blended families

I hate labeling my kid. I go out of my way NOT to do it. I want to just know KG, to be his mom, and help guide him through his childhood. And I go out of my way not use diagnosis as a crutch (for him or for me). I also try not to be defensive of him.

But for the sake of understanding, I will tell you that he has a different mindset, different behavior at times, and definitely different social norms.

My husband and I have been married for six years. We are a blended family, and that brings on challenges, especially in regards to discipline. But disciplining some kids can be a little more complex, so we need help, therefore we found a counselor who specializes in more complex situations.

Our counselor asked us how other people’s views of my kids impact us. I paused. In general, I don’t care too awfully much what people think. And I work really hard not to let what people think of my kids or my parenting to (negatively) impact how I parent. Sometimes I have to pretend like I am in a bubble and tune out the world, but I pride myself on parenting the same way whether I have witnesses or if I am at home (it’s not exactly the same but I try.)

But do I care what people think of my kid in general? Well short answer: kind of. At least enough write this overdo post.

KG did everything a little late, talked differently, bit other kids, got kicked out off daycare, and found trouble around many corners. I have spent a lot of time in meetings. I have cried and snotted in front of many a teacher. I have even made teachers cry because I was frustrated and angry and feeling awfully alone. And I regret that. I now go out of my way to stand beside each teacher and support them the very way I pray they will support me. And I have realized that it helps if people actually like me (my intentions more so than anything), and care about my son (especially since he needs their guidance too.)

My son is a unique person, and I wouldn’t change him. He is creative and non-linear. Ask him to describe something to you, and his response might dazzle you. He has an earnest interest in science and memorizes science facts and quizzes me (I almost never know the answers). Last week he broke up a girl fight at school. This week he asked me if angels poop. He was completely serious. (That was stumper. Message me if you know the answer. Or if you want to hear mine.)

The journey of my son’s life has been affected by his trials and his differences, but I really do love who he is, how he loves, and I can’t wait to see his life continue to unfold.

I don’t want to change him.

But not everyone gets him. He is easily frustrated and easily angered. He says odd stuff, curses at times, and makes jokes at the wrong times. He is way too open about private stuff. He is bad at eye contact and handshakes and sometimes, he looks upset with others when really he is disappointed in himself. He is socially awkward at times too.[ I think he gets it ALL from me, but that’s another post ;-)]

I have to really, really, really work at not running around going off on people sometimes. I want to tell them what a good kid he really is, that he is generous, not stingy with gifts, tender-hearted, interesting, good with little kids, sweet with dogs, a great dancer and better at sports than he seems (he gets nervous.)

I want to tell the world that that he will be something; that he already is something.

He is harder on himself than anyone on this planet can ever be on him. And I suspect that’s why he is the way he is sometimes. Because he just wants to be better, to act better, to achieve more. And he doesn’t always know how. And it frustrates him.

And I don’t have all the answers. And I never will.

And not everyone is going to “get” him, or like him, or understand him.

But that’s life.

And that’s why I don’t run around making excuses for him (at least I try not to), or pulling the special needs card every time he doesn’t make the team or earn a spot somewhere. I have NEVER gone ahead of him and said, “Please choose him because he needs this” even though it might have helped, or might have kept him from some rejection. I never want to send him where he is not wanted. That is not successful living to me.

But damn does my heart break sometimes.

If people knew what I knew, would they treat him better or worse? Would he be more accepted or more often rejected? Because at this point, he might just come across as a tall, pretty cute kid with kick ass hair who is a little shy or a little funny. Or he might seem like a kid full of rage, with low self-esteem and a bad attitude. Or he might seem smart, quirky, extroverted and surprisingly thoughtful. And all of those could be true depending on the day.

My son, is incredibly, beautifully, wonderfully human.

And then there are the people who see him…really see him. And they go out of their way to connect with him, to lend him a helping hand or offer him a word of encouragement. Why do they get it when so many people don’t? I am guessing something or someone in their life has given them the gift of well-developed empathy. We don’t all have that gift, but I am thankful for those in my son’s life that do.

As a mom, there is nothing more rewarding than when others see the good in your kid, and can see when he is trying, can see past a lot of the junk, and offer some good old fashioned kindness.

I could offer you up some “awareness” day info to help you understand my kid better, but here’s the reality:

He’s not going to run through life wearing a shirt that tells everyone why he is mad at himself, or cussing for no apparent reason. He is not going to take me to work with him so I can put everyone in their place when they think the worst of him. He has to LIVE in this world, truly do life in it. And he will have to make some adjustments at times, and at other times, he will have to learn to embrace what makes him different and spectacular.

But he will have to blaze his own trails.

And in the end, we all could be a little more aware of why people act the way that they do, and ask the right questions if we really care to know. We can stop jumping to conclusions. We can even offer our help and actually come along someone who is struggling, and offer a pat on the back or a word of encouragement. We can make sure that no human being lives life unseen, or completely misunderstood.

We can be kind. We can be brave, untamed and trail-blazingly kind.

