We went camping, all nine of us. We drove for ten hours to get to the first location and nobody died. In my books that’s a miracle.
You see, I’m not at my best when we are camping. I’m crabby and overtired and my anxiety is always running high. There is of course a perfectly logical explanation for this: We are either going to get in a horrible car accident because the 5th wheel will come unhitched (G tells me this is impossible but….) or someone will get attacked by a bear or a cougar and die, or we will be three hours away from the nearest hospital and someone will slice open their arteries with an axe and I’ll have to try and tie a tourniquet and I don’t think I’ll get it right.
G bought me a big shiny trailer so at least my anxiety doesn’t include sleeping in a tent and all that that entails.
Our family drove into our campsite in our forty foot toy hauler complete with electricity, indoor plumbing, a fridge to hold cold food, a generator, a sound system, an air conditioner, the Keurig (because without coffee, it’s not happening, period), and most importantly, a furnace.
My sister and her family of nine drove in with a tent, sleeping bags, and a couple of coolers.
I told G that my sister made me feel like a high maintainence princess. I was searching for understanding and sympathy. What I got was “well take a look around, you kinda are!”
Not what I was looking for.
I had my usual nightmares about bears eating my children, but it didn’t happen. I even let my sister take my son with her to go running in the morning, in spite of my accusations that she was just using him as bear fodder.
One morning I came staggering out of my trailer, coffee in hand, after a night of little sleep only to have my brother-in-law say to me “man, you roughed it so hard last night! Your furnace came on like every 5 minutes! How did you stand it?!”
So kind. So supportive and caring..
Regardless of the insults and the ever present anxiety, I had a great time. My favourite part was watching my two year old niece. Life is so simple when you’re two years old. Everything is either amazing and wonderful, or life is horrible and it’s the worst day ever and the world is ending. There is no in-between.
It made me wish life was so simple as an adult.
We are watching teenagers growing up and wrestling with decisions about who they are and who they want to be. We are living with the everyday challenges of a blended family, including first family traditions and expectations, and generally just learning how to live with one another.
Things are different when you have kids from first families. There is an unwritten code book that’s already established. And there’s this weird sort of understanding that naturally flows from the parents to the kids. You get each other. You understand what’s expected and what you can get away with. You know how to read your kid and they know how to read their parent.
None of that is there when you join together two already established family cultures. You have to learn how to read one another, how to take one another, what is expected of you, and what your role is. It’s a whole new culture with a new language you have to learn, and nobody is exempt.
While I think we are doing really well at this whole blended family deal, I’m aware that there is still lots to learn about one another. The relationships are complicated and the new rules and expectations can feel abstract.
While there are some really rewarding moments, life would be so much simpler if all that mattered was whether or not you had dry pants, a new toy, and a bigger cookie than your siblings.