Family Frameworks

Christmas in the Blender

25

Dec 2013

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Twenty-three years ago we celebrated our first Christmas as a blended family.  I don’t remember the gifts unless I was to look at the pictures from that year.  I do remember we had just gotten married on the 15th and waited to go on our honeymoon until after we celebrated with our children together.

Blending the family was a challenge.  I remember adding the Christmas stockings for John’s three children so that they would match the ones I had for my two children.  We got gifts that we thought each child would enjoy. Then we sat back and enjoyed.  Well, sort of,  we have wonderful memories, but the children had a few struggles.  We could not always celebrate first thing Christmas morning.  Some Christmases we would have to wait until John’s children could return from their mother’s house.  Or we would celebrate quickly in the morning before my children had to go to their father’s house.  I’m certain this was a strain for the children.  We were told that they are flexible and that it would be good because they would have two Christmases.
Well, that’s not quite how it works.  Trying to blend families is a challenge.  When you blend Man and Wife you are blending two families, when you blend with children you are actually blending the two families from those two plus the two you just put together plus the two from the previous marriage.  Lots of different traditions.
Do you remember one of the first Christmases you had with your spouse?  One of you celebrated Christmas on the eve while the other in the morning.  Or you may have had a special breakfast or not. There may have been an argument or a disappointment, but hopefully you developed your own traditions.  But when you are blending with children their expectations might be different than yours.  They did not fall in love with your spouse as you did, and your family did not necessarily fall in love with the children.  I remember what a challenge it was to help the children feel accepted in all the families.  At one family reunion it was innocently said, let’s put just our grandchildren in the picture.  Wow!  The kids were devastated.  They had not asked to be rejected, but they were.  These are just a few incidents that can even break up a newly blended family.  You will have to deal with the feelings that will crop up due to this.  You and your spouse will need to be open to talking about this.  Better to talk than to assume that all is well.  Preparing ahead is always best, but things will come up that you won’t expect.  To this day there is resentment over that picture and the children have a hard time celebrating with that part of the family.
What can you do?    Focus on YOUR families’ needs.  The adults need to be adults and be patient with the children.  Try to be empathetic with everyone in the situation.  Try to see that no one is trying to make trouble, we all see things from our point of view.  If you look at the children’s the mother’s the father’s the aunt’s the uncle’s the grandparents’ points of view you will have empathy and have a great chance of making it.  Then most of the time, you need to focus on the children’s needs rather than the
Focus on making new traditions that you can build on.  In our situation we had to change to stay at home.  Our families had to also change because we would not always be able to come to their Christmas with all the children.  This made it hard for some family members to feel as close to the children as they were growing up.  But we made it.  We adapted to what we had.  We had the tradition of each child getting a Christmas ornament, they each had their own personalized stocking, and we developed our opening of presents tradition.
Just as when you adapted when you got married to the traditions of your spouse during your first marriage, now you must consider all the possibilities of adapting to four or six or eight families.  It can work, but it takes a lot of tolerance, patience and empathy.  Hang in there, it can work.  I know we also had to pray too.  Don’t forget that important point.  Basically that should be first, sorry.  I get carried away and think I get it all, but you know what, nothing works without a lot of prayer!!  Merry Christmas!!

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