Life in the Blender

 

           "This is NOT your father’s house; this is MY house. You and he are here by the Grace of Me.” 

            Ah, if I had only uttered those words early and often.  It would have been gratifying to open a conversation on the subject of the blended family with those who were in the blender with me.  But I hesitated.

            I considered expounding on my life as wife, mother, and step-mother last Fall – but set aside the temptation then, not wanted to sound “negative”. Now, I feel I can talk.

            It is true. Wrangling children and step-children through their junior and senior high years was something akin to babysitting the Katzenjammer Kids*, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  Lord, it was a challenge – and it lasted several years.

            When I entered my second marriage, I had had no previous experience living in a blended family.  Frankly, I needed practice standing up for myself in any venue, but a blended family is a really special case.

             In addition to posting a sign stating, “My House, Not Yours,” I would have made it clear that the visiting Katzenjammers were more than welcome to stay as long as they answered me directly when spoken to, and treated the other children in the household with consideration.

            The most significant change in approach I would make, however, would have involved frequent, long and intense discussions with my husband. I would have addressed perceived offenses immediately, without letting them build to the toppling point.  It would have been uncomfortable, but mostly for him, not me.  And we’re talking about me.     

            What is different today from how I have felt in the past is that regardless of the tribulation, I would do it all again. I would do it differently, but I would do it.

            I could add a list of cliches’ here including comments like, “coming out in the wash,” “water flowing under the bridge,” and, well yes, “blood remains thicker than water.”  There is some truth to all of them.  But with determination, a little group of diversified critters can learn to live with one another.  My extended family – his children, my son, and our two daughters, plus the grandchildren they have produced – love each other and, wonder of wonders, hold some affection for me.

            There remains occasional tension, but I have learned that all families endure the tussles of sibling rivalry and on-going squabbles, and still live to laugh about it.  Well, maybe it isn’t laughter in our case, but rather quiet, resigned smiles.

            Perhaps, the greatest sign that we are healing and merging into one family – after 30 years of working at it – is this. I am an ordained minister, but none of my three biological children has ever asked me to officiate at his or her wedding. My stepson, on the other hand, did. The ceremony took place New Year’s Eve at the Excalibur in Las Vegas.  It was a great honor to be asked to participate, and a great way to celebrate new beginnings.  The groom, his bride, and the whole Katzenjammer Clan are welcome at Our House anytime.

 

589 words

Published in Alaska Women Speak

Summer 2008

*The Katzenjammer Kids was a comic strip created by the German immigrant Rudolph Dirks. It debuted on December 12, 1897.  The Katzenjammer Kids  featured Hans and Fritz, twins who rebelled against authority, particularly in the form of their mother, Mama; der Captain, a shipwrecked sailor who acted as a surrogate father; and der Inspector, an official from the school system. Several of the characters spoke in stereotypical German-accented English. (Wikipedia)