So far, we’ve written about how well we work together, how wonderful our family is, how idealistic everything is. The truth is, it’s not always sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns.
Just like any other family, we bicker, we tiff, we argue. Communication breaks down, someone gets a little loud, and someone else gets the silent treatment. Sometimes, one of us is in the middle. Other times, the monkey decides to play Sweden and walks away.
How do we make it work?
Just kidding. Only a little alcohol. The rest of the time, we pretend to be patient. And I say “pretend” because we all know one of us would love to strangle the other.
Seriously, though, it’s hard. We all have our own quirks. Catie needs time alone. As do I, sometimes. Other times, Paul and I can be clingy. So we take turns doing things we need to stay sane. The problem is, it’s not always clear. We are individuals with unique needs, and it took a long time for us to understand. Sometimes, we still don’t.
For example… Paul and I grew up with the mentality that we are all one family. For us, if one is invited to a BBQ, the assumption is that the entire family is invited — because we’re one unit. We (the family) compromise so that we’re all happy, or as close to it as we can get. So, if someone really wants something, then we compromise (or sacrifice) because someone else’s happiness is more important than our own. This is the culture we grew up in.
Catie’s family believes that the individual should be honored. It was mind blowing for me.
Her family believes that whatever you want, you should do. (Within reason, of course. Please don’t go around killing people.) Each individual is his/her own person, so you can’t let someone else’s wants or behavior influence who you are or what you want. If it makes you happy, go for it. This is what Catie believes, too.
Hi there, Catie here. Call us crazy but an individual’s happiness is important (killing is bad but I think that should go without saying.) I’d like to point out that we were required to be responsible individuals that thought through our decisions and took how our choices would effect others into consideration. Out right meanness was not tolerated but being a martyr was frowned upon too. There is a balance, finding it is the tricky part. In the end our decisions needed to be the right ones for us.
Though Paul and I see six, Catie still believes that is four plus one and a half (Ri). Paul and I will work hard to make sure that we can all go together, be it dinner, movies, vacation, etc. If Catie and Ri can’t go, then none of us go. Because we are one family.
Catie has no problem going away with just Ri–or hell, by herself. This was very difficult for me to accept. Logically, I get it. She needs time with her family, or solo time to recharge. This is what she needs.
But honestly, in the past, I took it as a slap in the face. It was especially difficult for me to watch my daughter’s face drop when a trip to the drive-in was mentioned, followed by, “You’re not going. It’s just me and Ri.” Ouch. Okay. Perhaps it’s my upbringing. Or maybe it’s unresolved childhood issues of being excluded, of being “not good enough to be with us.” Who knows… But I don’t think I’d ever do that. Especially to a kid.
Catie again. A few things on this point:
- I’m never really “OK” with going away without Ri. I’m only mostly “OK” with not living with him (even if he is in his 20’s). I do both but it’s after long behind-the-scenes conversations with Ri to ensure that he is okay if I go without him. If he even hinted that he wasn’t, I wouldn’t go. But keep in mind separate vacations are not uncommon for us. Ri has gone on plenty of vacations without me (with my younger sister, my mom and dad and his dad.) So it’s not weird for us to be separated for vacations. I don’t think either Paul or Lena has really grasped how hard it was for me to choose to live here without Ri. It was the right choice but it didn’t make it an easy one.
- I’m not the kind of person that thinks every kid should be invited to the party. I know rejection sucks, I’ve been rejected plenty of times. Rejection helped me get better at picking friends and taught me that I really didn’t need other people to like me. If they did great, if not well I probably wouldn’t like them either. I was always encouraged to look at things from different points of view too. There could be a million reasons why I wasn’t specifically invited to something. Maybe they didn’t like me but maybe only a limited number of people could go or maybe they were shy about whatever it was. Or maybe their parents hated mine. What did I know? I knew that there were certainly things that I didn’t want to share with others. I also knew that forcing yourself in was a guaranteed way to make people resent you. Live and let live.
