Blended families require work. Lots of work. Sometimes I wonder if the time, communication and arrangements for 5 kids is greater than what it took for 100 employees while I was chief of police. I’ve witnessed police negotiators talk a criminal into surrender quicker than it took to discuss my first weekend outing with the boys.
I’d told Leah earlier in the year that I wanted to do a few overnights with each of the boys. This was something Max and I had always done since he was my biological son, but her boys had never spent time away with me like that. It sounded noble and progressive until reality set in.
I’ll admit, I was a nervous wreck leading up to that moment when I knew she’d not be home to buffer the tight spots. I get along great with the 7 and 9-year-old boys. Of course it required an adjustment period in the beginning, and still some throughout the years, but by and large, we get along pretty good.
Leah continues to play a vital role even in the rough and tumble world of growing boys into men. She’s the balance and always the comforter when play gets too intense or I get too carried away with molding them into men.
But this weekend, Leah and the teen-aged girls left for a women’s conference, leaving us guys on our own. She and I decided a trip would help break the awkwardness of being at home without her or the girls. Me and the two lil’ dudes were heading off to an amazing adventure at Great Wolf Lodge.
But, what would happen once the play was over and bedtime crept around the corner? How about their tuck-in routines, or snack times? I mean, who was going to handle that while Leah was away?
I knew speaking with her was the best way to confront my concerns about being alone in a hotel room with the boys. It’s funny how the seemingly little things can creep into our consciousness to plant seeds of doubt. I’d actually worked myself into a knotted stomach the week prior to leaving.
Yes, my police officers were well-trained, knew their assignments and had a clear policy manual to guide their efforts. Me and the boys were venturing out on uncharted territory. So I knew it would require a constant stream of communications with their mom to ensure a safe, fun and future confidence-building exercise for all.
So just what was this very first guys’ weekend and what did it accomplish?
- The boys learned they could rely on me for more than just throwing a ball and giving instructions.
- I learned that in the softer times like sleepiness before bed when their emotions sway from sad to solemn, I could provide the comfort required to get safely to slumber.
- The boys learned to be independent but that I would be there to make sure they were safe in their adventures throughout the resort.
- I learned that the boys were actually very self-reliant in their abilities to handle many of the day’s routines and special activities.
- The boys learned that the same rules at home would apply on the road. Simple tasks like responding verbally when called at home, became helpful once they faded into a fast-moving crowd in an unfamiliar location.
- I learned that providing more than just rules and discipline helped us all get to know each other on a level deeper than how well they followed instructions.
- They learned I snore when I sleep.
- I learned that even a 7-year-old might wet the bed when overtired and not told to use the potty before bed.
- They learned my concern for their safety was born out of love for them.
- I learned their love for me was born out of the safety they feel in showing love for me.
Obviously the time together had an impact on all of us. I knew Leah was concerned but not worried. We finished the trip by meeting Leah and the girls at church service before heading home for the rest of the weekend. I knew the time was a successful investment as I listened to their retelling of their times.
Listening for what is not said is as important as what was said. They were silly and happy as they recounted their time at the water park and the quest adventures. They spoke in terms of “we” as opposed to the “doer versus watcher” paradigm often accompanying rigid relationships.
What I ultimately learned was that parenting in a blended environment does require lots of time, communication and arrangements. We’re always going to be dealing with factors unbeknownst to a more traditional nuclear family. By openly communicating these factors and feelings, everyone not only gets to show their humanity, but also their concern for each other.
Will I do another guys’ weekend? Sure, and I’ll make sure Max is in the mix. It’s important that your biological kids get to see you in a scenario with the others to reinforce that your behavior is consistent with not only them but his blended siblings. Of course, I’ll report back after that wild excursion is done.
Lead from the front,