Your Blended Family Is Going To Fail.

Your Blended Family Is Going To Fail.

13723951_10154199875291007_5818723205847714512_o (1)

Being a spouse can be difficult.
Being a parent can be hard.
Finding balance in family life and doing your best to get it right is rough and takes mountains of patience.

Even trickier than all of that is trying to pull it off in a blended family.

I tried to look up statistics on blended families and it became overwhelming. What it boils down to is that about 50% of American families are blended, meaning the adults in the family have children from previous relationships.

My family is blended. Well, my family is chopped, minced, and then blended. Even though we don’t use the terms step or half, the reality is that we have step parents, step kids, step siblings, half siblings and we even have my sister who we’re raising as our daughter.

We’re the poster family for blended families.

Being a blended family is tough work. You don’t just have to figure out how to make life inside your home work, you also have to figure out a way to make life between two or more homes work. Navigating co-parenting with another family is not for the faint of heart and is another post all together.

I’d like to say we get it right all the time and that love always trumps the hard times but I’d be lying.
I’d like to say grace is always given when we tread on bumpy terrain but I’d be lying.
I’d like to say that we never doubt the choices we’ve made but sometimes none of our choice make any sense at all and I wonder how the heck we got here in the first place.

Blending families takes more than most of us are equipped with and because of that the failure rate is through the roof.

The brutal reality of it all is that your blended family is going to fail and over and over again you’ll fail at trying to make it work.

You’ll fail at never having feelings of resentment.
You’ll fail at swallowing your pride.
You’ll fail at relinquishing some control and allowing another person discipline your child.
You’ll fail at showing compassion and grace.
You’ll fail at keeping jealousy under wraps.

You’re family will fail at not being territorial inside your own home.
You’re family will fail at making love completely equal between all its members.
You’re family will fail at pretending it’s easy.
You’re family will fail at wanting to make it work.

But through all the rough spots you’ll find immense beauty.

There will be the moments where the light shines through the cracks.
There will be the moments when the broken pieces will come together to make a stained glass window where others will look through and see nothing but beauty. They’ll see all the different colors, shapes and sizes and stare in awe at how it all came together so perfectly.

12928360_10153945453516007_1218674214433196918_n (1)

There will be the times when you watch your spouse love on and parent your child as their own and it will bring up a love so deep you can’t even imagine how it contains itself inside your heart.

There will be a time when your spouse’s child kisses you and tells you that they love you and you’ll wonder how you ever lived your life without them.

There will be times when your children walk hand in hand with your spouse’s children and you’ll know that you are teaching them to love far beyond any boundaries.

Your blending family is going to fail.
They’re going to fail over and over but they’re also going to prove that love and grace can outshine any darkness.
They’re going to show others how broken things can be mended, maybe not back to the way they were but to a way that lets the light shine through the cracks and heal the hurts.

What happened after my ex husband and I threw away our custody agreement.

Every other weekend.
Wednesdays from 6pm to 8pm.
Christmas on even years.
Thanksgiving on odd years.
30 day extended visitation in the summer.
Spring break every other year.
No moving out-of-state.
30 days notice with a job change or move.
Child support.
Child support review every 4 years.
Insurance provision.
Split copays.

We were exhausted after the first year of trying to follow along with each detail. Details that were somewhat standard and very general to accommodate a broad span of families. Details that were permanent and signed by a judge. Details that never changed, even when our lives did.

Following these instructions laid out for us made us tired, angry and confused.
We were tired of times and dates and who has her when and what time she needed to be where and on and on. We were angry because of expectations that seemed impossible. We couldn’t always get her by 6pm or drop her off by 8pm, life just doesn’t work like that and occasionally you’re late or early or can’t do it at all. We were confused because it’s a mess.

Have you seen a custody agreement? There’s such a division of time and dates that your calendar is so marker up it looks like a two-year old got ahold of it with box of markers.

Our custody agreement was stressing us out, making us miserable and was causing us to argue. It was crippling the need for us to figure out how to work together as a team.

So we threw it out.
Chunked it.
Shredded it into a million pieces.
Burned it at the stake.
WE GOT RID OF IT!

We’ve never looked back, not once.

