Sunday, February 19, 2012

" Peeling back the layers "

soon to be, big boy's TV room/ my office
soon to be, big boy's TV room/ my office
soon to be, big boy's TV room/ my office

Most folks know, that when you live in an old home, and renovations ensue, many surprises are found.

Once some layers of your ancient abode are removed, the facade it puts on of being a, "sound and sturdy home", quickly crumbles. It crumbles into the abyss of "known facts", facts of life never to be "known" again. Facts such as...."the foundation is fine!", "I will never get divorced!", "my child would never behave like that!",  "it stood for one hundred years already, it will stand for one hundred more!" etc. etc. etc.

To my bliss, a few days ago, Tall Dark and Handsome (my husband), mentioned he would love to get started on reno-ing the room just off our kitchen. This room will serve as an office /TV room, for myself and my two bio sons, Joshua 12, and Bailey 11. Of course as the renovations began, with the end goal insight, unexpected things were revealed.

I suppose dry rot shouldn't be that unexpected in a 100 year old building. However, when you push into new projects, or new beginnings, you can only speculate on what might be found, what might be needed, in order to reach your goal.

Realistically processing, how two families can become more and more "one", has layers that peel back to reveal many unexpected things as well. Grieving children, Different expectations of family life, unmet dreams, hurts from the brokeness that come with divorce, all hide under the facade. As I've come to experience though, this renovation of sorts, can be a profound gift, a "new beginning", "another chance", a blended Family.

Much like the reno-ing of the room off the kitchen, the dry rot TDH (Tall Dark and Handsome) found, as he peeled back the layers along the east side of our hotel, needed to be seen. TDH has had to remain flexible, and calm, as he replaces the rotten boards. Our house, and our family, serve us up many unexpected challenges.  

To some readers, if not all, it may sound strange, if not alarming and disharmonious to hear, that this new room will only be for 3, of the six of us. Even more shocking, may be the fact that there is another one of these "rooms" on the opposite side of our lower floor. That room serves as a TV room for TDH and his two bio sons, Jacob 9, and Jonah 7.

TDH's expectation of blended family was...Much like a microwave, throw it all in there together and cook it quick, were gunna make this work!

His deep reverence for family values, his sense of loss of a family unit for his boys, as well as his wisdom in seeing they needed it.....profoundly, enhanced his already fierce, and unrelenting championing, of family unity and family identity. TDH is a family man. My life would have so much less meaning without him.

My expectation of blended family was....Much like a slow cooker, we were "us three" befor "us six", we will share, and get to know each other as family, slowly, we will make room for differences, attachment takes time, we will learn to rely on each other as we grow.

My bent was towards respecting differences, operating with authenticity, implementing boundaries, honouring attachments, and personal responsibility.

As you can imagine, the microwave and the slow cooker can clash in many ways. Believe me there have been many nights, where we are sitting across from eachother, staring blankly, exhausted, after trying to figure out one, of a plethora, of family issues!  As well as more severe and frightening moments when one, or both of us, felt unsure of our ability to find common ground.

A strange sort of yin and yang has happened with our differences, as we were able to let each others different value driven expectation of family influence us.

My approach gave sanity to a house with "blending rivalry". It gave realism to the fact that we would not survive or flourish without space and understanding, of each other, and respect of that space.

little boys TV/ play room
TDH's approach let no gap form in that "space".  The growth of an un-unified "us" against "them" identity; which is very common in blended family dynamics, he combated with togetherness. He championed family traditions, and identity, along side my pragmatic "space" and "respect" teaching.....
                                                                                                                          little boys TV/ play room

The outcome is, three years in, we are, i think, living as a family of six.

little boys TV/ play room
We have Monday night appreciation at the dinner table, each family member says something they appreciate about another. Each child in the blend, in their own time, has asked for group activities "with all of us", meaning all six, in their words. We talk, fight, cook, and play together. In so many ways we are unified, we are one.

We are also the two parts that came together to make this "one".  We have a TV room for the little boys, and a TV room (after TDH gets through this dry rot ) for the big boys. TDH and I, spend time in either. We have Wednesdays were both sets of boys go for overnight visits to their Mom's, for Jake and Joe, and Dad's, for Joshua and Bailey.

 The separate space, along with having to ask to enter someones room (except the parents) has allowed the boys to feel that their previous family attachment, and ownership, isn't lost. It creates less competition, they can take breaks, and have space when they need it. It allows the boys to engage, and grow, in their "step sibling" bond as they want too, instead of because they have too every second. A bond which of course, no child has a part in choosing. They didn't choose divorce, or step parents, or step siblings.

Blended family can be a second chance. It is wrought with chaos and beauty. It can create deep and incomparable character.  It can be a family for children who's families have broken. What an unexpected gift.

In having no experience with divorce and remarriage, I had no idea the richness blended family could hold for us.

- C


Colleen Currie said...

Husband is helping me edit this post so that my writing is actually more understandable...

I'll re-post the edited version once hes done.

- C

Dave Vandergugten said...

I think it's cute that the photos of the little boys tv room doesn't include the tv!

Colleen Currie said...

thats becaseu a picture of a TV isnt interesting to, I guess i should include one. Funny Dave.

Colleen Currie said...


Colleen Currie said...

I dont like tv's that much...... thers a pic of the TV Dave :) Jonny will be glad you mentioned something!

Colleen Currie said...

man typo city! *there's

Lois said...

It is because the TV is too big to fit in the photo!! . . . . . Wow, seeing it all put into words, when I have been on the sidelines, occaisionally pulled into play, and so intimately affected by this group of people, was very moving. As a grandparent, and parent to the big boys, and their mother, I have had to expand, adjust, readjust, 're-readjust' my expectations, desires, heart etc. I too have had to blend my role in this 'family' and unchartered, tumultuous are words that come to mind. Through it all, I have had to redefine my family. With piercing comments from extended family members about 'little boys' not being family! I have had to bring out the wrecking bar in my heart to expose the rot, and the beams that didnt support, and rebuild a new foundation. I had to claim for a reality what and who my family really are. That had to start inside me, as my attachment, and bond grew with this new tall, dark and very handsome son in law, and his two wild little manchildren. I too started out with grandiose ideas of being the prefect grandparents to this 'new' family, and failing in my own 'high' expectations, I have come to see myself, as the grandma that I am, I cant be perfect for all these players, but I am on their side, and never a moment, not cheering for each one of them. this beautiful new example of a blended family doing it as right as they can. After 3 years I can say I love them all for a truth, and that is for me a good place to start, learning to be the grandma to these 6 wild wonderful people.

Sarah said...

Colleen, your writing is absolutely beautiful. So happy to hear that life is going well, really, truly well for you!

Colleen Currie Tompke said...

wow, just read this again.... its been 5 years now... we have very soon to be TWO teenagers in the house... the youngest is nine.... time flies. I love my life.