Friday, April 11, 2014

Family Evolution

With the anticipation of our new family member arriving any day now, it's been a great time of reflection for me. Having been a mom for 14 years I can look back and see a lot of mistakes I have made, things I want to do different, & even some things I would like to stay the same. 

Honestly, I have shed a few tears over this because I can look back and see my time as a single mom was really about survival and there wasn't a lot of room for anything else. I am so thankful for the many times that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends stepped in to love on Chloe and Allie when I couldn't. I am very thankful for my recovery and that I am now able to be more of the mom I always have wanted to be. 

This last year has been very tough especially for Chloe. She is a teenager now and trying to learn to navigate feelings and hurt that  would be difficult for a 30 year old let alone a 14 year old. I pray everyday for her peace and healing and her journey to find that. In the mean time, it feels like I am just trying to keep her afloat and from making detrimental life altering mistakes. 

I am thankful that Emilia will grow up in a 2 parent home. One that I know where she will be surrounded by love and stability. She will have a father that already puts her first. Don't get me wrong, Misa is an amazing step-father who puts Chloe and Allie above himself. He has carefully navigated the murky waters that step parents face. He has gotten the short end of the stick several times when it comes to the girls. He does all the hard work and rarely sees any of the glory. I read a study recently that says it takes the average child 6 years to accept and trust a step-parent and we will be married 6 years in August.

I also recently heard an analogy on successful step families being like a crockpot:

"The key to crockpot stepfamilies is time and low heat. I've already stressed the importance of being patient with the integration process and not trying to force love, care, or togetherness. Often, in an attempt to quickly combine various ingredients such as people, rituals, and backgrounds, stepfamilies use the food processor, microwave, pressure cooker, and blender integration styles. Such an effort almost always backfires, bringing a backlash of anger and resentment.

Stepfamilies need time to adjust to new living conditions, new parenting styles, rules, and responsibilities. They needtime to experience one another and develop trust, commitment, and a shared history. They need time to find a sense of belonging and an identity as a family unit. None of these things can be rushed. Adults who are trying to prove to their parents, friends, church, minister, or themselves that their remarriage decision was right for everyone, push their family to "blend" quickly. But they are often greatly disappointed and feel like failures. A slow-cooking mentality invites you to relax in the moment and enjoy the small steps your stepfamily is making toward integration, rather than pressuring family members to move ahead.

Cooking with low heat refers to your gradual, intentional efforts to bring the parts together. It is working smarter, not harder. Let's contrast some crockpot approaches to the examples of what not to do.

As a crockpot stepfather, you don't worry excessively about why you're not immediately bonding with your teenage stepdaughter. Slow-cooking stepparents understand the cardinal rule of relationship development with stepchildren: Let the stepchild set the pace for the relationship. If the child is receiving of you, then openly return the child's affections. If she remains distant or standoffish, find ways of managing rules and getting through life. But don't insist a child automatically accept your authority or physical affection."

I guess the reason I am writing all of this is because I know life is about to change and a new dynamic is about to make her presence known. My perfectionistic/codepedent side wants to make this transition easy and the best case scenerio for everyone but I know that it isn't always going to be easy and at times it is going to be a hard adjustment, but once again I am brought back to my recovery lessons that even as a family we are to take it "One day at a time, one moment at time." 

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