Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blended Trials: Missing Kids

When I first got remarried and we blended the family I was pretty excited. I thought I was going to be the best mom to these kids, even my step kids, and we were going to have loads of fun together and our lives were going to be awesome and we were going to be one big happy family.

Then parent-time happened.

For those of you not familiar with parent time, that's what used to be called "visitation". Parent-time is how you divide up time with the kids.

Both Justin and I are the "custodial" parents. That means that the kids live with us for most of the year. Their other parents are the "non-custodial" parent, and the kids spend time with them at pre-arranged days and times. However, we are both pretty flexible with our kids' other parents and they get to see their other parents as much as the other parent is able.

The first time our kids went with other parents at different times it was killer for me. I wanted to have all six kids all the time, and if we weren't going to have some, I wanted them all to be with their other parent. Surprise, surprise, both of the other parents' schedules don't match up exactly, so sometimes we have one set of kids, sometimes we have the other set. That was really hard for me at first. I thought my family was being torn apart and we were always going to be broken.

News flash - we will always be "broken" in this life, because that is the condition of mortality. Brokenness. However, that doesn't mean bad. I just had to learn how to live with this new condition. Like an amputee learning to live without a leg.

Parent-time makes planning family activities tricky. We try not to plan big family things when we know only one set of kids will be there, because we don't want the other set of kids to feel left out. But sometimes life happens, and we take what we can get.

At the end of the school year we wanted to have a big Summer Kickoff party with all our friends and their kids. We planned several weeks in advance and made sure a lot of our friends could come.

Then the long awaited Saturday came... and we had one kid.

One, out of six! Long story, but it involved military schedules and sick kids.

It was a little tragic at first, but we got over it and had a blast with all our friends and their families. And Ryan got to be the "only child" for a day, which was probably pretty awesome for him. He was the youngest before the blended of the family, and now he is one of two middle kids. So one-on-one time with Ryan is scarce, and him having the opportunity to play with friends, sans siblings, is even more rare. I'm pretty sure he really enjoyed it.

What is best for me is not always best for the kids. This was hard for me to learn, because, as I said before, I want all the kids all the time. My ideal life would be one where I never have to share my children with anyone on the whole planet. I am really selfish with my kids. I adore each and every one of them (and "my kids" includes my step kids as well - I don't think of them as step kids, I think of them as "my kids", just like I think of my students at school as "my kids").

However, just because I want to monopolize my children's time does not mean that is what they want. Those kids are half of their other parent, and they want to spend time with their other parent as well. Of course, for the kids I know that their ideal is to have both biological parents with them all the time. And boy do I wish I could make that happen for them. After all, selfishness aside, I really do just want my kids to be happy.

So I have to think about the kids, and I do. I am trying to really be selfless and make sure I put their needs first above my own. It's a different kind of selflessness for me, and a way I am not accustomed to being selfless. When I want to have them so I can do something fun with them, or read with them, or play with them, or take them to a museum or a park or the pool, I have to remember that they might like to just be with their other parent, or do that fun thing with their other parent - and that is okay.

Lest you think our blended family is always awesome, here you can see. It is most definitely not. But we make it work because we don't really want to sulk all the time about how awful our situation is. We just make the best out of it and do the best we can.

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