12106825_10153596249861007_652744720788047048_n

Instead of being controlling jerks, we decided to give each other some slack and truly stop to think about what was best for our little girl.

Our entire relationship changed after that. The dynamics of co-parenting made a positive switch and we became better parents and better friends. Our daughter became happier and we were all less stressed.

When we threw out the papers we communicated better and developed compassion and understanding towards each other.

We took the time to listen to each other and find out what worked in each of our families. We stepped outside the box and created our own custody agreement that basically say that she’s equally both of our daughter. If she’s with him or me, she’s with family and that’s what matters.

We decided to simply share in the joy of raising our little girl together and to see each others relationship with her as equally important as our own.

We decided to respect each other and each other’s spouses.

When it comes to holidays we just share our time with a huge dose of understanding and grace. We made a choice to not be married and with that we knew that neither of us would have our daughter full-time. For that reason we know that she won’t be with us for every holiday and we’ve learned to not only accept it but to be grateful that she is with the other part of her family getting loved on.

As for child support and insurance, I have no idea what the original papers say. We settled on a child support amount 14 years ago and neither of us have mentioned it since. The person who provides insurance is the person who has the option for the best insurance, that might be him or that might be me. We just do it. We just insure her because she needs insurance. There’s no battle over who carries it or who’s paying more, we just do it. It’s for her and we need to provide, PERIOD. If he thinks about it he’ll he puts money in her school lunch account, if I think about it then I’ll do it. As long as she has lunch money I couldn’t care less which one of us put it in there. When she needs clothes, which ever one of us is in a position to take her shopping does it. They’re her clothes and as long as she has what she needs then I couldn’t care less who bought the clothes, him or me, who cares. My husband and I provide in every way that we can and he and his wife provide in every way they can. She benefits and she is taken care of. Bottom line, it’s all about her.

It’s far more complicated for us to constantly refer to papers drawn up by lawyers (lawyers who don’t know the heart of our family or our ever-changing needs) than it is to meet up or call each other and talk about the changes like adults. It feels good to have my ex husband call up on any given day, not an assigned day by a judge, and let me know he’s picking up our daughter for a dad night.  I can’t tell you what that does to our daughter’s self-esteem and self-confidence. I will say yes to that phone call every single time.

Our daughter isn’t a possession or a puppet. She’s not a pawn or weapon. She’s a little girl who never asked for divorced parents and she needs to feel equally important and cherished at both homes. She needs to see her parents love each other and work together as a team. She needs to see us give each other grace and mercy. She needs to know that broken things can be fixed, maybe not back to the way they were before but in a way that works and is healthy.

I’m not going to lie, it take a great deal of self-respect and respect for the other parent. It takes releasing the need to be in control of everyone and everything and it means that you won’t always have your way. It takes accepting your ex’s decisions in dating and/or marriage and realizing the importance of co-parenting in a healthy way with them as well.

Co-parenting this way means you’ll need to stock pile huge amounts of grace, forgiveness and mercy because you’re going to need a ton of each.

Throwing out the papers made us better people. It made us like each other again and took an unnecessary pressure off both of our shoulders. It made us better parents.

It might be easier said than done, I honestly don’t know because it was the best decision ,as parents of a broken home, that we could have ever made.  We love our daughter far more than any ill feeling we ever had towards each other and because of that we were able to rise above. Because of it our daughter has two stable homes with four parents that adore her and work together in her best interest at all times. Because of our decision to parent this way, our daughter has one big family full of love and abundant grace.

*Side note: I’m well aware that  this can’t always be the case and that sometimes the “other parent” is not healthy for the child. I’m talking about co-parenting situations that can be healthy and productive but have things standing in their way that don’t need to be. Just throwing that out there before the comments start coming in.

Baptism, Divorce and why you don’t have to go to church!

I truly believe that I’m in church every day. I spend time with God every morning and I talk to someone about Jesus far more than once a day. I stand firm in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” God is always with me. I am in constant “church” with people and spend many nights in fellowship with my friends each week. So daily church happens outside four walls of a building all the time.

