Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quitting Normal

Normality is overrated. In fact, most people think or hope for something idealized, perfect, or a mythical kind of life and simply call this impossible standard, "normal." Well, the quicker we can jettison this notion of normal and move on to reality, the better off we're going to be in our stepfamilies.

Oh, but it's so hard to let go of normal. Normal is addicting. Quitting normal is like quitting smoking. Even if you do get convinved it might actually be harmful to you, you still want to sneak out back puff on a little normal, all the while promising yourself you'll cut back...maybe quit someday. And you put off the necessary steps to commit to quitting.

Just like cigarettes, an additciton to normal can get pretty expensive. A constant hope for normal is necessarily a firm commitment to persistent disappointment and continual disillusionment. There is only so much disappointment a heart can take before it gives out. But I tell you, it doesn't have to be that way. There is an alternative to normal that you might just find, after a while, is something of a wonder.

OK, let's swith metaphors. People in stepfamilies are pioneers. By definition there is nothing normal about pioneering and charting new territory. It is always a creative effort. It is always about facing new situations and figuring out what to do about them. It is about eliminating the word failure and replacing it with learning opportunity. Pioneers do not fail. They learn.

If pioneers were to rely on what was normal, what could be assumed in the city, what they relied on when they had abundant resrouces at their fingertips, they would find their disappointment insurmountable. But pioneers do not carry with them this addiction to normal; rather, they carry with them a desire to learn from challenge, a belief that pain is a teacher, an expectation that the next thing that happens is probably not what they expected. Pioneers assume that life is about to teach them something and they have decided to be teachable.

So far we have tried to quit normal like a pioneer quits smoking. That is probably a good enough mixed metaphor that we do not need to add another to futher complicate the message. The point is this: One of the most challenging problems people in stepfamilies face is their assumptions, expectations, and I suggest addition to normal. The reason normal is not achievable is not because people in stepfamilies are not capable. Rather it is because there is no normal. You cannot arrive a place that does not exist. Healthy stepfamilies? Yes. Creative arrangements in stepfamilies? Sure. This-is-who-we-have-become-and-I-never-in-a-million-years-would-have-dreamt-this stepfamilies? Yep, that too.

Normal stepfamilies? Nope, not a chance. And that's a good thing.


Angie said...

My favorite saying is "Stepfamilies are like snowflakes, no two are exactly the same." There are so many different stepfamily formations.
*1 member of the couple has children
*both members of the couple have bio children
*The new couple have no children together
*The new couple does have children together
*All of the kids live at home full time
*None of the kids live at home full time
*Some of the kids live at home full time
*Some of the kids's other bio-parent is active
*Some kids's other bio-parent is absent.
This list could go on and on.

Stepfamilies have very different needs/issues than intact nuclear famiies, further complicated by the fact that what works for one stepfamily may not be appropriate for another. Work with stepfamilies truly requires a personalized, comprehensive appoach.
Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.
Angie Blackwell, CPC, CFLE

Glad said...

I agree that normal is overrated. I've lived in step families all my life, and now I'm the step mom. Not ever did I see anything that I'd call normal. Each is unique.

My best advice is be honest and make choices that bring more love into the world.