I never imagined my adult life would include mastering pick-up and drop-off schedules, short-distance FaceTime calls, running interference and playing referee on behalf of my spouse, distributing extra sets of permission slips, managing multiple family group chats and being introduced as “The Other Mom.”
When I met my husband, I had a 3-year-old daughter. He had two children, a 2-year-old son and a just barely 1-year-old daughter. Eight years later, and our children are now 11, 10, and 9 years old. In a quest to conceive a child together, God blessed us with fraternal twin boys, now 3 years old. So here we are, a family of 7.
Sunday is what I call “Switch Day.” My husband navigated the tornado of the court system and established a shared custody agreement, so Sunday is the day when my husband’s children switch households.
It’s not as fun when they’re not here.
They spend a week with us, then a week with their mother; the schedules change by a few days during the holidays or pre-planned family activities or vacations. But for the most part, Sunday is THE day.
“I want to stay longer.”
“Why do I have to leave now?”
“Why can’t we all live together?”
“What about [insert event planned for the off week]?”
“Ugh, I wish my Mom and Dad were married.”
“It’s not fair.”
Even my oldest asks questions.
“Can I go with them?”
“When will they be back?”
“It’s not as fun when they’re not here.”
When FOMO settles into the heart of one of our children, it spills out with snappy comments, silence, and more often than not, rivers of tears. It’s not just the fear of missing out—it’s the guarantee of missing out. There have been birthday parties missed, family activities and outings and countless conversations, laughs, lectures, and meals that feel incomplete when our entire unit isn’t present.
While I can’t change the family dynamics, I can teach our children how to name, examine, and manage their emotions inside of our bubble.
… We’ve started to teach them how to grow their relationship as siblings (and friends)…
Our oldest daughter shuts down; we have prompted her to validate her feelings through journaling.
The other cries until she is red faced; she is learning how to take deep breaths and voice her feelings.
All of our children have been practicing how to express to each other that they’ll be missed, are missed, and talk about their experiences while they’re away from each.
While some of their experiences are compartmentalized between households, we’ve started to teach them how to grow their relationship as siblings (and friends) with engagements that aren’t under our roof.
My husband and I do our best to model how to engage and share. We ask, “Tell me about what you did with your grandparents this weekend?” Or, “You and your mom went to get ice cream last week? Yummy! What was your favorite part?” We try to teach them that although absent in our shared space, the love, the joy, care, and attention are always there.
It’s natural for our children to want all of their family around simultaneously. Who wouldn’t? The picture of blended families from The Pinkett-Smiths or The Alicia Keys/Swizz Beats/Mashondas are attainable. It’s just not our personal reality. And perhaps, our family will get there. Perhaps not. But in the meantime, I tell my children that the love and sacrifice, the energy and effort are everflowing.
It’s a reminder to myself as well. I’ve come to terms with the fact that all things won’t be equal and all persons won’t be present. While something like family vacations and school assemblies are non-negotiable, there will be triggers and there will be absences.
Sometimes these reassurances cause the tears to halt. Sometimes they are rejected with “Buts…” followed with more questions. Truthfully, I won’t have all the answers. At times, I make things up as I go, praying that they will grow in understanding of our family’s truth. The time we have will be intentional and full of gratitude and we’ll be sure to make the most of it.
Every single Sunday.