All in Step-parenting


I assumed that by the time I was entering into my 15th year of blended family bliss that our issues would be behind us  -  we would surely be fully blended by then.  Boy was I wrong!  THE BLENDER NEVER STOPS BLENDING! No matter how long you've been together! No matter how many storms you've weathered landing on the other side safely - there's always a new challenge waiting around the corner.

Some expected - some unexpected - some a complete blindside.


Our family life has faced major changes over the past two years.  Two kids off to College - EXPECTED. Figuring out who I am AGAIN as an almost empty nester - UNEXPECTED. My  lack of a relationship with my youngest Step Daughter - BLINDSIDE. 

Twenty years ago I became a Mother for the first time. It was nine months in the making.  Nine months with an up close and personal relationship with my shiny white toilet bowl. Many nights I wondered as I hugged the toilet bowl for dear life - what genius had coined the term morning sickness anyway? How dare they give an expectant mother a false sense of hope that it would magically stop when the clock struck noon. Try the stroke of Midnight with an emotionally spent expectant mother sobbing on the bathroom floor in complete darkness.  

Every New Years Day I make a resolution; THIS is THE YEAR I'm going to lose my extra 10 pounds! Only to find myself every New Years Eve still holding out hope that those ten pounds will magically disappear at the stroke of midnight! Then there's my 7 resolutions I make as a Wife, Mom and StepMom that bears repeating year after year.  Following them religiously makes my life as a Blended Wife and Mama a much happier one. 

1. Give your StepKids a break when they screw up from time to time. 

When we started our Blended Family, the kid's therapist recommended we do a baseline IQ test of our three youngest.  The reasoning?  Many times over the years she had witnessed teachers and administrators easily label kids if their square peg learning style didn't fit into a school's round whole approach.  Little to do with a kids intelligence level, more of a way to make a kid the problem when their teaching style wasn't working.

When I agreed to marry Raylan, we had been living together for six months - attempting to blend our three youngest on a 50/50 schedule.  Halle and John lived in an apartment nearby. Chris lived with his Mom an hour away - spending the occasional weekend.  I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into when I agreed to marry my Hubby. Then life took over and I realized I knew nothing about the life I had chosen. 

Last month when I was in NYC with Elle celebrating her 18th birthday she told me "I don't think I'll ever get married!" I immediately said "Whaaaaat? Why?" She said in a nutshell that my marriage to Raylan was one success story compared to the four failed marriages in her life.  The odds were more likely that if she married it wouldn't last - so why try? If I let my guilt machine kick in I would have immediately taken all responsibility for this train of thought - then I stopped myself.  

I have to admit, there have been a number of times over the years I secretly wished for the day one of my kids would turn 18. With my three youngest, it had nothing to do with them, rather the Ex. Specifically haggling with the ex over the "proposed" holiday schedule. One year Dick/Malus got miffed that I dare email a schedule over without "proposed" in the title.

Most of the years we have shared 50/50 custody with our respective Exes.  Agreeing on what was a fair 50% time split was a moving target year after year. By the time the actual Holiday rolled around, it felt like we had negotiated peace in the Middle East. Instead of wanting celebrate, I usually felt like going to bed for a few days due to mental exhaustion.

This year we've added a new twist - Jax turned 18 in July.  No longer a valid divorce decree awarding joint custody to his Mom and Dad. No more detailed spread sheets about what days he will spend at Mom's house and Dad's house.  In my opinion, that was a huge motivating factor in Jax going out of state for College - he could sleep every night in the same bed, his clothes all in one place - just one home base.

Today Jax is coming home for Thanksgiving! This isn't Mom or Dad's Thanksgiving - it's HIS THANKSGIVING!  But what home will he come home too?

Blaming someone for a wrong isn't a new phenonmen, in fact it's become an accepted part of our culture - thanks in large part to the media. Often one piece of a very complicated puzzle is singled out - one person solely to blame for a particular result. The tape gets replayed over and over again for years to come - Remember "this" person caused "this" to happen. Eventually the mistake overshadows every other decision in their life.

It's easy to see why - it makes a complicated situation easy to understand - it's not hard to get people to rally behind blaming just one person.  When we place the blame squarely on someone else's shoulder it explains the unexplainable - the failure - the loss - relieving us of our own culpability. We mistakenly hold on to the belief that if that ONE thing had been different the whole outcome would have been different. It's a fallacy because failure never comes from just one thing.

