Raising Step-Children: Not a Competition

Mother’s Day has just passed. In this age of COVID-19, many of us didn’t see our mothers face to face, but we all hopefully still found a way to honor them.

For me, I come at motherhood with a slightly different perspective. You see, I fell in love and married a widower with two children. Thankfully, that widower had been my high school sweetheart. But that’s a story for another day.

I never take for granted that those two wonderful children (who are now grown and married) were able to open their hearts and make room for a new mother in their lives. There were many days that were difficult as I tried to make room for them to grieve, to make it easy for them to share memories of their mother, and to keep their traditions alive while trying to create our own traditions and memories. It wasn’t always easy, but these two kids were worth it. No doubt.

The fact that they both honor me on Mother’s Day is a blessing. One I treasure immensely every year. And the fact that their late mother’s family also has welcomed me and accepted me is a gift, that I continue to marvel at year after year.

There were times while my kids were growing up, when things got tough, that I tried to think what their mother, or any mother, would want for her kids. My conclusion is that she’d want someone to love them, cherish them, and care for them. To show them as fierce a love as she would give them. That was my guide as I stepped into parenthood.

I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here. My point is twofold: first, to thank my kids, and thank their grandparents, for their love and acceptance of me. Trust me, it is a treasure in my heart.

And second, for all of us to remember what can happen when we open our hearts and let love in; when we quit drawing lines in the sand, and quit putting boundaries up that keep us apart. My kids still retain the love of their mother’s family. They still have their mother in their hearts. But they made room. They made room in their hearts for me, and for my family. And by opening up, knocking down the wall of grief, they received a whole new batch of people to love them. Their family just grew. No one “replaced” anyone else. More people were added into the mix to love them.

And I received a new branch of the family as well, with my kids’ grandparents, and aunt and uncles, and cousins.

If you’re in a step-family, second marriage, have children from one parent and another — keep the walls knocked down. Don’t draw lines in the sand.

Raising children is not a competition.

It truly is amazing what happens when you tear walls down and let love in.

 

The Small Moments

The last few blog posts have been about blending a family together. I’ve talked about the positives of this, because there are so many positives that come from opening your heart and making the choice to be a family.

I will never know the feeling of being pregnant, giving birth and holding my own child in my arms for the first time. But I am blessed to have the kids I have via marriage.

I jumped in with both feet with two teenagers and I don’t think I’d trade it for anything. I have a close relationship with both my kids.

My daughter was younger, and my husband had to travel a lot for his job, so she and I had to find our own way together. Our fondest memories are our afternoon movie when school got out. We’d have popcorn and hang out on the couch and watch a chick flick. Like any mother and daughter, we could get on each other’s nerves on occasion. But we couldn’t stand to stay angry at each other. Our “fights” lasted about 10 minutes, then one or the other would apologize for our outburst and then we’d break out the hugs and the popcorn to set our world back to rights.

My son was 17 when my husband and I married. While I knew he and I would get along and be ‘friends’ — I guess I didn’t expect a deep parent/child relationship with him. I expected him to only be home another year and a half as he finished high school, then he’d leave for college. He’d be too caught up in the fun of high school, girlfriends, proms and planning for college. Oh yes, let’s not forget his rock ‘n roll band in the garage (which had to score me some points as the coolest “stepmonster” around!) 🙂

Remember, he is technically my husband’s step-son. He has his Dad and another step-mom that he’d go see most weekends. So, he was surrounded with parents already by the time I came along. But lo and behold, our ‘mother/son’ relationship did begin to develop.

We talked… we were interested in what was going on in each other’s lives. And yes, I was cool because he could have the garage band — and I always seemed to have enough food to feed the army of teenagers that invaded our house. He lived at home an extra year before he left for college. I was glad I had more time with him than I expected, all for the good. Fast forward to last month.

My son is married now, but thankfully lives about 5 miles from us. He and his wife took a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate their anniversary and her birthday. My husband and I got to babysit their dog. Yep, we have a grand-dog.

My husband and kids always had dogs. There were four of them when my husband and I were dating. We had three dogs until 2007. I never grew up with dogs, I wasn’t used to them. My kids have spent all this time trying to get me attached to the dogs.

Well, when my son came over to pick up his dog, he found me in the backyard with her, playing with her. He couldn’t resist teasing me about turning into a dog lover. I’m not sure I’d call myself a dog lover, but I do like his dog. And I guess it showed.

