Growing up, my example for what a blended family looks like was The Brady Bunch, a television sitcom that depicted ever-patient parents, and six children whose disagreements were cute, story-worthy antics. It was all
very entertaining and appealing.
The irony was that at the time I was (unbeknownst to me) part of a blended family myself – one that did not in any way resemble the eight adorable Brady’s. In fact, much of what I experienced during my childhood years was chaos and dysfunction – something I am only now, in adulthood, deciphering.
Almost eleven years ago, I remarried, throwing my children and his into family mode. We had agreed, while dating, that kids came first – a decree which protects children during the courtship phase of a relationship, but threatens to destroy it once the marriage is finalized.
Unlike the Brady’s, our children ranged from eleven to twenty-nine at the time of our nuptials, and many were either out of the nest or just about to be – a situation that would, from the outside, appear to be congenial.
Grown-up children, however, can be just as disruptive to the family as dependent ones. Such is the case that has prompted this post.
My oldest daughter, now thirty-three and a mother herself, is strong-minded and determined, not unlike my husband, and a clash between the two is common. As the mother and wife of the parties involved, I am inevitably caught in the middle – a fault, I am coming to realize, that is totally my own.
Despite my efforts to break the habit, I am an incorrigible people-pleaser. When either party takes a stand in opposition to the other, I want to rush in the middle and negotiate a plea bargain. I want them both to be happy. I can see both sides and am personally affronted that they cannot. Inevitably, taking such a position only places me in the line of fire, with one or both of them angry at me.
When will I learn?
Being a family (any family) means that there will be differences of opinion (okay), moments of dissension (also okay), and times of peace (even if short-lived). It is all part of growing and bonding together.
Life is not all always a Disney ride. So why do I feel so compelled to try make it one?
As in all things, I learn one step at a time. I backed out this time, set a boundary and said: “I am not involved”. And guess what? They didn’t kill each other. They both walked away mad, and then came to a compromise, and the problem was resolved – something that might not have happened, had I kept poking my nose into the mix.
Trust the process, V.J., I need to keep telling myself. We all have the right to learn in our way, and a meddling mother/wife only delays progress.
I suspect this people-pleasing addiction has more to do with my past – wanting to rewrite family dynamics – than it does with current issues. The lines between the past and the present are always so blurred.