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How We Do Birthdays.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How We Do Birthdays.

And by "we", I mean our "blended-extended family".

We were all fairly new at the blended family thing when the first family party came up.

T was turning 6 and because we were on the road to working together, doing things together and being good co-parents, we did the party together.

At a bowling alley. With a lot of little six and seven year olds running around. Extended family up the wazoo. And us. The four awkward adults and two kids.

It worked out just fine. The kids had a great time, especially T. And afterwards we received compliments about how well we worked together and did a birthday together.

I didn't think it was a bad party. But I did think it was awkward, stressful and draining.

None of us knew the expectations of the other. I did invitations. L took care of the cake and favors. J and L's husband bowled with the kids. We all mingled with other parents.

In a sentence, we were not where we are now. Not even close.

Shortly after that party we came up with an agreement that we would switch off planning each of the kids "friend" parties going forward and split a reasonable set amount for a party. This has probably been one of the best things we ever did.

Even though we all get along and talk about everything now, we all still have different ideas and expectations. And too many spoons in the pot leads to trouble. Misunderstandings, miscommunications, icky feelings.

We all help each other and attend the parties, but there is one main contact and party planner, versus four. This just works for us.

We celebrate with each respective extended family seperately, because again, that's what works for us. I'm sure it seems a bit overboard and at times it feels that way to me too, but it's important that the kids get to celebrate with their extended families on both sides in both environments.

When T turned 7, L and I happened to show up at school on his birthday. Because we still weren't where we are now in our relationship, of course we had not communicated about this little endeavor. She had cupcakes for the class. I had Subway for T's lunch. We stood casually talking in the entry of the classroom waiting for lunchtime.

Naturally, T had a substitute teacher this day who treated L and I as if we were a traveling exhibit.

I'm not kidding. She had a million and one questions about our set up and getting along and who we were and if this lunch was at all awkward for us.

All the while that L and six month pregnant me, are sitting on a shared beach towel with T in the cafeteria for 'beach' day.

Humorous. Awkward. Fun. Those words just begin to describe it.

A tradition was born. Last year we again shared a Subway lunch with T the day before his birthday. And this year we celebrated our lunch with T last Friday.

It's something small, yet something meaningful that we share together.

Because M is in first grade, we've never gotten to have a special birthday lunch with her at school, but we didn't want her to feel bad last week when we surprised T, so we also surprised her. Her lunch is just prior to T's.

She sat next to one of her friends who leaned over and asked M which one is her mom. M proudly pointed at her mom and said, "That's my mom." and then pointed at me and said, "That's my stepmom."

Some of her little friends comments and questions were silly. One friend seemed disappointed that she only had one house since her mom and dad live together and another friend let us know that she too has two homes. M, seems unwavering in her ability to express who she is and the family she has and the love she has for all.

If I can be a little prideful right now, I want to say that I am proud of us. We've come a long way from an awkward, overwhelming bowling party where no one knew their place or what bounds they might be overstepping to an organized, family of friends. We work together to make sure that the kids special days are special and that all the key people in the kids lives get to play a role in that.

That, to me, is accomplishment right there.


Blogger Kim said...

You can be A LOT prideful Samara. The way you work together is a lesson for all of us.

I should learn from the way you and L work together when I react to my husband, since we naturally have differences in our relationship too. Or when I react to Dad's new wife. Or to the men I work with.

This isn't because you are step-moms. It is because you are good people, regardless of the label you get.

January 29, 2008 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Coma Girl said...

Wow. That is great and I would love to have what you and L have.

Do you think it is a little easier because L is married?

January 29, 2008 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I think it has been easier for me since I became a step-mom myself. Things that I would think of as "harmless" to do as a step-mom, I can see how I would be sensitive or boundary stepping as a mom. It has not been an easy road but one I would gladly take again. S is a great person and wonderful to my kids. Not only do the kids benefit from having her in their lives but I do as well.

January 29, 2008 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Jill Davis Doughtie said...

I don't think we've quite worked out a birthday system yet over here. It is so helpful to hear about how other people work things and why!

January 29, 2008 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Coma Girl said...

Wow and L reads your blog and praises you!

You are both very lucky!

January 30, 2008 at 7:34 PM  

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