Anyway, on this particular day, we sat on my back porch, playing with the dog and just talked. We didn’t talk about anything too deep or world-changing, and it wasn’t for a long period of time. But it was still a sweet time. Especially because he couldn’t resist teasing me about playing with the dog.

I don’t think I ever want to take for granted mornings like that one. Where I can just sit with my son, talk about stuff, and end with promises of dinner with him and his wife sometime soon.

Our kids are precious. Anyone who is a parent knows this. My husband and I have held on to the idea that children belong to God… and we’re only entrusted with them for a brief time. At some point, you have to let them go and have to let them grow up. But if you’ve used that time wisely, then you can have those special back porch moments, chatting with your adult son while playing fetch with his dog.

So, what are some of your special moments with your kids? Please feel free to share.

Love at First “Site”

(Becky’s Note: Today’s Blended Family story comes from one of my favorite authors, Christina Berry. Christina wrote one of my favorite books “The Familiar Stranger.” It’s a must-read. On a personal note, her blended family story is inspiring. Enjoy!)

by Christina Berry Tarabochia

We were matched on eHarmony within my first five minutes of signing up. Dave and I had seemed to lead parallel lives—marriages of thirteen years that ended because of unfaithfulness, two children each that were in the same grades and only months apart in age, AWANA leaders for the same number of years, chicken pox in high school … the list of similar experiences went on and on.

Eight months after we met, we got engaged on a Friday, told the kids on Saturday, house shopped Sunday, made an offer on Monday, and “bought” a house by Wednesday. I should have known then that the pace of a blended family would be fast!

The day after we returned from our honeymoon, we moved all five kids—I adopted our littlest blessing out of foster care while we were dating—into the mostly set up house.

Blending sounded like a natural progression for me and my kids. We’d done foster care for a few years and were used to falling in love with new kids and having them invade our space. But this was different. The questions could have overwhelmed: what do we call each other? If I introduce the boys as my stepsons, will that make them feel unloved? If
I introduce them as my sons, will that minimize or insult their relationship with their mom?

We took these issues one at a time, even coming up with our own little blended family language. I became Stom, a variation of Stepmom. The boys had stisters and the girls had strothers. We came up with a Team Tarabochia slogan: Love, Laughter, & the Lord, and structured our family rules around those principals. (Yes, we might not all have the last name Tarabochia, but we’re all on the same team!)

There are times I wonder if any of our kids resented the changes—moving to a new place, sharing parents, having to readjust home dynamics …. Not only did the kids need to process our marriage, but within months, both of our exes remarried too.

Yet we’ve seen love grow, even where there are struggles and difficulties. The kids never express anything but gratefulness for the stability and love they get from the mixing of our families. In fact, I asked the kids if they had anything to share about our two-year-old family.

Austin, 14, ston, “I love always having homework help.” (A great benefit to have a straight-A stister , and said with a twinkle in his eye:))

Andrea, 14, daughter, “We could have not got along, but we ended up loving each and figuring out how to be together.”

Tanner, 12, ston, “My favorite thing about our family is that we’re Christian. And that we like each other and Josh is my friend.”

Josh, 12, son, “There’s always lots of people to play with.”

Liliana, 6, daughter, “We have a sweet and caring family. The girls are beautiful and the boys are handsome. And they are nice to me.”

That’s not to say it’s been easy on a day-to-day basis. Dave’s grandma, who blended a family with six teenagers, told me sometimes she would close the door to her bedroom, cry, wipe the tears, and go back out there. And that’s what we do—the next right thing. We made some choices that helped—like moving into a new house that was OURS and not one or the other’s, and taking time to make time for what our old families liked to do together, but the biggest thing we did—and DO—is pray. Send a few of yours our way, eh? I think we could us them!

Christina (Berry) Tarabochia writes about the heart and soul of life with a twist of intrigue. Captain of a winning Family Feud team, Christina is also a purple belt in tae kwondo and would love to own a de-scented skunk. Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, was a 2010 Christy Finalist and Carol Award winner. Get to know her better at www.christinaberry.net or www.authorchristinaberry.blogspot.net or on Facebook or Twitter(authorchristina).

