Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Peas in a Pod

During this most recent weekend Linley spent the night in Athens with Meagan, getting her first taste of what life is like at the University of Georgia. They went shopping, dined at a student favorite cafĂ©, attended a gathering at a fraternity house, mulled around downtown among the bohemians, stayed up late painting their nails when back in the dorm, and maybe a few things they didn’t bother to tell me about.

Jill and I were delighted: our girls were acting like sisters. Linley told of when they were introduced as sisters and others commented that they look nothing alike, no explanation for their physical dissimilarity was given. For them, our girls, the “step-” modifier has fallen into uselessness. I couldn’t be happier with how they have take important places in each others lives, and will still have each other long after Jill and I are gone.

I am reminded of a post I wrote two years ago and want to share it again:

As we all sat on the front porch to enjoy the last warm days of autumn, Meagan turned to Jill and said, “Hey, you’ve been my step-mom almost two years now.” It’s true, just under two years have gone by since the day my life took a surprise turn in the road and headed down the aisle into matrimony.

Once a confirmed bachelor who vehemently vowed to never remarry, I had lunch with a high school friend in early 2004. She brought along a friend of hers, a beautiful woman named Jill. I fell in love with her within an hour. We wed that December and each brought a daughter into our marriage.

Jill and I had our share of concerns about combining our families; after all, each child had already lived all their lives as a doted on only child. Both girls had their own expectations, which they expressed without reservation, about what parent-child traditions would remain in place or be replaced, who would get the bigger bedroom or the final say in sibling disputes. My wife and I braced ourselves on the day we all moved into the new house together. We hoped for the best and prayed we had not just boarded a train destined to run off the tracks and into a dark and murky swamp.

Sure, we went through an adjustment period, when at one time or another each daughter cried tears of frustration about something the other had done or said. But Jill and I stood firm, united and expecting our children to work it out for the benefit of our newly blended family. We were determined not to be two families under one roof.

Now in retrospect, I could not have asked for a better experience putting our families together. I have only to think about scenes on our front porch or from our family vacations to find evidence our girls have indeed become siblings; not just two girls peacefully coexisting, but living together as sisters.

This summer while on vacation we rented three rooms at the bed and breakfast inn where we stayed. We did this to make sure the girls had their space and privacy, so they could take a break from each other if need be. Much to our surprise, they decided to sleep together in one bed rather than apart in their own rooms.

When I hugged them goodnight I realized there had not been one spat between them in spite of a mad rush at the airport, my annoyance when Jill, the navigator, got us lost, and all those hours spent in the car driving from Boston to our destination in upper Maine. I pictured them as they held hands to run across the street earlier in the day and when they shared ice cream on a park bench. In that moment I knew Jill and I were succeeding in giving the girls something special they had not had before - each other. We knew that by bringing them together through our marriage we were giving them a richer context for personal growth; we were better preparing them for their adult lives.

While each daughter retains many of her previous “only child” habits, they have also formed new ones, “sisterly” ones. They advise each other on what to wear, share their shoes, shop and get their nails done together, consult one another on boyfriend matters, keep secrets for one another, and laugh out loud as they make fun of the adults they must endure.

These moments reassure me that Jill and I are teaching the girls a valuable life lesson, that is, what a loving family looks and feels like. If there were only one thing we could do for the girls it would be to serve as the models for what marriage and family they will want for themselves one day.

So as we sat on our front porch together, planning weekends, holidays and future vacations, the sisters entertained themselves by making fun of each others’ habits, debating about which would end up a super model, and arguing with me about their need for a new suitcase just for shoes. Jill and I smiled at one another, delighted with what we have accomplished.

Just the other day Meagan told me she looked forward to the day she would become an aunt, a role not long ago she thought she would never get to play, a role that Linley makes possible for her, and vise-versa.

Yes, our home shelters one united family. Praise God for all good that comes.

1 comment:

Blended-Families.com said...

Congratulations for successfully blending your families. I think one of the success factors is being friends with your spouse. Your girls see you, two, as friends and they emulate it.

I offer you the following poems from Hallmark:

“A friend is one who never seems too busy to lend an ear or do a thoughtful deed . . . to give advice, to help you solve a problem, or speak the words of caring that you need . .

“A friend is one who never seems too settled or complacent to understand when changes come along . . . but accepts you, strengths and weaknesses together, whether you are right or you are wrong.

“A friend is one who knows you as you are, yet sees within you all that you can do or be someday . . . who inspires and encourages your efforts with praise for every step along the way.

“A friend is one who’s there in good and bad times – whether your paths run close or far apart. A friend is always there in mind and spirit – and most of all, a friend is there in heart.”