But my church! My church feeds me. I crave the building and the people in it. I’m addicted to praising in the big room filled with my brothers and sisters. There’s nothing like standing with my people, arms raised high, my husband’s arm around my back and belting out praise to Jesus, no matter how off-key I am. I love to watch everyone scoot to the edge of their seats, preparing to soak up the message our pastor is about to deliver. Oh how I wish you could hear him deliver the Good News. It’s amazing!

You don’t have to go to church.
You can love God from where ever you are.
You can praise Jesus in your car, your home and even the shower.
You can gather with your friends and be the church in your back yard.

However, there can be great beauty in finding a church that you love and that loves you back. If you’re in San Antonio then meet me at Castle Hills Church, hold my hand and love on Jesus and others with me.Come meet my people. If you’re not then find a church that loves you. There can be so much that fills you up when you surround yourself with followers of Jesus. Wherever you church, do it big. Do it with abandonment. Do it with love. Just do it.

Here’s a little about how my church helped save my marriage and ultimately saved our lives. We almost surrendered ourselves to ending everything we had wished for, then God stepped in. He is the God of redemption and He is good.

Check it our here.

Candice Curry and Life Stories. 

IMG_6806ed

7 daily steps to healthy co-parenting.

10363839_10152426663366007_2017682719199778243_n

 

A few months back I had some friends ask if I would write about the birds and the bees. It was uncomfortable for some but I did it.  Now I’ve had a few friends ask that I write about co-parenting. It could be because I have a not so common co-parenting situation. It will be uncomfortable for some but I did it. I’ve been co-parenting with my ex-husband for 14 years and while we’ve had a few speed bumps along the way, we’ve had an oddly easy road. I honestly can’t remember the last time we had a disagreement and have no idea when the last time we actually verbally argued . I can say with certainty that it takes maturity on both sides to make it work and it has to be ALL about the child. I’d say when it comes to co-parenting ,on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, we’re a solid 11. I’ve learned a few lessons over these 14 years that I think are pretty vital to assure that co-parenting works. I’m aware that there are unique situations that might not fit into these 7 suggestions but I also know that the majority of co-parenting situations can be so much easier than we make them. This is simply what I think are vital qualities to a healthy child in a co-parenting situation.

1. Brush your teeth and don’t forget to scrub your tongue.
Rule number one is to keep your mouth clean and to never let nasty words about your co-parent leave your mouth and enter the ears of your child. Bad mouthing your child’s other parent is toxic to the child and you are essentially bad mouthing half of who they are. You’re also making yourself look mean and bitter while slowly grating away at who your child is. My ex and I have always made it a point to hug each other when we are in front of our daughter even if we wanted to wring each others necks. She has never heard a single negative thing out of either of our mouths about her other parents, never and that includes step parents. No matter how solid you think your relationship is with your child, no matter how right you think you are in your feelings towards your co-parent, if you bad mouth them your child will resent you for it at some point in their lives. It might not be tomorrow or even 5 years from now but I promise it will happen.  Bad mouthing your child’s other parents falls in the category of Parent Alienation Syndrome and you don’t want to be that crazy parent do you?

2. Do this  math problem everyday. 1+1= 1
Your child should have one family. Co-parents need to be strong enough to accept each other as family and not make the child feel like they are living two separate lives.  A child should never have to pack an over night bag to go stay at their parents house. A child should have everything they need at both houses and shouldn’t feel like a guest or overnight visitor in either home. All extended family members are equally family members, even if you think your side of the family is better than theirs. Our daughter has 4 half sisters, a half-brother and a step sister but our family doesn’t use those words. In our one big family she has 5 sisters and a brother. Step parents are just as responsible and respected as bio parents. We do not have separate birthday parties and we all sit together if our child has an event we need to attend. We are her family, one family.

3. Do yoga every morning                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Stretch it out, you’re going to need to be flexible. My co-parent and I threw out custody papers a long time ago and decided to simply be adults about it all. We don’t believe in “my time” and “your time”. She’s our daughter, not a possession. In or eyes it doesn’t matter if she’s with me or him, as long as she’s with family. We do every other weekend but in the summers and holidays we kind of just do whatever. This year she spent Mother’s Day at his house, not because I didn’t want her with me but because she was staying that weekend with him and he wanted to cook dinner for his mom and have her there too. She was with family and that’s what matters.  We simply share in the joy of raising her with out the stress of a schedule drawn out by lawyers who don’t really know our family dynamics. If you are all about sticking strictly to the papers then I hope you never have anything come up where you might need your co-parent to work with you bending them a little. You can’t have it both ways.