Christina’s new release is On the Threshold, co-written with Mom/Sherrie Ashcraft:

Suzanne Corbin and her daughter, Beth Harris, live a seemingly easy life. But all that is about to change. Tragedy strikes and police officer Tony Barnett intersects with the lives of both women as he tries to discover the truth. Left adrift and drowning in guilt long ignored, Suzanne spirals downward into paralyzing depression. Beth, dealing with her own grief, must face the challenge of forgiveness. Suzanne—a mother with a long-held secret. Tony—a police officer with something to prove. Beth—a daughter with a storybook future. When all they love is lost, what’s worth living for?

Mother/daughter writing team Sherrie Ashcraft and Christina Berry Tarabochia bring a voice of authenticity to this novel as they have experienced some of the same issues faced by these characters. They like to say they were separated at birth but share one brain, which allows them to write in a seamless stream. Both live in NW Oregon and love spending time together. Many years ago, they were both on a winning Family Feud team!

Sherrie is the Women’s Ministry Director at her church, and loves being the grandma of eight and great-grandma of one. Christina is also the author of The Familiar Stranger, a Christy finalist and Carol Award winner, and runs a thriving editing business.

Please sign up for their Infrequent, Humorous Newsletter at Ashberry Lane for a chance to win cool prizes.

When Plan A Fails

(Note from Becky: Today, I welcome Diana Brandmeyer to Talking Among Friends. She not only discusses her own blended family story, but shares details about the book she’s co-written called “We’re not Blended, We’re Pureed – A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families”. The title alone is great! Welcome, Diana and thank you for being here today).

When Plan A FailsbyDiana Lesire Brandmeyer

Once upon a time…

Yes, it’s true. I thought I had it all, the story book life-the picket fence, husband and 2.5 children. Or at least it was a version I liked. No fence; instead a historical two story stone farmhouse, two boys, two horses, two cats, two dogs and a fish named Nebrekanzer –the reason? He ate the others in the tank.

Then Plan A broke when my husband died of a brain tumor. Dreams were dashed and once upon a time turned into Nightmare in the Stone House.

Did I really think I had it all planned out? Yes.

Did I think I would survive this huge loss along with the baby Copperhead snakes that had found a way into the kitchen? No.

God knew differently. He had a back-up plan for me. His very own specially written for me Plan B. I remarried and instead of 2 sons now had 3, lovingly referred to as Moe, Larry and Curly as they resembled those characters more than the Brady Bunch children.

This marriage, this family was going to be an anomaly. We were not going to end up as the blended family that unraveled. It was not an easy journey, and I often felt alone. There couldn’t be any other families going through upheavals like we experienced: rebellion of new rules, siblings fighting and a screaming mom. Yes, I said it. I screamed. I also cried. Then I figured it out.

The secret.

I wasn’t getting through this like a Hallmark commercial. I needed God. I fell to my knees and begged.

Guess what? I found out I wasn’t alone. God was and is with me always. He’s there for you too when the family stuff gets too much but wait, look and listen. He’s there in the sweet hugs and “thanks Mom”, too.

There are many moms –not just stepmoms—going through the exact issues you are. Ask them. Maybe they feel alone. From one mom to another, reach out, share God’s love and His peace as you survive your blended family. With Him in the center of your family, the boat may get rocky but remember He walks on water and He’ll keep the water out of your nose.


About Diana’s book: We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families

Can two families learn to cohabitate?
In peace?
Ever?
Are you terrified that you’ve turned into a version of the fairy-tale wicked stepparent?

Do you paste on a smile and pretend your family is a vision of 1950s Main Street America while at home the battle lines are etched in the driveway and signed with the kid’s initials?

Don’t dismay. God is with you. Discover how others have dealt with the difficult issues of blending two families. Find real-world advice to help you when your own words fail.

This engaging readable book is held together with humor, liberally peppered with information, commentary, and includes clinically sound information and proven communication tools.

Both authors provide practical methods for dealing with tough subjects. Short captivating chapters are perfect for those rare moments that parents have to themselves. Readers will enjoy stories and testimonies as they prepare their own families for success.

Christian author, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, writes historical and contemporary romances. Author of Mind of Her Own, A Bride’s Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee and We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families. Once widowed and now remarried she writes with humor and experience on the difficulty of joining two families be it fictional or real life. Along with her website, you can reach Diana via her blog or Facebook page.