Years ago when Max was born, I was initially overwhelmed with his diagnosis of Down syndrome.
In speaking with a trusted friend, I made a comment about seeking out every resource to give my baby the help he’d require. I said something like, “I’ll do right by Max.”
My friend countered without hesitation, “Why don’t you do right by God first, and He’ll take care of Max.”
That was a powerful reminder of what I already knew to be true, but in the context of a new member of my family, I had to have it framed in that perspective once again.
When Leah and I began to move toward marriage, we decided it was the right time to introduce the kids into our relationship. She brought four young kids into the mix.
It wasn’t a surprise as we’d always been up front from the very beginning. Neither would’ve continued to flirt with the idea of advancing a relationship unless the other fully accepted the “kid factor.”
I love kids, but I really love my own. To say I immediately welcomed and loved hers as my own would not be telling you the truth.
In Your Face
Two of the four were very, VERY young.
Talk about In Your Face!
They were introduced to this guy in a full-blown chief of police uniform surrounded by other officers in full cop-mode. I would have to imagine it was a bit intimidating, if not frightening.
That long weekend saw many crying fits, hiding and running through other parts of the house to avoid us and to find comfort from other siblings. Leah and I didn’t panic or call it a failure. We remained patient and united.
I knew I wasn’t there to be their friend, but I also wasn’t married to their mom yet, so the line to walk was a fine one. Those first months were spent drawing and erasing battle lines. Losing and gaining trust. High-5’ing and avoiding.
By the time we married, everyone had grown accustomed to each other, but in any scenario the human dynamic is a fluid movement with many stubborn and fragile parts. Again, Leah and I remained consistent and maintained a united front.
The youngest two boys had mostly known video-gaming and inside activities that revolved around TV. Suddenly they were taken outside and introduced to a life of playing sports and outdoor activities. As we’ve discovered, both are pretty good athletes and enjoy being active.
But that didn’t come without its dose of struggle and pain. It also didn’t happen by chance or luck. We prayed very purposefully that God would design the perfect family metric so that everyone felt loved and protected.
As I said, in the beginning when I was spending more time around them and Leah was stretching her space to ensure I had the one-on-one times with them, the boys would cry for their mom. Showing emotion wasn’t something I grew up with, or was comfortable with handling. My stamped response was usually telling them to stop it. Sometimes it worked, other times they cried more.
Change In Me
One morning I prayed that God would show me how to be a compassionate father for them, and not a task-driven chief of police. I felt the chains of uncertainty fall from me. My fear that the love I had for my sons would be chipped away at if I shared that same unconditional love with her kids was gone.
It’s not a matter of sharing a certain measure of love, but the expanding of your capacity to love others. It wasn’t that I prayed for God to toughen up the boys, but instead, I asked Him to create in me the man the boys needed.
The important point here is to understand that it didn’t just happen. The breaking point for those 60% of failing blended families usually centers on or involved the children. Here are some tips to do in addition to your prayer life.
- Be Realistic – They’re kids who have their own parent(s) and just because their parent loves you doesn’t mean they will right away.
- Accept Loss – Maybe you lost a marriage too, and are protective of your own child. Don’t forget that your spouse’s kids have also suffered greatly through their own family’s failure.
- United State – You and your spouse must be united. Kids are like running water – they will find the least resistant path, or create one.
- Stay Informed – Your spouse’s kids aren’t just there to be tolerated. They are unique individuals. Get to know and understand what’s going on in their life.
- New Traditions – We all cling to old family customs, but create your own family’s memories by starting new traditions.
- No Competition – Your spouse’s kids are your responsibility – not your competition.
- Find Support – Don’t bail at the first signs of challenge. If it takes family counseling – do it. It’s worth the effort.
- Pray for Them – In their presence and in your time, pray for the children in your blended family.
- Pray for Change – I know what you’re thinking, but sorry, I mean ask God to change you. Pray to have the heart of Jesus when it comes to your blended family.
- Do Right – Like I was told years ago, “Do right by God” before you try doing right by anyone or thing on this earth. God will take care of the rest.
I’ll confess. As I wrote this piece, I had to stop the “man” slant and write it neutral.
While most of us would rush to show this to their husband, it still very much applies to the mothers. These are universal truths rooted in God’s word.
So, while we may want to paper airplane these 10 tips over to poppa bear, don’t forget to grab a dose for yourself.