- Sometimes I really do just want to hang out with my son, like most parent/child pairs we get into a groove with each other and have similar taste. I enjoy spending time with Ri solo to connect and get in his head a bit. As much as I love Bina and T they get in the middle of this time. I don’t get to see Ri as often as I see them. If I bring them along, Ri is distracted by his sisters. They are about the same age and have a lot in common so of course they are going to talk among themselves and trade youtube videos. When Bina and/or T are there I find myself left out of conversations most of the time. A lot of non-poly, non-blended families work to make sure each parent has 1:1 time with each child, this is exactly what I’m doing.
- As much as I love Bina and T, they are high maintenance people. They must have creature comforts, screens, entertainment, snacks and their beds the second they are tired. Ri and I tend to just roll with whatever comes up, it’s how we are. Ok, sure Ri is the worlds pickiest eater, but you can find pizza pretty much anywhere. Other than food he’ll generally go with the flow. That drive in movie Lena mentioned? Yeah, we’ve tried that, it’s a nightmare. The movies go on until well after midnight (double features!!) someone will be miserable because they are so tired but the car is too noisy and uncomfortable to sleep in. If we get food this one doesn’t like x, that one doesn’t like y. There are mosquitoes and the weather might not be perfect. There is just a whole lot of whining if all six of us go. Whining makes me turn into The Hulk. If just Ri and I go we split a pizza, grab some popcorn and a couple soda’s and we settle in for the night. If one of us gets tired (usually me) no big, I’ll just doze for a bit, wake me for a good part. Easy peasy and relaxing to boot. Recreation that stresses me out is just not fun.
- I really do need alone time, its just how I relax and get my head back together.
- I can’t help but notice that all the 1:1 time Lena spends with Bina wasn’t mentioned. Or the time she spends with her big brother. Sure they go see their mom but then there is lunch and movies or television or whatever. They spend time together because they enjoy the same things, so they do/watch those things together. It’s good. I fully support it, I loved spending time with my family too. It’s important!!
But things change. And people change. The more time we spend together, the more our learned behaviors lessen. It took me a long time to un-learn what had been ingrained in me for three quarters of my life. Catie challenges everything I had known as fact. I no longer flinch when she says she’s going to dinner with her family. Or when she goes somewhere with Ri. And she no longer finches when we speak Portuguese. 😉
Okay, let’s be honest here… When she booked her cruise with just Ri, I needed to process it. Again, I consider us one family, and she sees it differently. It doesn’t mean our viewpoints are wrong. They’re just different.
If she had to wait until the six of us were available, she’d be waiting for forever. Remember the post about vacation? We would need formal invites, and acceptance notices. And it’s not fair to make her wait. But it still hurts to be excluded.
Catie: We need to go over the definition of “excluded” I never said “You people are not coming with us!” And I do consider us one family. I just look at situations as a whole. There is no way right now for all six of us to be away for more than a long weekend. It’s not going to happen. I don’t think that should mean that we don’t get to go away ever. Please keep in mind that (for me) this is very much a two way street. If Paul and Lena want to go away together with just their kids (or with just each other?) Go. Please by all means go. I will not be hurt or insulted or feel excluded. Our reality right now just does not allow for longer than 3 day vacations. It sucks, I wish we could all go away every single time but the reality of our life right now just does not allow for that. I don’t think this point of view makes me consider us as two separate families. We’re one family with very complicated schedules.
Catie: Yup. And even if I need alone time and 1:1 time with my son it doesn’t mean that I don’t love the four of them. I do, I also love the times when all six of us are together. I think I go above and beyond to be supportive, helpful, present and involved. I show up to the events (even if I don’t want to), I take the pictures, get meals on the table that everyone can eat, do the shopping, help renovate, attack weeds, clean up, walk dogs, contribute financially. Whatever it takes to keep the family running. To me that’s what being a family is about, the small day to day crap that gets constantly overlooked.
I love her…