I had a dream when I was younger, as Iím sure most of us do. I dreamt that I would have 2 kids, a boy and a girl, maybe 2 years apart, and that would be my contribution to planet earthís populace.
Reality however, has a way of throwing up something completely different, that it apparently seems to think I am capable of so much more.
Without explaining it in too much detail, our family make up now goes like this: 7 kids, 3 dads, 2 mums. Yes itís a blended family, with all the enjoyment and struggles that it brings, so many dynamics to observe and understand. There are 6 girls and 1 boy, my only son. We enjoy each otherís company immensely when he stays, and we get to have Ďman timeí. I have 3 children from a previous marriage and they live with their mum in another country, but when they visit itís some of the greatest times of the year.
A friend asked me once, "How do you do it?"
"Do what?" I replied.
"I only have three kids and I struggle at times, but you have seven and you live in a house with five girls".
I simply smiled and told him each day is different and I just accept that with five girls (including my wife) things arenít always going to go your way. In fact, hardly ever!
In the house where the eldest is eighteen and the youngest three, it can be a trying day at times when each of them has different wants, needs and expectations and each of them requires you to communicate with them in a completely different manner than their sisters. Hats off to my wife who does all this, and works a little part time job, and then has to listen to my wants and needs. Iím ready to go back to work after the weekend!
The fact is parenting in a blended family has its difficulties that donít arise in a non-blended family. Any parenting has difficulties but sometimes I have to sit back, take a good long look at how I ended up in this position, and just laugh then smile wipe the tears from my eyes and think Ďyesí Iíve got a whole lot of kids here, and they all love me, some days you just canít think too hard about being a good parent.
We see so many parent help books and articles on this and that, on every subject you can think of. It becomes intense when you try and do all the right things. Yet some days it pays not to. Some weekends we put a mattress in the lounge, make popcorn, eat chocolate, drink loads of fizzy and watch movies all night, then in the morning the kids eat the leftovers for breakfast. Horror you may say, but not really - the whole family got more value out of that one night of just chilling as a family than my wife and I trying to sit down and stress about making sure each child was being 'properly' attended to.
It is the parents that must set the tone, attitude and culture of the family home. In our house it can at times be insane. The girls talk so much, they never stop, and itís all at a higher octave than my ears can cope with. The fights and arguments the screaming the crying - it can all be overwhelming, Iím quite often found later on in some dark quiet corner of the house, pondering the nuances of life, whilst rocking gently backwards and forwards.
You are parents all the time, yet you are also friends, playmates, counsellors, medics, teachers, horses and race cars, pirates and silly monsters. Kids need your time and wisdom, they need direction and discipline. Yet they also need time to just be a kid, to learn and grow and get dirty and messy. Countless times we have vacuumed the floors and carpets, removing flour, dirt, rice and so on. I have even had to let the cat out of the fridge - just donít ask.
Parenting is hard work and Iím not even home all the time, but it is also fun. Donít take it too seriously - just wait till the serious needs arise.
I read somewhere once that having children is like having a piece of your heart hop out of your chest and walk beside you. So very true.