Modern-Day Brady Brunch: Marrying With Children
By Beth Patch
CBN.com “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” chanted my newly acquired daughter as she held my hand and skipped with joy beside me shortly after her father and I had said, “I Do.” I was tickled that this little eight-year-old girl who had been raised by her father for over four years was so gleeful to have me as her new Mommy. Little did I know that the first chance my natural born children had to speak with her alone that day, they let her know that I was THEIR Mommy, not hers or her brother’s. My kids explained that just because their Dad had married their Mom, did not give them permission to call their mother “Mommy”. They assured these younger children that they had no intention of calling their father “Dad”.
I didn’t hear about this encounter on my wedding day. The children told me eight years later. On our honeymoon weekend, I had no clue that the beginning of “Xtreme Sibling Rivalry” had begun at our dear friend’s house, where our children were staying. Because I was marrying a man who was crazy about the Lord and me, I just knew everything would be okay. My husband had even made up a song for our wedding that said that this marriage would stand the test of time because it was a marriage of three – him, God and me.
He’d been raising his two children and I’d been raising my two children. We were both single parents in love with the Lord and each other. We were in our late 30s and the children ranged in age from six to twelve. We had dated for four years and took a step of faith by getting married.
No book or article could describe all the challenges we faced putting all of us and our emotional baggage under one roof. I went from a mother of two to a mother of four inwardly hurting children in a matter of 20 blessed minutes.
We are still together and almost have an empty nest, but the marriage was not a marriage of three, it was a marriage of seven. Personally, I don’t know how any blended family could stand the test of time without the Lord.
The honeymoon ended and our 21st century Brady Bunch began. We had great intentions as parents and we made plenty of mistakes. The first mistake was that we merged our families into the house that my children and I had lived in since my youngest was born. Hindsight has been painfully clear in this area. My children saw him and his children as invaders. It was okay with them (sort of) that I married this man, but not okay that they had to share their Mommy, their house, their stuff, their world. From the beginning this made things difficult. If I could do it over, I’d rent out my house and my kids and I would move into a neutral location with him and his kids. This would negate the territorial battle that we endured.
A second area I wish I could do over is how I spent my time. Each child needed a regular dose of one-on-one time with my husband and me. With our work schedules, activities with church and various little leagues, most of our time was gone before we knew it. My husband or I occasionally chose to bring one child or another on an errand, but that really didn’t meet each child’s need to be special.
We managed to do a few things right that I would recommend to any blended marriage. The most important thing we did was raise them in a Bible believing environment at home and at church. The love and acceptance that we received from our church family helped each one of us at some of our most trying times.
Establishing the concept that we were one family sounds like it would be easy, but that was a struggle. When a husband and wife become one it’s because they desire to be one. Bring children into the picture and you don’t always have that on your side. From day one of our marriage, we told the children they were brothers and sisters. Then we backed it up by never introducing one of the children as a step-anything. They were not as quick to accept the labels, but as time wore on it became their truth as well. Now there isn’t a doubt in their minds about it – they all treat each other like brothers and sisters. This has been one of the most joyful signs that our pressing the issue that we weren’t separate families was well worth the effort.
Another thing we did right was to take time for a one-on-one date, just him and me, on a regular basis. Even if we didn’t have the money to go out, we got in the car and went somewhere that didn’t cost anything. I guarded that time and had to make all the childcare arrangements to go out, but that also helped maintain the oneness of our little Brady Bunch.
Many feared that my natural children would be deprived of some of my love and attention when I married a man with two children. The blended family that we created has been proof that a mother’s love is not divided when she agrees to a package deal marriage. Her love is multiplied. We are one family and I have four children to love along with one wonderful husband.
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