Blending a Family
“The children are so young – it will be easy. It is the teenagers that are difficult.” This line of information must have been on Oprah or something because none of my friends who fed me this line of LIES had children or stepchildren at the time. I’m pretty sure we were in a bar on one occasion, so perhaps the vodka made it seem accurate. All I know is that the youngest, Jenna, put me through my paces.
Five years old and watched my EVERY MOVE. And everything she said was LOUD.
First time I spent a weekend with Jim and his kids, we went to Navy Pier. After about an hour, Jenna announced that she had to go to the bathroom. She wanted Jim to take her. I guess he thought this would be a good “bonding moment” because he went back and forth with her until she resigned to allowing me to take her. We stood in line and then once in a stall she looked at me and said, “You first.” I told her I didn’t have to go, but she just stared at me. I won’t lie – I was freaked out.
“Ok – I’ll go first” and as I start to proceed, Jenna says (loudly) “WHAT are you WEARING?”
I’m horrified. I answer quietly, hoping she will follow my lead. “It is called a thong.”
“A THONG?? I can see your butt.”
Snickers outside the stall. Awesome.
Then there is Jack. Jack was a stubborn child. His way or no way. Getting him to eat anything except chocolate or anything rolled in sugar was a negotiation. A child who disliked food was odd for me. Carter has always enjoyed food and had been hitting sushi bars with me since he was a toddler. Not Jack. If you placed spaghetti in front of him, he would announce he didn’t like sauce. Maddening. Jim would scramble to try and find something to make Jack when he would refuse whatever we served at dinner. In fact, Jim would jump at everything for them. I realized at that moment that there was no real structure in place when “visiting dad.”
Well, that would change.
The feedback I received when someone asked Jack that summer: “How do you like having Skae here in Chicago?”
Jack: “She has a lot of rules.”
Now with Carter, my biggest concern was how he would adjust to moving from Dallas to Chicago. It was far from his dad, new school, new house and not knowing anyone. In hindsight, I don’t know why I was worried. Carter has always been a very social and outgoing person with a great sense of adventure. He met Maxwell on Day One, got on a soccer team and made friends at school – all within a week.
I soon realized I never gave any thought to how I would adjust to the move. 100% blind-sighted.
We had decided that I would not work and would be available for the kids. After years of guilt for being a Working Mom, I was looking forward to this new role. It was also necessary. Jim travels a lot for work, and his ex-wife was very ill. Many times I would have all the children by myself because Jim was on the road and their mother would not be able to handle that week. Drop-off, Pick-up, extra-curricular activities, homework, dinner, packing lunches, bedtime struggles and so forth. So at times, I was a single mom for three kids instead of just one.
And the weather. Jim seemed to travel when it was trash day and if there was going to be a big dump of snow. Piling on snow boots, hat, gloves – just to take garbage to the curb. If snow plow piled high on curb BONUS.
Do you want to know what a 5’2” Texas girl looks like trying to operate a snow blower? Ridiculous.
All my lifelong friends and family were in Texas. I wasn’t working so I did not even have “work friends”.
There wasn’t Facebook, Twitter, blogs in the early 2000s – not to mention Smartphones that would have provided me the ability to throw a text out when I felt lonely or disconnected. Even my great dresses and shoes were sad. Bored. Hanging out in my closet with no place to go.
I missed the fast pace and craziness of my career. I traveled a lot in my prior position. When Jim called once from the road (somewhere warm with no snow) he was complaining about being tired and having to go to a client dinner. What I heard: “I don’t have to wear a coat and there is sun”, “I’m having a nice dinner that doesn’t require me to cook or clean” and “I will be sleeping in a hotel room with full control of the remote and only responsible for getting myself ready in the morning”. AND… he gets PAID.
Yep. I went back to work.
To be clear, we soon discovered our fantastic neighbors. We made wonderful, life-long friends during our time living on Pine Street. I would not trade our time there for the world.
In summer of 2010, God smiled down at me and said, “Watching you fall on ice and pelting your neighbors’ homes with the snow-blower amuses me. However, I will transfer Jim to Dallas.”
Jim fought it for a time and let me know from the beginning, “Don’t get comfortable – we are NOT setting down roots here.” Hilarious. We just built a new townhouse six months ago.
Today, I can say that we have blended beautifully. The journey has not been without struggle. However, the struggles are our own… not giving out details. My kids are clearly old enough to read and Carter stated he has a nice nursing home picked out for me if I get out of line. So we will leave it as “Struggles”.
It is important to know that everything did not happen overnight. It was awkward and frustrating at times. But we wanted it enough to find our way through each challenge that life put before us and came out on the other side of it. Connected. Family.
Before I close, I just wanted to report:
Jack now eats sushi.
Jenna wears a thong.0