If you’ve read my prior posts, you can probably tell that I am very fond of Eli, P and Z, and our blended family life. I haven’t, however, spent much time diving into how my kids feel about our situation. Of course I can’t read their minds on the topic, but most children don’t, and actually can’t, hide their true feelings. So, what do they think about all of this?
Two years ago, W and L lived in a home with their Mom and their Dad. They saw their Mom and their Dad every day. When they woke up in the middle of the night, they groggily walked through a familiar hallway and crawled up into bed with both of their parents. The same parents that they had always had. They sat down at the kitchen table for dinner, the only kitchen table that L had ever known, with their family. Their little family of 4. Despite me and their Dad both knowing that we weren’t making each other happy, W and L were happy, and our family time was warm and peaceful. Things were simple then.
Fast forward to today, they split their time between two houses. I don’t live in the home that they have grown up in. When they walk down that familiar hallway they arrive at a bed holding only one parent. When they sit down at that kitchen table, they are a family of three. That makes me really sad. They may be used to it by now, but I hate to think of them feeling like something, or someone is always missing. Things are very different from what they used to be, and the adjustment is ongoing.
I know they still think about our old life because occasionally W asks why his Dad and I got divorced. It’s always unexpected and it always knocks me off balance. We will be driving along and he will say something like, “I wish we were going home.” I respond with, “We are going home, sweetie.” And then he says, “No. I mean Dad’s home, where you used to live. I wish we were going home and you were staying there with us.” Sometimes I can’t find the words right away and we just sit there in the silence for a few minutes. He always gives me time to formulate my response. I think he knows it’s a challenging topic.
Most of the time I say something like, “Dad and I both love you very much. We didn’t make each other happy and we are better people, and better parents when we are living in separate houses. I know it’s hard to live in two houses, but just remember that no matter where you are, we are a family and you are SO loved.” Other times, I just answer with, “I’m sorry, buddy.” He doesn’t really respond either way, and I don’t push him to. We both soak in our reality, and then we move on when he is ready. If either one of my kids, at any moment, has questions about our situation, I answer openly, honestly, and age appropriately.
Sometimes I wonder if W talks to his friends at school about his home life. My parents split up when I was very young, and I can’t remember talking with anyone about it. Of course, my close friends knew because I would mention my Dad and my Step Dad, but it wasn’t really something I talked about. I actually don’t remember any of my friends having divorced parents either. Things are different now, but I don’t imagine the topic coming up too frequently in elementary school. I have asked him if any of his friends live at two houses like he does, and he says he doesn’t know. When it does come up with friends, I hope that my honesty and willingness to answer his questions has equipt him to answer in the way that he feels the most comfortable. Whether that is him saying, “I don’t want to talk about it,” or him saying, “I get two Christmas’s and my Mom and Dad are friends,” is completely up to him.
Not only are W and L having to adjust to a life where their Mom and their Dad are divorced, but they are also having to adjust to having Eli around. As I have said before, they LOVE Eli. He adds so much to their lives and provides more attention, more love, and more knowledge on a daily basis. The kids are undoubtedly benefiting from Eli being with us. When he is in LA visiting his kids, W and L ask for him and have said that our house doesn’t feel the same without him. That doesn’t mean that they fully understand, or accept having a man who is not their father living with us.
The hardest thing that my daughter especially, has had to adjust to, is that she can’t just crawl into bed with me if she is having trouble sleeping. I have a queen sized bed now, and Eli isn’t exactly a small man, so there is literally no space. I head back to her room and lay in bed with her there, but I know it’s not what she wants. At her Dad’s house, she gets to climb into a giant eastern king-sized bed and sleep safe and sound any night of the week, but here, it’s just not an option. This is a huge bummer for me. It’s not like I would prefer to have her sleep in my bed every night, but not giving her the option after a nightmare or hearing a “scary sound” overwhelms me with guilt. I never want her to feel like I don’t have space for her. I don’t want either of my kids to feel like I love them less than I love Eli.
I have enough love to go around, and I will always put my kids first, but do they know that? I tell them frequently, but whether or not they truly get it, I can’t be sure. Sharing Mom must be hard for them. When I was with their Dad, they got ALL of my attention. When I was single, they got ALL of my attention. So, now that Eli is in the picture, things are a little different. In the car, at the dinner table, on the couch watching bedtime shows, Eli is here with us. I sit with him, talk to him, hug him, and laugh with him. The kids see it and I have wondered if they feel jealous. I am pretty mindful of their attitudes and feelings, and normally, they are very much a part of the conversation, but it’s hard to tell if they ever feel left out.
And then there’s our time with P and Z. P and Z come to the Bay Area once per month. Some months, it’s just a long weekend, but other months they are here for weeks on end. They are what I would call “sometimes siblings.” Because of their ages, when they aren’t physically together, they really have no way to communicate, and I doubt they think about what one another are doing when they are away. So, for a portion of each month, W and L suddenly have siblings. Despite the infrequency of P and Z’s visits, they are extremely close. If you saw them all together, you would think they had been siblings since day one. We got a set of bunk beds for each of the kids’ rooms; the girls share a room and the boys share a room. It’s actually pretty adorable and they sleep so well when we have a full house!
The kids seem to love it, but I wonder what it must feel like for W and L to have P and Z in their space. Technically, it is our blended family’s home, but to W and L, this is our home. As in me, W, and L. Sometimes, L asks me where Eli lives. I laugh because we moved into our current house with Eli when L was 3. He doesn’t have another home; this is just as much his home as it is mine, but she doesn’t see it that way. This shows me that she still thinks of our family here as “her, W and Mommy.” I’m not sure if this means that she feels like Eli is a guest, but I’m sure she thinks of P and Z as guests, simply because of the number of days that they are with us each month.
There will come a day, sooner rather than later, that P and Z will be spending a lot more time here. Our cozy home will hold a blended family of 6. Eli and I will get married. The kids will continue growing. Their relationships with each other will strengthen and probably change as they get older. A lot of amazing things are coming our way. Of course, I want my kids to feel like we are all a big happy family, but I am going to be patient. In the meantime, the most important thing to me is that they feel happy, comfortable, loved and appreciated, every single day.