Managing the complex relationships in a blended family.
Being part of a blended family has a lot of pluses. For me, it’s like I have a second chance at love and I get to teach my kids what a healthy, loving partnership is like. I have a great supportive husband, and together, we are raising a joyful and secure home for our boys. But I would be only telling you the half, if I didn’t confirm that it’s not always easy-breezy…and no burden can be shared. Prime example; coming into this blended family with my biological son, who I raised as a single-mother for nearly 10 years. So, naturally, I feel that I understand him better than my husband, his step-dad, does. It's no wonder that when they go head-to-head at times, I find myself in the middle trying to help translate and diffuse the situation. But over time, it has become a bit of a burden and I’m trying to learn how to manage them better, by letting them manage themselves. It’s not an easy thing to do.
My husband and I agreed to never disagree in front of the kids; that we would always have a united front, and talk about our differences to ourselves, by ourselves. This would help neither of us to feel undermined. Most instances, when my husband is reprimanding my sons, I either voice my support or let him do his thing while I silently stand by. However, there are times when this can’t be avoided when it comes to my first-born. I know how I’ve raised him, and then I know how my husband was raised and sometimes his approach is tone-deaf. When I feel like his approach is not going to be received well, and my first-born is giving me that blank look like “there he goes being ‘old-school’ again…” I just have to step in and “save” my husband from going down the pointless road. But when I get a glimpse of him, I can just see him looking at me like “there you go again, getting punked and disrespected by this kid again!” And I feel like I’m in a tug of war that neither side is going to win.
In most cases, I agree with my husband; my son is definitely in his tyrant teen years and is constantly testing our boundaries. If we don’t keep a firm stance, we will end up getting run over. But at the same time, I have to constantly remind my husband that while his upbringing in Haiti made him the wonderful person he is, we are operating in a different time and amongst a different culture. I know this firsthand, because being raised in the U.S. by my Haitian mother definitely made me a defiant and disobedient teenager—more tyrant than my son. I’ve made a conscious effort to be more flexible and understanding, than that of my rigid upbringing. But to my husband, I’m just leaving the door wide open for my son to disrespect us and disregard our boundaries. Every time this has played out, I feel played and my husband feels justified. Being a parent for 17+ years, also makes me feel like the expert among us. Our 2 and 3-year-olds are my husband’s first experience of raising kids from scratch.
On the other hand, my first-born son often has side conversations with me that portray his frustration with trying to understand the difference of our parenting styles. Being alone with me for nearly half of his life, he is used to the way that I will explain my stance on something. Whereas, my husband finds it disrespectful for a kid to question “why?” To my son, that is the reason for him not to even try to ask my husband for permission. Instead, he often will come to me first with a difficult ask. Although, truthfully speaking, he could get a lot further with my husband than me.
I really wish my husband and my first-born would figure out their own relationship, but I started to realize that as long as I kept stepping in, they will never find their own way and would always rely on me. That’s why lately, I’ve been trying to remove myself and “put myself in the corner,” however tempting it might be to step in and translate each side.
The only game of Mommy in Middle I want to play, is when there is a hug on all sides.