Last week I was watching the ESPN special "Catching Hell." The host examines some of the most infamous baseball games in our history - a team expected to win a crucial game, but loses it instead. Even though a number of errors were made from various players throughout the game the entire blame for the loss gets attributed to one player only.  As I'm watching, three different experiences come together - All three involve Blame and Step Moms.

Today is Step Family Day and like most of the blended family "celebration days," I'm just figuring out they existed after being in one for twelve years.  I probably would have let this one pass had I not tuned into the Dr. Laura Berman radio show yesterday on my drive home. Dr. Berman mentioned that Step Family Day was Friday - wanted to know how people felt positive or negative.  

Granted I didn't listen to the entire show, but it did seem like the majority of the comments were weighted to the down side of being in a blended family.  Something that is really easy to do - having done it myself for years! As I was listening to one woman in particular go on for what seemed like an eternity about her step kids; how much she did for them, how glad she was to have a break - I found myself identifying with the woman. I've had those days myself. 

Finally, Dr. Berman responded, suggesting a multitude of things to the woman. What resonated with me was her suggestion that perhaps part of the woman's frustration in dealing with her step kids, may be less about her step kids and more about them being, well......KIDS! There's a lightening bolt!  Dr. Berman went on to say sometimes after a weekend with her OWN kids, she kisses the floor when she gets to work Monday morning.  

I celebrated my 45th birthday on Wednesday - birthday number 12 as a Step Mom! Yikes on both accounts.

Lisa's 45th Birdthday - Opening Gifts


Can't believe - I'm well - that old AND I've made it 12 years as a Step Mom. There were a lot of times I wondered if I would make it to 6 years let alone 12.

Being a Step Mom this birthday seemed even more relevant than any other so far. My Step Son Jax was packing up his things to leave for College in another state. He's lived half of his life in our home, he is our son, a member of our family. Most of the day was spent doing last minute laundry, picking up the things we forgot, organizing everything and ultimately packing up the part of this life he wants to take to his new one waiting in another state.


Raylan and the kids took me to my favorite restaurant but more importantly "our" family favorite restaurant that we frequent for most of our special occasions. I realized as we all piled into the car and headed for the restaurant it would be our last meal as a Party of 5.

Jax asked if he could make me lunch. Yes! A welcome surprise.  Once the grilled cheese sandwiches were cooking on the grill, Jax came into the living room - big smile on his face. "Um- other than Sadie biting the noodles - what do think about her?"

The Floaty Thingys!Little background. Sadie(his girlfriend) had come over to swim a few times and had successfully bit off big chunks out of the majority of the noodles(floaty thingys). They're only a $1.69 a piece, but it's disgusting to be using a noodle that someone has been chewing on. Eeeew!

Now if we had been close like Little Hart and I have been for the past 12 years this would seem like just a normal thing to have happen.  Unfortunately we haven't been close even though Jax was only six when we created our blended family.

Jax is Greta's first born and they have always been extremely close.  She hadn't been happy about Raylan and I dating and even less so about us moving in together. Greta had moments of anger/sadness about our relationship that often times were expressed in front of Jax.  

The first week in our new home, Jax came racing down the stairs, lost his footing and slide down the last four steps. Major carpet burn!  I raced over to him "Let me look at it - I'll get you all fixed up!" Jax looked up "My Mom says only her and my Dad can take care of me!" Then he ran off.  Whether Greta actually said that or not was a mute point. Jax felt the pressure to keep me at arms length. I had to accept the reality of our relationship, even though it broke my heart. 

For years we really didn't have a relationship beyond our family unit.  We had our issues - mundane, run of the mill stuff.  Yet they always turned into big deals and were exacerbated by my Hubby coming to the rescue of Jax which only furthered the distance between us.

Six years ago my relationship with Jax came to a crossroads.  Jax was having some issues.  Raylan, Jax and I sat down to have a talk about life.  Raylan asked Jax what was going on with him, he replied "I hate my life and it's all Lisa's fault!" He was blaming me for all the wrongs in his life?  Not totally surprising given that Greta always expressed her anger toward me, rarely Raylan regardless of the problem.