I was sitting in Meet the Teacher Night last night, paying rapt attention to every word Will's new teachers was saying (aka, staring blankly around the room) and I noticed a group of three crowded around one desk. There was clearly an awkwardness to the two women, and the man in the middle seemed to want to be anywhere but there. I thought the dynamic odd until I realized what it was: Mother... Father.... Stepmother. It was a blended family, like my own, and a realization hit me.... no matter how easy it is to throw fruit into the Cuisinart and come out with a smoothie... it is never that easy to throw in kids and come out smoothly.
A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless and blameless, has been married much longer than me, however her family just hit the blender last year. Kids' ages and numbers are different than my situation, but what was a happy and functioning family is currently a work in progress.... even though the adults and kids have been a semi-blended family for 14 years. It becomes a whole different thing when the blending takes place all in one home. The love is there, like it always was, but parenting styles and behaviors come to light and sometimes are not what was expected. It's a process... and like processed foods, sometimes it just isn't good for you! Other times, like a Costco hot dog, it tastes delicious. (I must be hungry today, since apparently all I can use are food metaphors.)
Another friend (who would have thought I had so many friends???) is dating a man with children and asked me how our blended family works so well. After I was done laughing hysterically at the thought of ours working well, I finally had the answer.... and that is (as cheesy as this sounds), equality. Our house functions (if you consider 50/50 functioning) because each part is equal in my eyes. Tabbi may think I am hard on her, but the reality is that I am because I treat her like my own kid. And, as the boys get older, I think she is seeing that more and more. I have high(ish) demands for my children, and to lower them for her because I am not her mother is not going to happen. She's in the mix, whether she likes it or not.
Likewise, I demand the equality from others. I have said to people all along that when it comes to my friends and family (even my extended family far away), I would never tolerate anyone treating her as if she is not my own. There would be a serious problem if anyone ever treated the boys better than her, and the lucky part is that I am blessed to have such an awesome family that is has never ever been an issue. My family embraced her as one of us from day one, and so our family is always much more a smoothie than a parfait. We are one, even if it came from different parts.
But, the reality (aside from Food Network) is that blending was never easy, and I can't state here that it ever was. It wasn't seamless bringing Tabbi into our home full time, and no one should expect it to be. The only advice I can give (not that I am qualified to give any) is that all children deserve to be loved equally.... and if you can't do that... best to stay out of the kitchen.