Awareness of ourselves, and our capacity to love, is what we need more of. And this is what I want my kids to learn too: LOVE is successful living, to me.

I could list a thousand things I am thankful for. I can also recall several times even recently, that I haven’t felt very thankful. It’s not that I lack a spirit of gratitude. There are just times when I crave something more, something deeper, something more connected.

The times when I feel a longing for what I desire, also allow me to reflect on the goodness of what I have. Desiring more does not mean we lack gratitude. Desiring more is part of our make up. It propels us towards goals, into prayer, and hopefully into personal and spiritual growth.

In my reflection of what I lack and still desire, I have also become aware of a few things that do not, on the surface, seem like things that I should be thankful for because they have brought me grief, heartache and even anguish.  But that does not subtract from a simple truth: I have been blessed through pain and even deep loss.

Here are 5 things that I should not be thankful for, but truly am:

  1. My youngest son’s diagnosis of autism – KG has long been diagnosed with ADHD, depression and anxiety. It seems odd that I would be thankful for him to have yet another diagnosis. However, this diagnosis has allowed him to receive more help at school, especially in the social and behavioral areas where he has struggled so much.
  2. My oldest son’s trouble adjusting to high school – JC struggled when he started middle school too. In fact, it took him 2 years to adjust to just 3 years of middle school, but he did it. And by the end of middle school, we began to truly enjoy our son again (shout AMEN if you’ve been there!) But here we are again, low grades, poor decisions and low motivation. But I have faith in him and this process. And I have no doubt that he will find his way, in his own time.
  3. Struggles in my marriage – I do not enjoy any marital stress or discontentment, but our struggles have pushed us into talking, listening and compromising in unprecedented ways. It has also led us to serve other couples in blended families by hosting a small group (church) experience just for them. Through leading this group, we have learned something so refreshing: We are normal. And we will get through this.
  4. Problems in our business – Owning a business is really really hard. And after 7 years, sometimes we feel stuck and drained. This year was especially difficult for us. We got some bad press and it hurt us financially and emotionally. However, we have learned a lot from this process (and our mistakes) and in some ways it is getting us unstuck. We are making changes and plans that we had gotten too comfortable to make long ago.
  5. Good old infertility – The gift that keeps on giving. Two months ago, we experienced our seventh miscarriage. I never thought I was strong enough to endure this much loss, but it turns out that I can (with God’s help) get through unimaginable pain.  My husband has loved me relentlessly through this, and I never doubt his commitment to me. Also, I can’t imagine how in the world I could manage a baby right now with all of the time and attention my teenage sons need. Not to mention, God has opened up a steady stream of writing opportunities that I am blessed to have the time to pursue.

Sometimes, looking at the bright side just doesn’t work. Just like you, I cry, yell, curse and hide. Sometimes life is just too hard.

But then I crawl out of bed, throw away the Kit Kat wrappers and literally say aloud to myself, “Get it together. You – are – a – woman – of – God!” I put on a Christian podcast or crank up “Oceans” by Hillsong and sing my ass off. I put one foot in front of the other, remind myself of my blessings, go to the gym and cry three times during one workout (letting strangers hug me and pray for me), then do my job of being a wife/mom/writer/business owner, then pray to God that I can do it again tomorrow.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and you won’t start now
[“Oceans” – Hillsong]

Why bother being thankful? Because if we don’t we will drown in an ocean of self-pity, pain, what if’s, and longing. I can’t do this life alone. I must have my community of believers, prayer ninjas, and encouragers. But ultimately, I absolutely must have my God. For He carries me through the darkest times and so often saves me from myself.

I hope you aren’t drowning, trying to do this life alone. If you are, please stop. Reach out to someone – maybe a lot of someones, and ask for help, prayer and encouragement.

And if you don’t know God, or if you just haven’t talked to Him in a long while, He is here. He is listening. And even when you are struggling, He is not failing you, and He never will.

Even in my disappointment, loss and longing, He has yet to fail me once.

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A recent sunset from my front yard, a colorful reminder of God’s constant presence.

I never planned on having a step-family. But I do. And boy do I love it. But it isn’t always easy.

In fact, I knew that it would not be easy long before I ever married the first time at the age of 21, because growing up I had been a stepchild. My step-dad adopted me, and he is a great dad, but it still made for the same dynamics of a blended family. No matter the legal status of your family, when families form later in the game, there is much to learn and overcome!

I met my bachelor child-free husband in 2006. I had been divorced for a year; my boys were 3 and 6 years old. In 2010, we married, officially creating a blended family. My oldest read 1 Corinthians and our youngest prayed for us at our ceremony. It seemed quite unique among our friends, but these days, about a third of all marriages create a blended family.

Blended families are increasingly common, but they are not typical. There are unique scenarios and different struggles. Children have to learn new rules and to accept love and authority from a new person. Stepparents have to learn when to stand up and when to stand down and how to…Read the Rest of the Article

Check out more articles by Kris Wolfe on Clarksville Online