely the case. I find that a few months on, we’re gaining perspective a whole lot faster — and comments like yours help give us greater confidence and understanding as parents. Who rocks? I believe it is you.

    Deep Fried Mama October 18, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I propose a compromise…it’s quite possible that your daughter’s truth lies somewhere in between yours and Mom’s. Kids sometimes say the worst thing they can think of when they are upset, and they don’t think about the reality of what they are saying. She’s probably feeling displaced in more than one way and is trying to say in her five-year-old way that it sucks:). I think the best way to handle it is to tune into the feelings she’s expressing rather than the words themselves. Try not to focus on what she says but how she’s feeling. You might also find ways for her to be involved with the baby–maybe a special job related to caring for the baby that she does (with supervision, lol) or a game that only she plays with the baby. That way she feels as though she has an important role to play in terms of helping take care of the baby and she’s less likely to feel resentful. And when all else fails, drink and pray…not necessarily in that order:). Good luck!

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