4.Wash your laundry everyday, empty the dirty laundry hamper.                                                                                                                                  Let it go. Stop airing dirty laundry.  If you’re still bringing up what your co-parent did wrong 2, 5, 10 years ago then you are carrying a weight that is crippling you and the healthy growth of your child. Let it go.  And really, how clean is your closet? Be honest. There is no perfect parent so if you want to point out your co-parents flaws, you might want to get a mirror.  Life is much better for all involved if you learn to encourage each other as parents instead of bash each other or try to win as the better parent.  The parent who’s keeping score will always end up to be the loser.

5.Take off your tiara  and pack it away                                                                                                                                                                                          It’s no longer about you. Your days of reining over your world are over. It’s now only about the child and what’s best for them.  What is truly in the best interest of your child might not match what you feel is in your best interest. Sorry for your luck. If you are currently arranging things to ease your feelings then you’re doing it wrong.  Your job is to nurture the relationship between your child and your co-parent without letting yourself get in the way. What!?  Yes, they aren’t puppets, they’re people and trying to control their relationship is a hopeless battle. Instead try encouraging them to have their own unique relationship and not one you designed for them.  If one of your parents bad mouthed your other parent or tried to control your relationship with them, break the cycle instead of continuing a toxic tradition.

6.Upgrade your cell phone plan                                                                                                                                                                                                          Communicate with each other, respectfully. Talk about things, talk about everything. Talk to each other, not through your child. Don’t bottle issues up only to explode later or pull them out as a weapon when needed. Just communicate and work things out like adults.  You are not always going to see eye to eye and that’s okay, it’s normal but it doesn’t have to be World War 3. This is when the yoga things comes in handy again. You’ll have to bend and compromise. You can’t always have your way. Have enough respect for yourself, your co-parent and most important your child to sit down and work out issues before they cause friction in your family.  NEVER EVER EVER involve your child in adult situations, they are children and need to stay that way. They should not shoulder the burden of adult problems.  Involving them in adult situations is extremely selfish and immature.

 

7. Take a daily trip.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     So remember that one time when you really really liked your co-parent, maybe even loved them.  There had to be a time at some point when you thought enough of them to lay down with them if you know what if you know what I’m saying.  Remember that daily.  Gross right? Not really. Remembering why our child’s here in the first place can take away negative thoughts about your co-parent. I mean really, look at your child and remember that they wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for your co-parent. Try thanking them for it today.

 

I think my most rewarding moment as a co-parent was when I got a call from the school counselor when my daughter was in second grade. She told me that she had my daughter and another little girl in her office just chit chatting about different things. The other little girl said that her parents were getting a divorce and she was mad. My daughter chimed in and said “So what, my parents are divorced and they love each other”. The counselor was calling to tell me congrats on whatever it was that my ex and I were doing because our little girl was clueless that divorce can cause major issues. She was just completely confident that no matter what her mommy and daddy loved her and each other and that’s all that counts. That’s not to glorify divorce or say that we want our daughter to think divorce is easy or good. It says that we have done everything possible to not let our choice for divorce to negatively affect her. It was our choice, not our daughter’s.

 

Birds and Bees

birds and bees

I’ve had several request from friends asking me to write a blog about the birds and bees talk with our kids. Maybe it’s because I’m a mommy to lots of girls or because I already have a teenager. Maybe it’s because they’ve seen how open and confident our teenager is when it comes to discussing these issues with us. I’m not sure why they trust me on this matter but I promised that I would write about it. It won’t be for everyone and I’m definitely not an expert, this is just how we do it in our home, what I believe in, what we see going on in the teen world and how we handle it. I am under no delusion that everyone agrees with me.  I guess it’s not really a post on the birds and bees but what the lack of communication, lack of brutal honesty, our self-centered society and what  our entitlement and the entitlement we give to our children does to them in the long run. I’m also going to give my view on divorce and how the way we as parents handle it affects our children. You might not like it, you might disagree and there are several exceptions to my experience on it. I understand all of that, this is my view and my experience.  I’ve written this for my girlfriends.

