Blended Family: A Lie Psychologists and the Media Spread

“In its most basic sense, a blended family is one where the parents have children from previous relationships, but all the members come together as one unit. “


Okay well that we DID do.

When we met: I was single with two boys, 6 and 9.  He was single with a girl, 14 and a boy, 12.

When we actually “combined units,”  (is that the technical term for “moved into the same house”?)  my kids were 8 and 11, and his 15 and 13.

Which meant:

  • My older son “J” went from oldest to middle child/middle boy.
  • J also went from being the “man of the house” to not.
  • My youngest, “K”, stayed the youngest (and now had a teenage girl to interact with)
  • His daughter, “M”, stayed oldest AND the only girl, which, in retrospect, was a GOOD thing. (Girls can be so mean to each other!)\
  • His son, “S”, stayed the oldest boy but suddenly had two younger brothers.

The logistics:

  • My sons and I moved from a 2600 sq foot house in Orlando (where they had their own rooms)  to a 1200 square food house in CA, where they shad to share a room until recently.
  • We had lived in that area for 9 years.
  • They had new schools.
  • No friends.
  • Didn’t know their way around here at all (new docs, new stores, new everything)
  • They visited their dad during school breaks and the entire summer and got used to flying alone
  • My husband’s son, “S” had to move into the smallest bedroom for 2.5 years, so that my two sons could share his larger room.
  • My husband had to move his office out of the house and rent office space to accommodate my kids.
  • We had six people in a 1200 square foot house 50% of the time.
  • I pared down my stuff from 18,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds and he had to figure out where it all went!

In the last four years, living in this extended/satellite family, I have realized that a “blended family” is a myth, at least in my experience, with kids ages 8, 11, 13, 15.   They were never heavily involved in each others’ lives. There wasn’t really any mean-ness. Not to each other’s faces, or through passive aggressive action. But my kids obviously had me as a mom, and his kids had their mom (they shuttled back and forth from our house to her house) and she and I had very different parenting styles.  Add to that the different dad parenting styles and you have four kids with four parents being subjected to FOUR parenting styles – although my parenting and my husband’s were pretty close.

Initially, I could tell that my husband’s kids were taken aback by my kids’ lack of interest in sports, academics, and their not-so-great self images. Then sprinkle in a teenage girl who didn’t get along well with her mother at all, who moved in with us full time at the middle of her junior year, and you have quite a hormonal, opinionated soup!

And now?  We’ve gone through two major surgeries on “J”, that stuck him in a wheelchair or cast most of 6th and 7th grade, and his anger and sadness at being the new kid in harder schools; school and relationship issues with M; had two pets die; had me find and quit three jobs before finding the right one; had me have medical issues; had my husband’s business slow down; had money ups and downs; had EX issues; had daughter, M,  graduate and move away and not speak to us since (she is now 20, an abolitionist, feminist vegan, working a job and paying her way, at the age of 20, but done with school and all her family at this point); and the oldest boy, S, graduates next week and heads for college (YAY!) in August.  The last 18 months with just the three boys and us has been easier as they each have their own rooms, and are all established in their own lives. “J” is now a freshman in high school, six feet tall and academically stellar, while K is navigating the purgatory I call middle school.

I can’t say these two sets of kids were ever really friends, per se, because my kids are not kids that either of them would ever hang with.  They never figured out the girl (neither did I but I did the best I could).  S tutored both J and K few times in math (their weakness), and stood up for them when bullied.

I find myself wondering if later in life, they, as adults, will develop relationships with each, or if, when we see them at holidays and such, it will be as it has been:  a tolerance with moments of hysterics, helpfulness and camaraderie.

I tell my husband that the next ten years will mean:  M is 30, S is 28, J is 25 and K is 22.





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