All Aboard For Dysfunction Junction

February 12th, 2013 posted by Sharon Delso

“Home for the holidays” is a popular phrase this time of year. However, in our blended family, “home for the holidays” means finding a few hours when all eight members are in the same zip code at the same time. Since joining the ranks of Remarried with Children eight years ago, my husband and I have discovered that a once simple tradition of family gathering has evolved into a frenzied ritual I refer to as the Stepfamily Shuffle. This ritual can best be described in our own version of that famous holiday travel song, Over the River and Through The Woods, revised as Waiting in Airports and Traffic Jams. Coordination of this year’s festivities will require the precision timing of an air traffic controller in order to ensure that all arrivals and departures are accomplished without any casualties. After spending the better part of two days at the airport awaiting the arrival of two of our boys from different locations, my three-year-old will have ample opportunity to teach the Moonies a new song and dance. Following a brief layover at our home base, the older kids will land long enough to unload cargo and refuel, only to depart with their friends toward destinations unknown.

The first item on the family gathering itinerary is the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. Although I would prefer that the boys wear dress shirts, I’ll settle for shirts without rock band logos. A tie is completely out of the question, but a collar is a bonus. This brood fills an entire pew, so I silently pray that none of the children out of pinching range will manage to singe the hair off of the person in front of them, or set the pew on fire. Assuming that there are no mishaps at church involving the Fire Department, we will return home for the annual Dysfunctional Family Portrait. This always proves to be a challenge requiring an entire roll of film in hopes of gaining one acceptable picture. Ideally, everyone will have their eyes open and their mouths closed; but we’ll consider it a success if we can get one without the baby’s dress pulled up over her head and the toddler’s finger up his nose.

Stepfamily Problems : How to Solve Them Straightforward, down-to-earth answers about the whos, the whys, and the whens of anger, resentment, and conflicts blended families experience.

Excited children will awake before the sun on Christmas morning to the amazement that Santa has arrived despite their behavior all year. The novelty of the new gifts will diminish in about an hour, and then we’re off for more holiday cheer with my parents and siblings. This is always a chaotic crowd of out-of-control children amassing more presents and overdosing on candy, while the adults cope with strong coffee and liqueur as Bing croons his Christmas best. The next event is the dreaded trip to see the in-laws. It’s not that we don’t want to visit, we would just rather skip the journey. What was once a four-hour drive has become a six-hour nightmare. Traveling with this crew necessitates a convoy of two vehicles. The family van will be loaded with the baby, three-year-old and all of their associated paraphernalia. I will also insist that the 13-year-old ride with us — partly to help entertain the younger ones, but mostly because I don’t want him exposed yet to the tales of college life, which is sure to be the topic of conversation in the other car well out of range of mom ears. Of course, this decision will inspire a new rendition of “That’s Not Fair!” which will only be heard between refrains of “How much longer?” and the chorus of “She’s touching me!” My husband will provide the instrumental accompaniment by alternately pounding the steering wheel and blasting the horn in response to other holiday travelers’ creative driving skills. I treated myself with an early travel gift this year by obtaining enough Valium to keep a horse sedated for six months. That should get me through the season with a semblance of sanity and put a new spin on Happy Holidays for my family. The merriment and mayhem will continue once we arrive at our destination. The teens will quickly sneak outside to play fruitcake hockey followed by cheeseball golf. Grandma and Aunt Gertie are likely to be found in the kitchen giggling over the eggnog and making lewd comments to the new talking toy, Bedtime Bubba, which bears a striking resemblance to Uncle Pervy. The final stop on this twisted trek is that of Dysfunction Junction (a.k.a. McDonald’s parking lot). Here we will meet the ex-spouses and unload four hungry children, three pounds of chocolate, two dozen CDs and a partridge in a pear tree. All senses on complete overload, we will then return home with the two youngest children in preparation for the Gottahave Season deprogramming phase, which generally lasts well into February. Christmas time for a child in a blended family can be a lucrative opportunity. The kids may grumble about shuttling from place to place, but by the end of December, our older children will have celebrated Christmas six times and accumulated a tremendous bounty. Feeling slighted as an “ours” child, my youngest son wants to know when he can have “other parents” too, so he can get more toys. Each year I vow that our gatherings will be simpler than the year before; yet the holiday season seems to get more complicated as the years pass. Next year, my family shouldn’t be surprised to find me “home for the holidays” in a cabin in Montana, crafting handmade gifts and writing manifestos.

about the author Sharon Delso and her husband live in Arlington, Texas and head a blended family of Yours, Mine and Ours. Each brought two boys to the marriage and they have since added a boy and a girl.

Sharon Delso (2 Posts)

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