I recently read somewhere that children who become involved in a relationship, boyfriend/girlfriend, before the age of 12 are 60% more likely to become sexually active as teens. I read it in a book from an author whom I put much faith in and who dedicates her life to teaching young girls and boys about purity, faith and living the way that Christs intends for us to.

I also recently read this startling bit of info. A recent  survey found that 38% of Christian teen girls have sent or received a sext message, 57% have viewed porn, and 73% struggle with self-image.

Maybe I should stop reading so much because it’s starting to freak me out.

Our birds and bees sex talk with our girls isn’t a moment when we sit down with them and go over everything we think they need to know. It’s an ongoing, progressive talk that we’ve been  having for many years.  It’s also not all about what we say to them. It’s about the examples that we set, the way we act, the way we treat our spouses, how we speak to each other, how we dress and how we treat ourselves. The aren’t just listening to us, they’re watching us too.

The very first time that we had to have any sort of sex talk with one of our girl was when our oldest was 6 years old. Yes, 6. We were all sitting down eating dinner when she calmly let us know that “Stacy’s parents don’t have sex anymore.”.
I would pay good money to have captured to the look on my husbands face when those words flowed from her mouth. We smiled and said okay and then rushed through the meal. Apparently Stacy’s parents fought in front of Stacy and weren’t very careful about what she heard. Stacy repeated their fights to her friends, teachers and counselor at school. I bet Stacy’s parent wish they would have been a little more discrete while fighting in their home in front of their small impressionable little girl. I’m sure Stacy wishes she had never heard or seen them fight.

Later that night while I was getting her bath ready this conversation went down.

“Honey do know what sex means?”
“Yes, it’s when a boy and girl lay in bed and hug each other”
I would have liked to stop there but knew that I couldn’t.
“Well it’s actually when a HUSBAND and WIFE  lay together at night and show each other their love with their body’s while they hug and kiss.”
“Okay”

And that was that.

Conversation about sex go very differently with her 8 years later.

We’ve decided that brutal honest is best. I promise that if we aren’t talking to her about it and telling her the truth then some teenager is talking to her about it and telling her their version. I’d rather her hear and trust our version.

When she asks what any sexual act is  we tell her in as much detail as needed. We also do our very best to not have a completely shocked look on our faces or scream “Where in the world did you hear that!!” . We try to never bash the source of where she heard it and we make sure that she knows that kids will inflate stories to sound cooler than they really are so there is no repeating of the gossip to her friends.

She is completely confident that she can ask us anything and she will get the honest answer and that there will not be any repercussions for knowing and asking. She is just as comfortable talking to her daddy about these things as she is talking to me about them. Daddy has a harder time keeping the shocked look off his face, especially the day she had maturation class and called him to tell him all about how feminine products work.

She got in the car two days ago and said “Mom I can tell you anything right?”.  Then a barrage of shocking stories spewed from her mouth about the goings on with middle school/high school kids.

Did you know how common it is for boys to text girls and ask for nude pictures of them? It’s happening and more girls are complying than I care to admit. In the last week I’ve heard of three girls that took pictures of themselves nude and/or in a sexual act and sent them on to “friends”. Those pictures were then passed around like hot potatoes. That’s just in one week!

Boys and girls are getting caught having sex at school.
Sexual acts are being filmed at school and posted on social networks to show just how cool it is.
Girls are “satisfying” boy in class, in the lunch room and I’m sure other places I haven’t heard about. It’s happening outside of school too. It’s happening at the movies, the park, friends homes, our homes, even church…yes church!

This isn’t just happening in the public school system and my daughters are part of a pretty amazing school district. When I was the cheer coach for a Christian private school I was told by the girls that it was going on there too. One even showed me texts a boy at the school had sent her requesting nude photos… a Christian boy at a Christian school.

I’m not okay with any of that.

What is going on in our society that kids are starting to think that this behavior is getting them the attention that they crave.  A little girl doesn’t let her friends film her satisfying a boy at school because it’s cute, she does it because she is desperate for some sort of attention. Why? Where are we going wrong?

