RLL 67: Our Daughter Goes to a Dance
I was on the phone with my best friend recently, and I related to him how my older daughter is now almost 15, she’s growing up, and she would be attending a school dance this weekend. He said, “Doesn’t that make you scared?” And I said, “Yes. All the time. Not a day passes without me praying for my kids. But I also can’t stop it, so we need to do the best we can to help her do well as she grows up.” (Full disclosure: I learned that from my parents and in-laws…I would have been OK trying to keep my kids as kids for many more years if it were solely up to me.)
After that conversation I started thinking about how we, as a large blended family, can help our kids to grow, develop, and learn as they mature. This week’s opportunity to do that was that our oldest child was going to be attending a dance. Because of that she and her stepmom (my wife) went dress shopping, then decided to alter a dress we already had, then asked my mother-in-law to do the alterations, and hey presto: a dress for a dance was made! In addition, our daughter asked if her mother could come over in the afternoon before the dance to help her with her hair. And this is where it could get sticky.
In the past, we’ve had many conversations among the adults in our blended family about “parent” things that we want to be involved in. We try hard not to step on each other’s toes or to unintentionally assume roles that would cause jealousy or resentment. So when Carly asked if her mom could help her with her hair, our immediate response was, “Of course!” We were reminded this week of two lessons that I wanted to share with you.
1) We always want to encourage positive cooperation between both houses. This is true for a lot of reasons: logistics are complicated, people are busy, and cooperation is better than a lack of it. But more importantly, we want to cooperate also to set a good example for our kids. My parents divorced when I was in middle school, and they continued to work well together through the end of my father’s life; that made a powerful and lasting impression on me, and so we have tried to do the same thing in the lives of our children.
2) We want to encourage our kids to have strong relationships with everyone else in our blended family, not just ourselves. I want to have an amazingly strong relationship with each of my daughters, but not at the expense of their relationship with each other, their mom and stepdad, their stepmom, or their little brother. I want to encourage them in all of their familial relationships because then our family will be more harmonious in the long run. So if Carly wants her mom to be able to help her prepare for a big-deal event, we want to try to accommodate that as much as possible. When they tell stories about what their brother did when they were with their mom last week, we want to listen; not just out of politeness, but out of genuine interest and curiosity, to let them know we care.
Carly’s mom came over and helped with her hair, my wife and other daughter went with Carly to do pre-dance pictures with her friends, and then Carly had an amazing time at the school’s dance. We had an excellent time all working together to love our kids. And for that, I’ll always be grateful. Is it easy to make things like this happen? Not at first, no. But the more often you do it, the easier it gets.
Action step: This week, look for ways to actively cooperate with the other household and for ways to encourage your children in having positive relationships with everyone else in both houses as well.