Why in the world would anyone want blended family advice from me? That was my first thought upon being asked to write this blog. Then I began to really think about it and realized that it was a very wise choice. If you want to learn how to do something well, to excel at something complicated, to be successful in a challenging endeavor, it is wise to learn from the mistakes of another. It is wise to not repeat the errors pointed out by another. This is my motivation for writing these few words about blended families.
There are a few disclosures that must be made. I am not an expert. I had no idea what I was doing when I started and I still don’t. I have made infinite mistakes and will continue to do so. I have no great resources to provide. Whatever I share will be mine. It is not my wife’s perspective. It’s not my kid’s perspective. They may all completely disagree with me and further prove that I am not an expert.
With that stated, here is my super weird perspective.
My family and I have Saturday morning breakfast frequently. It used to be every Saturday but I find myself working a lot of Saturday mornings now. That’s been a struggle. (See, I told you this is tough.) I’m an early riser so I get up early in the morning, read, and may do a little work. Then, I start on breakfast while everyone is still asleep. I make French toast, eggs, cheese grits, and either sausage or bacon. On TV, you frequently see a scene where a parent starts cooking and the sweet aroma fills the house and makes its way up the stairs to the noses of super appreciative family members.
Well, erase that from your mind. That’s not what it’s like for us. I cook but sometimes the only smell that goes up those stairs is of smoke if I burn the bacon or the French toast (that does not happen all that frequently anymore). If I’m lucky, I can serve as the whole house alarm, too, when the smoke detectors go off. That’s actually perfect because I usually have a hard time getting everyone up to eat the breakfast. The last one up is my wife. I usually have to send the kids up several times to harass her. This is really frustrating because she is supposed to make the smoothies. She makes awesome smoothies. Strawberries, raspberries, blue berries, bananas, yogurt, sugar, and whatever else she puts in there.
Because she is the last one up, we are normally waiting for her to eat. By this time, the food starts to get cold. My wife hates her food cold. She likes to see the steam rising from the plate. That list of fruit that goes into the smoothie does not include pineapples because my wife hates them, but I love them. The eggs I make do not include cheese because one of the kids hates them. One of my kids has a plate with no meat on it (unless I force-feed it to them). One kid won’t drink the smoothie under any condition. Another kid has to have powder sugar but wants it in a pile next to the French toast and also the syrup separated so they can dip the French toast (if it’s not burnt) into each mound of super sweetness.
I have two kids who say grace better than I do. One says it like a Baptist preacher in no hurry to receive the bounty prepared which normally results in me popping one eye open to see if this kid is serious—Yep. They are. The other “super-gracer” is not as long but exponentially more animated. A third kid will say grace as if someone is pulling their teeth and it’s shorter than the amount of time you want a doctor sticking a needle in your mouth. The fourth kid is not saying grace because God is not something very well understood by them and normally has their eyes open during the grace—and how do I know that if my own eyes are closed? Never mind….This is my blended family. I think our whole life can be summed up with our not as regular Saturday morning breakfast’s. Everyone does not like the same thing. Everyone does not come from the same place or parents. Everyone does not approach things the same way. Everyone is not going to agree on what’s on the menu and what is not. I don’t come to that breakfast table with a closed mind. I could look around and be ticked off each almost every Saturday and say that there is no way to make this work. Instead, I am thrilled to come to that table. It’s our thing. It’s the thing we do that looks like chaos but it’s our chaos.
I’ve come to love all of the different nuances of Saturday morning breakfast. I love each person at that table. I love the various personalities. I love the different desires. I love the conversation we have about school, work, movies we saw, games we played, jokes we’ve told, people we visited, trips we took, and so much more. That table is where we bring all of our uniqueness and differences and find a way to love one another. We have a blast doing it, too.
Our joy is increased when we have additions to the table. A grandparent. Family friend. Neighbors. Classmates. They’ve joined us. Our joy is always diminished when someone is missing. With blended families, there are times when someone could be missing every other week because of parent visitation agreements. We have one in college so we can go months with someone missing. It is in the times when someone is missing that we see just how much the almost every Saturday morning is not about the food. Sometimes, one of the kids will still put down a plate and cutlery for the missing person or persons. The grace might include the fact that someone is missing and we pray for him or her wherever they are.
When my kids know that I’m not going to be available on Saturday to cook breakfast because I’m out of town or because of work, they are really upset. It’s not because they enjoy burnt French toast or because they won’t have breakfast. It is because they will miss me. I’m the place at the table where there is someone missing.
“Almost every Saturday morning” breakfast has saved our family. I never want to do anything that makes anyone in my weird bunch to not feel welcome at that table. No matter what has been said and done, they are welcome. Their friends are welcome.
Sometimes, I watch everybody interact and just thank God for the opportunity to be among them. Each time strengthens our bonds, strengthens our marriage, and heals festering wounds.
For us, we’ve always had “almost every Saturday morning” — through custody battles running up $17,000 worth of attorney’s fees; having one of us in a mental institution for a week; losing a grandparent, sister, or a friend; telling one of your kids that they are about to go to a 6th school in 6 years; through marriage counseling when we both wanted to walk out of the room and quit; through stress on jobs or at school; through times when we couldn’t even afford to buy the ingredients for the breakfast and had to rob the kids’ piggy banks for gas to get to work; and through fights with exes.
Through all of it, I remember the words of Ecclesiastes 2:24. “There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God;”
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially on “almost every Saturday morning.”
Questions for you, even if you don’t have a blended family:
Where is your “almost every Saturday morning?” Where does your family become “family?” Where do you put down last night’s argument and do that thing y’all do that may be weird and mixed with a bunch of craziness but when it’s not there, you miss it?
Rev. Brian Tillman