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Misunderstood: The Blended Family Edition.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Misunderstood: The Blended Family Edition.

Now that school is in full session, we've hit that inevitable time where the friendships are new, fresh and exciting. Miss M would like a playdate every day, please and thank you. T is more content with the neighborhood gang and if all else fails we can let the dialing begin.

It's also sometimes a time I dread.

It's not that I don't like the playdates and the fun that is had when things are set up, it's that the explanation and the questions and the figuring gets tiring.

"Hold on, A, can my mom talk to your mom?" M says into the phone and I grimace. I don't know A's mom and A's mom doesn't know me. Now I have to make friends and explain our lovely set up.

"Hi, I'm Samara, I'm M's stepmom." I always say. I've learned it's best to clarify from the get-go but even then it seems some people miss it.

"No, that day M will be at her mom's so that won't work but you could always call her mom to set something up." I explain. "Or we could plan something another day."

There is the inexplicable feeling I get right then as if I need to explain even though I don't get to.
The schedule. The homes. The parents.

And even the simple fact that we all get along.

It's as if I need to prove to these miscellaneous parents that we are good people, our kids are good people and please, please don't judge us.


I know that L has felt this too. Sometimes someone will assume I am T and M's mom and then they'll see her with the kids and act confused, as if they don't understand.

It's as if we all need name tags explaining who is who.

Just recently at 'Mom's and Muffins', one of the moms that I had met and set up some playdates for M with was there and ignored L and seemed genuinely confused. Though I had told her I was M's stepmom and I had even mentioned that I wouldn't be at 'Mom's and Muffins.' (I'm kind of holding out for Stepmoms and Starbucks. I'll let you know when it happens.)

What do we do with that? Do we hand out disclaimers? And when did people become so closeminded? Or is it that we are just sensitive to our own situation?


Today, I was a chaperone on Miss M's field trip and she was elated. She told me last night that she was most excited for her friends to see me and my growing belly because some of them didn't believe her that soon there will be four kids in our house.

When I walked in the class, one of her little friends ran over and I assumed that there'd be questions about the coming baby, but instead; "Is it true that M has two moms?"

At this point the other chaperone has looked me up and down. I am sure she is thinking that we're one of those families. Which probably makes my bulging baby belly seem even more confusing.

"Yes, it's true." I tell the girl who runs back to her desk with a look of astonishment.

When will we no longer be a museum exhibit? I wonder.

Again, my instinct is to walk over to the other chaperone and explain myself and our situation, but I don't. I waited until later and asked her who her child was and then shared that M was my stepdaughter. Even then, it didn't seem she got it.


We have encountered all sorts of parents along the way. The ones who choose one house and one set of parents to talk to. The ones who we set up a playdate with and then never hear from again. The ones who make certain assumptions about me or about L or about J or about L's husband.

And the ones, that little handful, that seem to get it and accept us for who we are.


At the end of all this, years and years down the road, when T and M are graduated, and married, and parents themselves, I hope that we can look back and say, we parents and co-parents, did a mighty fine job, regardless of what anyone else said or didn't say. Regardless of the looks, the questions, the ignorance we so often meet.


So what is my point of all these random thoughts and points? To the critics and the ones who don't understand, I just want them to know that we've come along way together already, I can only imagine how much farther we can go.


Blogger Melissa said...

I have a dysfunctional separated family so the judgment is there, but in a completely different way. I get more of the head-nods and sympathetic "Mmm-hmmmm"s with furrowed brows, like these perfectly happy married families really understand what it's like. Gehhhhhhhh. Kudos to you for the strong efforts you make. Bollocks to everyone else who can't seem to wrap their brain around it, is what I say!

October 15, 2008 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger ATs said...

Good post Samara!

October 15, 2008 at 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Jes said...

As long as there is love, nothing else matters - or should matter! Kudos for being so strong!!

October 15, 2008 at 5:48 PM  
Blogger Coma Girl said...

I think you guys are doing a great job - better than most.

I guess my situation is a little easier because all of my step-sons' friends, friend's parents and teachers only know me. And if they don't, they'll soon get our situation.

But it was a little uncomfortable going to my step-son's High School with a pregnant belly. Some people were like "wow, that's quite an age difference between children". Then I had to explain it to them.

October 15, 2008 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger The Lindahl News said...

Like I always say, you should write a book on this subject.

Sending love your way~

October 15, 2008 at 8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

S, I love reading these sorts of blogs because I was a one of those critics who didn't understand or was blinded to see. Now I do and what you do is beautiful! I'm sure of it you'll be able to look back and be thankful!
Thanks for opening my eyes!

October 16, 2008 at 12:20 AM  
Blogger The Bishop's said...

Samara -
It's funny how people have so much to say about things they know nothing about. Being a family is about love, not about HOW you became a family! Your family is a fantastic example of how grown people can put away their differernces and continue to have a happy, healthy home. You have NOTHING to be sorry for or explain. Out family get questions too (in a different way of course), so I just keep telling myself I will educate people one person at a time...

October 16, 2008 at 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a divorce attorney I wish I saw more families like yours - unfortunately they are not what I see or deal with on a regular basis.

Your kids are very very lucky to have all four of you in their lives and in a setting where you all are looking out for their best interests.

October 16, 2008 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

"Or is it that we are just sensitive to our own situation?" I think this is a huge part of it, at least I know it is when I think of my own awkward moments as people try to figure out how I have only been a Mom for 2 years and my kids are 7 & 8 years old.

I adopted mine; you married yours -- either way, we became families via means that are not, and will never be, the majority.

What I have found is that I long to be treated just like any other family, which is a bit unrealistic, as we were not formed just like any other family. Our family formation is a little different and I have to accept that.

My Dad is a paraplegic and when we go out with him people toss me sympathetic smiles. I wish they wouldn't. I don't see the chair anymore - I'm just happy that we still have Dad around. I want people with absolutely no reason to understand me to just magically understand me. I need to let go of this.

And I need to let go of the expectation that people 'get' adoption. Most don't. A few do.

So, I share this with you, because I think if you can go in assuming that most people will be confused - not necessarily judgmental - just confused, you can get through these moments with less internal stress, and really, that is what you are after isn't it? Having more pleasant feelings after these encounters?



October 16, 2008 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

my dear simplicity, i am blessed to be the child of parents who will celebrate 45 years of marriage this coming year. however, there are days (or perhaps weeks and months) when i think you and your loved ones have this whole family thing figured out better than mine ever will. others before self, love above all else... we have so much to learn.

thanks for all the wonderful lessons.

October 16, 2008 at 8:28 PM  

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