I wish that, back in the chaotic and stressful years when I was newly remarried with 5 children, I could have seen what the future held for our family. The highlight of this summer was a family gathering that I couldn’t have imagined back then. Our family spent a week in central Oregon—without a fight to speak of. We filled up two houses with our brood, including our kids, their spouses, 7 grandchildren and 2 dogs.
It seems like just yesterday that we were packing our kids into the van for a trip to the beach or ski slopes or grandparent’s house. Just managing all the clothes, food, and equipment for a stepfamily of 7 was almost more than I could handle. Someone would always forget something or lose it or break it. The kids took turns starting fights, being rude at meals, and copping nasty attitudes.
But I also remember the good times. I remember how hard they worked to learn to ski, swim, or cook, and how proud they were to show us the fruits of their efforts. They’d yell, “Look Mom/Dad,” announcing a swim across the pool, a handmade craft object, or a good report card.
Our kids remember a lot of things I’d forgotten…or wasn’t in on. Now that the statute of limitations is over, I’m learning about all sorts of stuff they did behind our backs without getting caught! During our recent week, we had a lot of laughs reminiscing. “Remember when you and Dad went out of town? We had a little party. So and so got drunk, got in trouble, (fill in the blank)…” It was fascinating to hear their different renditions of the same story, scene, or event: who was there, what happened, when, and whose fault it was. It seemed to depend on who was telling the story and what roles they played in this complex family system.
What I particularly loved about our family week was that I was NOT in charge. The kids brought tons of food. We all drank beverages, cooked meals, talked at the dinner table, and cleaned up together afterwards.
The grandchildren played and played! They’d go to the swimming pool after breakfast and stay there until we pulled them out, hours later, looking like prunes. The older ones taught the younger ones to dive. They rode bikes together in a pack. They looked out after each other. Two of the kids brought their guitars, so we sang some songs at night. No TVs, but YES, they did have their cell phones and computers (and so did we).
I promise it wasn’t always this way! We dealt with gut-wrenching issues in the beginning and over the years…just like everyone. As a new stepmother, I was young, terribly insecure, and completely overwhelmed. The kids ate my lunch! Slowly, but surely, I grew up and got stronger. Time heals a great deaI. I learned to deal with the stepchildren, ex-spouses, and a very busy husband. I never had enough time with him…and way too much time with the five kids we raised together.
Now our kids have lives of their own and their own issues to deal with. Hopefully the lessons we learned together along the way will help them in their own families. As for us…it’s now just the two of us…but the kids and grandkids are never far away from our hearts and minds.
Susan Wisdom, MA