Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Blended family no Brady Bunch
Special to The Union
“You guys are just like ‘The Brady Bunch.’”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I could have hired Alice.
Our blended family of six boys and one girl did not live in the same galaxy as “The Brady Bunch”!
First of all, there was no “Alice.”
Second, there was not an even split of three boys and three girls. He brought five boys to the mix.
I have a son and daughter. While Courtney was the youngest, she was no Cindy Brady.
Third, I was not a stay-at-home Mom.
What the heck did Mrs. Brady do all day? The kids were in school!
I don’t recall episodes focused on a lot of volunteering in the classroom or afternoons spent helping with homework!
And again, she had Alice. What was the message?
Did raising six children require the full-time effort of two women?
Last, and the most important, difference between us and the Brady clan: We were not widowed; we were divorced.
Our children had parents, step-parents, step-siblings, from both step-parents.
It’s a challenging dynamic.
During our engagement, my future husband and I sought counseling to help us navigate the blending of our two families.
We had sessions discussing my fears and sanity. What kind of crazy was I?
We had sessions with the children present so they could discuss their fears as well, but in truth, there was no way to prepare for what was coming.
We knew it would be challenging. The counseling did help us with some practical matters, but the amount of help available geared specifically to the topic of blending families was not as prevalent 14 years ago as it is today.
We did a lot of “winging it.” And we did not always do it well.
Our boys spent 50 percent of their time living with us and the other half living about 20 minutes away with their mom and step-father.
We had them every Monday and Tuesday and every other weekend.
I always felt that constant disruption was cause for concern.
The shirt they wanted to wear may or may not have been at the right house and clean. Homework and school projects had to be transported and kept track of. Sports equipment and uniforms had to be packed and tracked. Rules and chores changed from house to house.
They shared their father with me and with my children.
When they were at their mother’s, they shared her and their home with their step-father and for a time, step-brother.
My children, on the other hand, did not have a regular schedule for visits with their father.
They lived in one house that half of the time they had to themselves with just their step-father and me.
Courtney always had a room to herself and my son had complete privacy half of the time.
They did have sporadic weekend visits to see their father, which meant interruption to their weekends, commitments and social schedules — but it was nothing like what their step-brothers lived.
As you can imagine, the dynamic in our house with two children was dramatically different than when there were seven.
I confess at times I was resentful.
My expectations for behavior were unrealistic.
There was a bit of an “us and them” mentality. We did not always blend well.
My husband and I are from different religious backgrounds. We are of different political parties. We parented very differently as well.
But we did do some things right.
The single best thing we did, in my opinion, was hold regular, sit-down family dinners.
Regardless of the kids’ schedules, we managed to get everyone at the table for our evening meal.
While it could be a form of torment on any given night (“he’s touching me,” “stop hitting,” “eat your noodles,” “no more soda” etc.), looking back, it was more often a time of laughter and memories in the making.
We each took time to check in, to hear what was going on, both good and bad.
We held hands and said a prayer and then we required participation from each member of the family.
Over time, that is what we became, a family.
Not a story of a lady raising two kids on her own or a man with five boys together all alone, as the song goes.
We have a shared history and memories.
Best of all, unlike the Brady Bunch, we have a future.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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