“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance!”
– George Bernard Shaw, Playwright
I want my real family back..
Tara was a talkative, fourteen year old with green, sparkling eyes and dirty blond hair. Each cheek held a dimple which disappeared when she smiled into a wide grin of ivory perfection. She was the oldest of two, her sister being half her age. Tara was very protective of Erin and mothered her a lot since her parents had split. Both parents had remarried within the following year. It all was very confusing to both Tara and Erin. While Erin, being younger, kept it to herself, Tara was quick to voice her opinions to any one who would listen. I was the current listener and Tara was very angry.
“I don’t want to be in a blended family…I want my real family back…I want my Mom and Dad to get back together…and I want our old house back, too!” she burst out one morning as she was settling down in my office rocking chair.
Suspecting an upsetting, earlier discussion with her Mom who had just dropped her off, I asked her, “Tara, you sound really upset…what’s going on?”
She replied, “Ken, Mom told me, on the way here, I have to get used to my new situation…where I live and who I live with…well I am not going to…and that’s final!”
“Tara, do you think your situation is unusual and quite different from most of your friends and classmates?” I asked her to get her thinking instead of just feeling angry.
You mean there is a 50% chance a marriage will last and 50% it won’t!
“I really don’t know and don’t care…I just want my family back together!” She retorted.
“Well, FYI…half of all marriages split up and six out of ten kids in Canada will live in a one parent family…so it is pretty common…if that is any comfort to you!” I said.
“Really? You mean there is a 50% chance a marriage will last and 50% it won’t!”
“Yep…that’s because all relationships, including marriage, are for learning…not for getting happy!” I responded to keep her thinking and learning.
“What is someone supposed to learn from a marriage… or even a divorce for that matter?” Tara asked with a challenge in her voice.
“You are supposed to learn more appreciation for yourself and gratitude for your life!” I said.
“You’re kidding me, right? My Mom and Dad are supposed to learn to like themselves and their life more by breaking up our family…I don’t understand that at all!” She replied with skepticism written all over her youthful face.
“And it applies to you and to every child involved!” I added.
“If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections,
held together but separable, each segment distinct!”
– Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Author
Do you want to prove it to yourself?
“Ken, are you saying I am supposed to learn to appreciate myself and my life more because my parents split up?”
“I am indeed Tara…do you want to prove it to yourself?”
“This I gotta see!” she replied retaining her skeptical tone.
“Well, Tara, there are at least seven angles we can use to look at our life: mental (self esteem, self confidence), vocational (career, studies), financial (forms of wealth), social (friends, colleagues, community networks), familial (family networks), physical (health, fitness) and spiritual (beliefs, connections to universe).”
“Wow! This sounds complicated!”
“Actually it really isn’t Tara…it is just we rarely look at ourselves from all the various perspectives which are available to us…let’s start with the mental angle. Can you see how you have gained self esteem or self confidence in some form since your parents split up?” I asked her wondering where she would take this question and if she was ready to open up her awareness to the truth of her situation.
I am better at taking care of myself now…
Tara was thoughtful for a moment looking into her past, moving her eyes to her right. Then she said…rather cautiously, “I guess…ignoring all the drama that went down at home during the split for a moment…I am better at taking care of myself now…I kinda of have become more independent in certain things like getting my homework done.”
“OK, let’s move to vocational for a moment…any useful changes there?” I asked her.
“My grade have actually gone up a little bit since I have been more focused on getting them out of the way each evening.” Tara replied.
“OK, how about financial, have you noted any benefits there?”
“Well, I took on a part time job at MacDonalds to get out of the house after school. I don’t make much at it …but I think I value my time more now and am starting to use it more carefully…does that make sense Ken?”
“It sure does…it sounds like your self worth went up a notch!” I replied.
Tara looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds and then looked away.
I found out pretty quickly who my real friends were…
“How about your social life…what has happened there?” I asked.
“For me, that’s easier to see. Ken, I found out pretty quickly who my real friends were. My social circle was pretty wide but I learned I really have only three close friends who have stuck by me while my family disintegrated.”
“What about your family relationships…how have they changed for the better for you Tara?”
“Erin and I are really close now…we were always fairly close but now it seems to have a new dimension…it is like I am much more aware of her…I make more time for her as well…and we still have fun together!”
“What about your relationships to your parents…how has it evolved Tara?”
“It is kind of interesting when I stop and think about it. Since they split there is, of course, a lot less bickering between them…but also when we are with them they are more attentive to both of us…it is like they appreciate us more in some special way.”
“My family is my strength and my weakness.”
– Aishwarya Rai Bachahan, Director
So, you feel more special than when they were together…
“That is interesting! So, you feel more special than when they were together. What have been the changes physically such as in your health or energy level?” I asked.
“Since Erin and I spend more time together, I am more conscious of making sure she doesn’t pig out on junk food. And I kinda have to show her how to eat nutritiously…the result of which is I’m eating better too…to the point where I am feeling better and even seem to have more spark…at least, according to my friends!”
“Good for you Tara. Now finally what about your spirit…how has it been impacted by the changes in your family dynamic?”
“Ken, that’s probably the most interesting part. Since both Mom and Dad have remarried I bet at least three people have remarked about how more independent and mature I’ve become. It’s like I am stronger, smarter in ways I never noticed before…it’s like my spirit has got stronger and more determined than before!” she said with a calm edge of pride to her voice.
it doesn’t sound so bad at all…does it?
“Tara, permit me to summarize what you just said. It sounds like being part of not one but two blended families has not just cost you but also benefited you in ways which surprise you…like developing more self esteem, getting better grades, become more savvy with money, finding out who are your real friends, strengthening your relationship to Erin and your parents, becoming more health conscious and developing a stronger sense of your self and your own spirit. Does that sound accurate Tara?” I asked her.
“Ken, when you put it all together like that, it doesn’t sound so bad at all…does it?”
“Let me ask you one more question before we finish up for the day. Tara, would you be willing to give up all you have achieved, in the seven areas of your life, to have your parents back together?”
I’m wiser, stronger like I said before…but also more appreciative of myself…
Tara sat back in her chair, looked up high over my head, deep in thought. The seconds ticked by slowly while she reflected on this question. Some would say it was an unfair question. Some might say it was a cruel question. Still others would say it was the most honest question anyone could ask Tara at this point in her life. I simply waited for her to process it.
Finally, she looked up at me, her eyes glistened with feeling and she said, “Ken, I’m a different person now than before. I’m wiser, stronger like I said before…but also more appreciative of myself, my sister and even my parents in ways I could not have imagined. I can’t go back…I can’t get dumber or more naive…so No, I wouldn’t trade what I have now for what I had…it doesn’t make sense to me anymore to think that way!”
“So Tara…no mistake?” I asked.
“No mistake, Ken! And as I say that to you, I notice, I haven’t even mentioned my new step siblings and what unique insights they will bring to all this. I am realizing blended families are just families in a new form.”
“You are wise indeed Tara!” I said.
“Family isn’t really about genetics at all…it is really about people in your life who want you in their life!”
– King Ayles, Author
Until Next time…
Feel free to send us your feedback and monthly theme suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have any specific questions about youth, relationships or any issue, feel free to contact me.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- Blended families are very common today.
- Every marriage follows the 50/50 symmetry law of nature.
- Blended families are no better or worse than a traditional family.
- Your parents lifestyle choices will always have a 50/50 cost / benefit to you.
- There are no mistakes only learning opportunities in your family life.
- Every family event helps you grow yourself in important ways.
- Divorce is a learning tool for each person involved whether adult or child.