Kids are living in the now with very little consequences and it’s terrifying. We’ve become scared to punish their behavior or hold them accountable. We have become too worried about them liking us as their friend.  We have accepted that broken homes are common. Our society is becoming more and more numb and accepting that this kind of behavior is the new normal.

It’s not.
It’s not okay.
It’s not normal.
It’s not God’s plan for our families and future generations.

It’s up to us to stand up for them, to teach them the truth no matter what is becoming acceptable around them. We also need to not be naive and think that it can’t happen to us and our children. These kids don’t need us to be their best friends, they need us to be their parents. It’s not cute when an elementary/middle school child has a status of “In a relationship”, “taken”, “single” or anything else that defines where they are with the opposite sex posted on their social network site.. I’ve been challenged as being wrong on this one  saying that they are learning to form romantic relationships with the opposite sex that they will use in the future. I disagree. At that age they need to be learning how to form relationships as peers, not partners. It’s okay to wait. There’s no rush. Let them be kids because once they become adults there’s no going back.

Our oldest daughter is the victim of divorce. That’s not her fault, never has been never will be and it’s not her cross to carry. It has been her daddy’s and my number one goal in her life to never let it affect her. From day one we put our feelings aside and her feelings first. She has never heard a single negative thing about the other parents come from either of our mouths. As a matter of fact she hears us tell each other that we love each other and how thankful we are for each other every time we are all together.  My first priority is her relationship with her dad, yes that relationship comes before my relationship with her.  She will never have an empty space in her where her daddy should be.  She will never be desperate for the affection of  a father figure or a man who truly loves her. She has a daddy and step daddy who fill that need each and every day. That has been  my responsibility to her since I chose divorce.  As parents we have to stop using these children to manipulate and hurt the other parents. We have to stop using them to control our relationship with the other parent or gain some sort of power over the other parent.  It’s causing a bigger problem in their lives than we are able to see. It’s filtering over to their social life, self-image, sexual exploration and  desperation for a relationship and love.  I understand if one of the parents is a harm to the child and there is a need to be separated.  I am writing about divorce where both parents are capable and healthy for the child but the parents can’t seem to separate their own feelings from those that are truly best for the child.  It’s not just divorced parents  but also parents that are fighting in their marriage and using the kids against each other as well. These kids are not pawns and it is affecting them greatly. I’m sure little Stacy can testify to that.

Very early on in our daughters lives we start to pray for their husbands with them. We pray that he is respecting himself and others and that he is doing his best to stay pure. We pray that the devil is terrified of his faith and can’t get near him. We remind our daughter to respect their future spouses and themselves. We tell them that first kisses are best reserved for real love and that sex was designed by God to be one of our most amazing experiences but that experience is intended for our husbands only. If they wait for their husbands they will experience sex the way that God intended it to be and it will be wonderful.  We also tell them that the devil uses sex probably more than anything to get us away from God.

We check our daughters phone daily. We have an open door policy, meaning I can open her door whenever I want to and if I feel like it  I can go through everything in her room. We know who her friends are and who their parents are. We say no even when we don’t want to. We talk to her daily about whatever we can get out of her. We listen. We answer. We are not overbearing but it is our job to give her enough rope to venture, explore and learn but not enough to hang herself.

Not once in 13 years have we had to go through her room.
She’s never been grounded.
She’s never made a bad grade.
I’ve never been shocked by a single text or phone call in her phone.
I’ve never had to question her whereabouts or had to double-check her story.

She trust us and we trust her. She respects us and we respect her. We make it our goal to teach her to respect herself.

She’s not the perfect child (major teen brain these days) and we are by far the perfect parents but she knows without a doubt that she can tell us anything, I mean anything, and she will never get in trouble as long as she is honest with us.  She also knows that no matter what she will get the truth from us and we will give her as many details as she wants.

We decided to not be embarrassed or scared to talk to her about anything. We’ve decided that we pray for those who we feel are on the wrong path and never put them down or repeat rumors that we’ve heard about them. We’ve decided to tell her the truth about sex before someone else tells her lies or tries to physically show her what it all means. We’ve decided that her trusting us, knowing that we support her and that she is in an open and safe home is more important than the fear and mild embarrassment of having to sit down and talk about the birds and the bees.