Monthly Archives: January 2011

Bonus, step, bio, blood — what do we call ourselves?

Politics get into every aspect of our lives. Labelling of our family types is not exempt.

While reading on a message board earlier this week, I came across a post that pointed out to a previous poster that the term “bio” had negative connotations and was frowned upon. Really? I’ve been referring to the children I’ve given birth to as “bio” kids for awhile. I like the sound of the word. I think it is descriptive and accurate.

So, if not bio, what? “Blood?” Yuck!  “Natural?”  All kids are natural.  How about “my children from my previous relationship/marriage” or even more cumbersome and obnoxious, “my children with _______.”  No thanks!

Oh, I know! I should just say “my” kids and “his” kids. I really don’t like that at all. It removes our unity and puts separation in our family.

I have been aware for some time that “step” is not favored. I’ve tried out “bonus,” which has a nice ring to it and I am comfortable using it. But when talking to other people, will they understand me if I talk about my bonus daughters? Probably not, unless they have been reading about blended families lately.

So what do we do? Define ourselves and label ourselves as we like. 🙂

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Love Blooms by the Trash Compactor

My husband and I met where he worked and I lived. I’ve been mulling over how much to share about our history. I’ve concluded that since we are a blended family because of our romantic relationship, more details are better. 🙂

My husband was the maintenance man extraordinaire at the apartment complex I moved to when I left my ex. His duties included collecting all of the dumpsters and depositing the contents into the compactor. My parking space at my single mom digs was located near the trash compactor, so we saw each other a lot. Whenever he saw me he would smile and wave. I usually approached him to chat. There was something soothing and comforting about his demeanor. I enjoyed listening to him talk about his daughters. His fatherly pride and love for them impressed me.

I remember nearly every detail of each of our “chance” meetings. I say “chance” because I would often take my preschool aged son out for a walk, hoping I would run into him. And he reciprocated. Whenever he drove by in the maintenance vehicle he would pull over to talk to me. When I brought my trash out he would declare a smoke break so we could chat. I always made sure that I stood up-wind. It was strange, really. Me, a self-professed germaphobe who gagged at the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke, hanging out by open dumpsters to talk to a cigarette smoking man.

He had really caught me.

Next time, I will tell you why.


InterCultural Challenges

Challenge #1

Only half of my husband’s family speaks English.

Have I mentioned that I am only proficient in English?

Challenge #2

Differing gender role expectations.

Have I mentioned that in my 20s I was a self described radical feminist?

 

Let’s tackle the language challenge first. My husband is biliteral, not just bilingual. A biliteral person is proficient in speaking, reading, and writing more than one language. I knew him for months before I became aware that he was from another country. No kidding. It’s true! And when the person told me, I didn’t believe her.

When we started dating I was not made aware that many of his family members did not speak English. In fact, I believe we were driving to his sisters’ house when he mentioned in passing that she was just starting English language classes. Did I feel awkward when I met her? Yes. Was I worried that he would think I didn’t fit in because of the language barrier? Yes. To a certain extent the language barrier has been a problem.

It has also been a blessing. There have been times when I just felt like spacing out. Since I don’t speak the other language no one expects me to follow the conversation. I also stink at casual conversation and chit chat. No worries there! No one expects me to be chatty. I tend to be shy and a bit of a wallflower. Ahh! Being ignorant of the language suits me perfectly.

And then there are the times when it really stinks. Like when I met my mother in law. I could only say that I was pleased to meet her. After that we were not able to communicate. I spent a lot of time smiling and nodding. I’d like to say that my husband did an excellent job of translating for us, but he didn’t. And still doesn’t. Over time, and with a little study, I have gotten to the point where I can identify about 25% of a conversation. However, I still cannot participate and I am still struggling to learn the language. I am looking forward to the day when I can hold my own in a conversation. Then I will feel like I am really a part of the family.

We’ll tackle gender roles next time …

 


Blending Families, Blending Cultures

When there is a parental opening in a family, two things may happen. The family will either remain without one of the parental figures in the home or a new person will fill that role. Within those two options, the world turns.

Several years ago, I became a single mom with three children. I was in my late thirties at the time and my kids (boy, girl, boy) were ages 9, 5, and 2.

I am from a caucasian, middle class, U.S. background. I earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts prior to becoming a parent. When my first son was born I dove headfirst into being an at-home mom, forgoing a career. When I became single, I had no idea what the future would hold for my children and I. One thing I did know was that taking care of and providing for my kids came first. Love was on the back burner.

. . . . . . . . . . .

As I completed a Master in Teaching degree a year and a half into single momhood,  I fell in love with a first generation immigrant. His two daugthers from his previous marriage have a mother who is also a first generation immigrant. His socio-economic and educational background are vastly different from my own. In my blissful ignorance, I entered our relationship thinking that our main cultural difference was food.

My husband and I knew each other for a year and a half before we became a couple. We introduced our children to each other just 2 months into our romance. At the time they were g15, b11, g8, g7, b4. His kids thought my kids were weird. My kids thought his kids were quiet.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Combining our two families has been an adventure with many challenges and joys along the way. The process has been greatly impacted by our differing cultural backgrounds. In this blog, I will share our experiences and how we have tackled them. We have now been together for 3 years. For the most part the kids all get along great. There have been some unexpected events, things that have had a dramatic impact on our family, but there are later posts for that.

Welcome! And thank you for reading.


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