Perhaps it’s just because I’m tired of reading these stepfamily self-help books that don’t seem to offer me real solutions, but this book really annoyed the tar out of me. The author just seemed really inconsistent in several areas:
• At the beginning of the book she states that the marriage is the most important thing to protect and focus on but then the rest of the book is about compromising with the kids and making sure they are comfortable with everything so their wounds can heal. [Note: I know that kids of divorce are definitely wounded. I was one and still deal with some fallout and I have two step-kids. And there does need to be some sensitivity to what they are experiencing. However, kids also thrive on stability and boundaries…even though most would state they don’t like them and try to push them every chance they get.
• At one point she states that the biological parent should be in charge of all discipline and instruction. However, later she talks about both parents being respected and seen as an authority – which doesn’t happen if they are not both able to enforce discipline. Also, how does that work when the person spending the majority of the time with the kids is *not* the biological parent? Do you just keep a list of the offenses for the bio parent to deal with when they get home? That’s not much fun plus can lead to conflicts in interpretation.
• In the first part of the book, the author talks about having consistent rules that are always in place and apply to everyone paired with specific consequences when those rules are disobeyed. However, later in the book she is talking about her kids versus her husband’s kids. She was naturally stricter than her husband, and so her kids were used to stricter rules and they kept that in place with them. However, her husband’s kids were used to more lax standards having only been with their dad for visitation before he got custody a year after their marriage. And her husband felt that it was better to be more lenient on rule and consequence enforcement than to risk having the girls return to their mom’s home. This caused a lot of resentment in the author (and I imagine her kids) until she decided to compromise with her husband and go with leniency on his kids. WHAT?!?
Also, her “blended” family was a two step-parent home. Both brought children into the marriage and that is certainly a different dynamic. As a result, most of the applications applied a lot from a biological parent standpoint that I just really stretch to grasp since I’m not one.
Their family had clear custody with every other weekend/summer visitation. So a lot of the ideas, again, were not practical for a home like ours where the kids go back and forth every 2 – 4 days. For example, my MIL loaned me this book to read (no, that’s *not* why I’m finding fault with it) and specifically pointed out the way the author solved the “clothing dilemma.” I’m sure it happens in every house. It seriously does in ours. I go through the girls clothes with them each season to see what fits, what doesn’t fit, and what we need to purchase. Then go out and purchase new clothes. New clothes that are then worn to their mother’s house and we never see again because they are returned to us in clothes I either need to dispose of (don’t fit, stained, torn) or that I make sure to send back to that household or the younger one is sent in the older ones clothes that week or vice versa. So I’m left without clothes and trudge back to the store to purchase another wardrobe for that season…or at least stop up the gaps again. Case in point: summer clothes this year. I have already had to go purchase more shirts for the older one because most of the ones for school have vanished over the last month. The author’s solution is a great one. In the suitcase she puts a list of everything her step-kids take with them for the weekend so they can pack them up to bring back at the end of the weekend or month (during summer). Fabulous idea! Doesn’t work for us. We don’t use suitcases. The girls get taken to school by one household and picked up by the other on transition day. And so we continually buy clothes.
I do have to say, what this family did clearly worked for them. Their kids are all grown up and they all still like each other. Kudos. But my take away from the book wasn’t really practical. Just the reminder that I need to keep praying and communicating with my DH.