The Art of the Blended Family – How to Paint an Alluring Family Portrait Part 2

By Johnny Clayton – Blog Post 2 of 5

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FAMILY LOVE – By Johnny Clayton

As the first born to both my parents and the eldest of my siblings, it was instilled in me as far back as I can remember that the institution of family was to be my number one priority, seconded only to the word of God. This was a primary life color found on both my parent’s palette as they painted our ‘ Alluring Family Portrait ‘.

I was taught that family was sacred and to be held in the highest regards. The shared blood was something to be respected and required sacrifice and lots of love. “Family first”, “We take care of our own”, and “We all we got” are statements of family unity my parents used regularly throughout my entire life. This was how they were raised and this was how all their children were to be raised.

Needless to say, I came to embrace the importance of family and my role as the eldest to express it to my siblings as it was expressed to myself. So as my mother and father parted ways in their personal life and we became a blended family, the shared blood meant we are family and the same rules apply. I love all eight of my younger siblings just like I was taught to by my loving parents. “We All We Got”!

The Art of the Blended Family – How to Paint an Alluring Family Portrait

By Sharon Pitts – Blog Post 1 of 5

The Mona Lisa is one of the world’s most renowned and highest valued 16th century paintings. People come from all around the world to the Louvre Museum in Paris to marvel at the portrait’s realism. One look and you are drawn in and want to know more. What’s behind her enigmatic expression? Who is she? What happened to her eye brows?

Like the Mona Lisa, for years friends and by standers marveled at my family portrait. Those who’ve heard about the magnificent 9 and their parents are anxious to see it for themselves. Family gatherings inspire side bar conversations around how well our parents and their children get along. During outings or when I verbally describe my family portrait, the question I tend to answer the most is “How are ALL of you able to get along?”

As a youth, I didn’t understand what was so different or special about my family. Togetherness and respect for each other was always a part of my extended blended family experience. I didn’t realize it was unusual to see four siblings getting along with four additional kids (one set of twins) their dad fathered by three different women prior to marrying one of the mothers (my stepmom) who had a son (my stepbrother) from a previous relationship. That was a mouthful and I hope I didn’t lose you. On top of that, having the mothers attend a family gathering and actual enjoy each other’s company was unheard of.

As an adult I understood their amazements and started to grow an appreciation for our family uniqueness. A uniqueness I accredited to my biological parents. Their desire to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and turn their focus towards a common goal of ensuring their children had a beautiful blended family experience, was an art my mother and father, in my opinion, perfected.

I’ve labeled their efforts, The Art of The Blended Family and with the help of my siblings; we’ve identified four key family values our parents cultivated in our lives. The goal of this five part blog is to share those values and help guide other blended family members in painting/creating their own alluring blended family portrait.

The first family value is ‘Love for Family’ which my eldest brother, Johnny, will elaborate on next week in part two of this five part blog. Follow this blog post to stay connected as we share our values – love for family, respect, southern hospitality and faith in God.

Blended family relationships-Can we all get along? 

“My madness combined with other’s madness was straight up chaos! ”

There are a number of blended family relationships – stepdad and biological dad, stepmom and biological mom, stepchild and biological child, stepdad and stepchild, stepmom and stepchild and so on. No matter what type of blended family relationship dynamic you face, Rodney King’s famous question “can we all get along?” is sure to cross your mind.  

The short answer is YES! Of course blended family members can get along. We are fully capable of getting along. The problem is we are not always willing to get along.  Why are we not willing? Pick your madness, pride, hurt, self-centered, resentment, rejection, not my child, jealously, indifference or the all-time favorite-irreconcilable differences. 

My madness was resentment. I’m the ultimate blend (read my profile) which means I’ve had to navigate the waters of numerous blended relationships.  In my experience carrying a weight of resentment, while trying to nurture meaningful relationships was like dragging an anchor through shallow water.  My madness combined with other’s madness was straight up chaos!  It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to remove myself from the chaotic hamster wheel and get some real peace in my life. 

That peace came in the form of self-sacrifice. Being the woman of faith, that I am, a simple verse of scripture (Romans 12:18) helped me conclude that my own peace is determined by my efforts to get along with others. That lovely scripture challenged me to, when I can, be at peace with all people. For years now, I’ve met that challenge daily with determination. As a result, I’ve become the official ‘Family Peacemaker’.  

Those who know me well know I wear that Peacemaker badge with honor. Especially on days like last Sunday when my adult step daughter came over and greeted me with a hug and kiss and left me with I love you. That badge surely shines on those sweet days when my adult son, without notice, stops by after work and leaves breakfast for his stepfather who lies asleep in bed. 

So what’s your madness? If this post helped you, let me know and feel free to share your madness and the remedy. Join me in helping others get along and build loving blended family relationships!

3 Tips For Navigating the Blended Family Handoff During the Holiday Season.

Don’t throw your child in the spin cycle.

Home for the holidays has many meanings for the blended family member. Ultimately, the child’s experience is shaped by the parents. As a blended parent of one daughter by marriage and a son from a previous marriage, navigating a smooth transition amongst families during the  holiday season can be challenging. Over the past several years practicing the following tips helped me overcome the holiday family handoff challenges and nurture a meaningful relationship with my children and their families.

Holiday Blended Family Tips:

1. Be fair and play nice.  If you are the custodial parent be fair and open to allowing extended time with the non-custodial parent. Especially when it’s not convenient for you. We tend to be ok with schedule changes when it’s convenient, but the true test is when you make inconvenient adjustments for the child’s sake.  As for non custodial parents facing off with a custodial parent wilding their custody rights, put your game face on and play nice.

2. Confirm the holiday schedule at least 30 days prior to handoff. Don’t assume everyone’s on the same page. Conducting a pulse check early allows you time to adjust to unexpected changes. If the child’s time with their parents is not going to be as expected it’s best to communicate this to the child early rather than later.

3. Establish a backup plan and don’t throw your child in the spin cycle. This require knowing who you are dealing with and preparing an appropriate response for their level of crazy. If it’s a wishy washy parent  don’t act surprised when they are unable to commit to a date, time or location. Instead, avoid getting your child caught up in the constant spin by working with the parent to establish a potential date that you both agree to consistently communicate to the child. This is with the understanding that if the date falls through you’ll consider another date at that time.   Either way don’t leave the child hanging on wondering if mommy or daddy is coming to pick them up as expected.