It’s difficult to look at our family in true “blended family” style. We’re full of so many quirks and exceptions that it’s tough to keep everything straight.
CBG lives with me and the girls are with us 50% of the time. The rest of the time they’re with their dad.
Every other weekend (the weekend the girls are with me), CBG goes away to spend the weekend with Ankle Biter, leaving the girls and I at home.
CBG’s daughter, Rugrat, lives 2 provinces away and visits at least once a year in a chunk of time lasting anywhere from 2-8 weeks.
Of course there’s Pebbles, CBG’s long-lost, newly found daughter, who really isn’t one of “our” kids, but more like a really cool girl that we get to spend time with now and again.
What this means is that CBG and I don’t get much opportunity to parent our brood together. Ankle Biter comes to our house to visit several times during the year (Christmastime, a week in the summer, and random long weekends throughout the course of the year). Because Rugrat is so much older than my girls, we figured out pretty early on that we need to parent her differently than we do the rest of “the littles”. So that part, at least, has been fairly easy to work out.
We often run into issues, however, when we have all 3 younger kids together. The kids get along great, they’re not the issue at all. But because CBG and I parent our kids differently and have little opportunity to parent all of the kiddies together, we find that our “family weekends” often end up feeling tense. We’ve argued every single time we’ve had the 3 kids together (with the exception of our week-long family vacation last year), for pretty much as long as I can remember.
Which is odd for us, because generally we are a pretty low-conflict couple for the most part. But there’s something about parenting together that seems to bring out the worst in both of us.
Part of the problem is that we don’t get to practice very often. We haven’t had a lot of discussions surrounding how we’re going to handle certain situations as they arise. I’ve noticed that sometimes we go into situations with different (uncommunicated) expectations, and when those expectations don’t line up, tension results.
Clearly, communication is required. And while CBG and I are pretty good on the communication front, I’ve noticed something else. When there are things that are potentially volatile or uncomfortable, we often avoid communicating about them. We both tend to reach for the old “head in the sand” approach and wait for the volatile or uncomfortable thing to pass. I think that this is because we just simply don’t want to fight.We both had enough of that in our first marriages that we do as much as we can to avoid it with each other. When that isn’t the best (or healthiest) approach.
On those rare occasions when we do argue, it tends to get a little nasty. We always forgive and make up afterwards, but I think that the reason for the nastiness to begin with is because we both have lingering anger or resentment from issues that we didn’t discuss before, for fear of causing conflict.
The thing is, it always comes out sooner or later.
I have lots more thoughts to share on this, but will save it for another day. More “Tales From The Blended Family Trenches” to come.