“The past is behind, learn from it.” (Thomas S. Monson)
As I’ve mentioned before, after we married my husband and his son moved into our home. To ease his son’s “culture shock,” my husband modified my family and house rules for his son. Which meant four children in the home lived one way and one child in the home lived another way. I don’t know what the experts would say about that but lets just say I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t appear to work. Honestly, I think it was frustrating for all parties involved. For my stepson, and despite the modifications, it still wasn’t his family, his former life, his former home and the way he was used to living, so I don’t think he was happy even with the modifications. Some of the children in the home couldn’t help but notice (and comment) about the differences and some of the younger children hounded me to have the same privileges and rules as the stepson instead of the ones our family had always lived by. With each passing month, it seemed to me like the arrangement wasn’t working very well but there was nothing I could do, I was the powerless new step-parent. And my poor husband simply tried to hold it all together for as long as he could!
Six months later my stepson moved in with his mother. He appeared happy to have a peaceful and quiet life again and to have his wishes repected regarding his living situation. I hoped it would turn out to be a good decision for him and that he would finally be happy. My husband missed his son.
A few months after that, my husband’s daughter was struggling in her life and living situation and it became necessary for her to find a new place to live. When the news reached her mother, she showed up on our porch one night, worried, emotional and panicked…and told my husband she couldn’t take her. Due to the challenges involved, my husband had some reservations about our ability to accommodate the needs of his daughter but we decided to give it a try. However, we had learned a few things from the previous experience; lessons taught to us courtesy of our inexperience and I wasn’t about to repeat them again!
I told my husband that for our situation, a contract (outlining rules, expectations and why things were expected, our parenting philosophy, etc…) was necessary. I wanted everyone involved to know and understand why I do what I do and why I emphasize certain things in the lives of the children I raise in our home. (Things like family time, chores/service to the family, good attitudes, faith/church activity, education/homework/good grades, obedience; I don’t think I insist on totally terrible or unrealistic things!) I was happy to do my part, but I wanted everyone to do their part, as well—including backing me up as a parent in my own home. I may have also said (ok, I totally did say) that unless all parties agreed to it and signed the document, we’d have to re-evaluate the situation and our decision. I feel THAT strongly that parents should be able to parent the children living in their home, regardless of who the children are, and I feel that way for so many reasons (to0 many to detail here.)
Interestingly, my husband consulted a counselor who suggested the very thing I had. The counselor had worked with teenage girls and their mothers just like my husband’s and advised, “Get it in writing and have all of the adults sign it.” I was assigned the task of writing the document, probably because I was the parent who felt very strongly about some things based on our previous experience (aka. I was the parent with the issues and concerns!) I wrote it, gave it to my husband, he reviewed it and added his input, and then I looked at him and said, “Now it’s your job to get it signed.”
I know Hollywood makes divorce look easy, like it’s blissful and easy to separate, rebuild new lives, create new families and everyone can be one big happy family–the husband, the wife, ex-wives, ex-husbands, stepchildren, half-siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and everyone else involved. I know some families who have done that and it works for them. I’m sure the aforementioned situation is true in every situation…but ours. And while we’re only one year into it and I know things change and ease into place over time, at this point, I believe in being polite and kind to everyone but my opinion (and take it with a grain of salt because I’m not a fan of divorce and never have been; my husband says my views of divorce and my ideas about it are “archaic”—right out of the 1970s!) is that there’s usually a reason men and women choose to divorce, preferring to destroy their family unit and put their children and their finances through all that that entails rather than remain married to one another. I believe if you can get along well enough to be one big happy family, spend your holidays together, and be good friends post-divorce, you should probably just work out your issues and remain married in the first place!
My husband had to get the document signed and by that time, I think he had a lot of hope. He had the chance to live with one of his children again and he desperately wanted to live one of his children again. He had a lot riding on that document. He needed his ex-wife’s signature to make it all possible and he was worried about that last tiny detail of the deal.
“A signature always reveals a man’s character – and sometimes even his name.” (Evan Esar)