Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Cards and the Pursuit of Normality

Sometimes stepfamilies form when the children are already grown up. That was my case. My parents divorced when I was in college and then my mother remarried when I was about 30 years. Life became different then. Holidays became different.

One point of tension came when my mother wanted me to address my new stepfather as father in my Christmas card to him. Well, that was never going to happen for one gigantic reason. He is not my father. What didn't help the situation is that one my stepfather's adult children addressed my mother as "mom."

Now, my mother was focused on the pursuit of normality, so I understand her action. But from my perspective, I did not want to accept the reality that with remarriage, my life was once again changing against my will. I am a stubborn one, you see.

But it gave me a little hint into what younger children go through when their newly formed stepfamilies push toward normality either too fast or inappropriately. It brings conflict and tension - especially during holidays.

Adjustment in stepfamilies and the pursuit of normality happens slowly. There is also an appropriate way to go about it. It is so important to understand this.

One thing my mother was doing was relieving her anxiety by (unbeknonwst to her) placing it on me. If I would have just addressed my stepfather as dad, then she would feel better about the whole situation. Well, that anxiety is hers to carry, not mine. Oh, I have my own that I don't need to place on here, so don't get me wrong. The point is that the desire for a feeling of normality can motivate behaviors that increase the tension father then decrease it.

So, when you're all around the tree or around the table, please be sensitive about pushing too quickly toward being a "normal" family, it is might just set you back.

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