I often listen to Christian radio broadcasts while handwashing dishes. One morning this summer, I heard Ron Deal speak on Family Life Today. I rushed over to the radio with my sudsy hand to turn up the volume, listening closely to his link between a slow cooker and blended families. I’ve had to adjust to three remarriages as a child of divorce, so this topic piqued my interest.
Deal says a blended family needs to adjust slowly, like a pot roast in a slow cooker. But many parents try to create instant happiness, using high speed and friction as in a blender. He asserts that children need more time to adjust to the remarriage than they need to grieve the loss of the previous family, an average of five to seven years. Often the children are the family members who suffer most because they don’t get adequate time to adjust.
If you try to hurry a recipe for pot roast, you will fail. The meat gets tough and dry, the carrots and potatoes are still hard, and the onions and celery turn to mush. You must use low, slow heat to achieve a harmony of tender meat and flavorful vegetables. That’s what a slow cooker provides.
Deal says there’s a carrot in every family. While everyone else is softening up nicely, the carrot remains hard. Sometimes it’s the teenager. Sometimes it’s the part-time child who doesn’t see the stepparent often enough, so the relationship can’t gel. The carrot needs extra time to soften at a low simmer, at a low level of stress and expectation.
As I listened, an old, angry flame leapt up inside. I was the carrot! My mom remarried the week after I turned 13. For eight years I had shared the household with my mom and my sister, and I felt threatened by the inevitable changes. As an introvert at such a precarious age, I preferred to sit in my room and sort out my thoughts in my journal or through prayer. As a people pleaser, I often went along with Mom’s sincere attempts to create happy family time, but I buried my resentment. My sister didn’t seem to resist the change, but I continued to stand at a distance for a long time. At least five years passed before I felt comfortable in our new family. St. Louis Cardinals baseball became the neutral bridge and allowed us to build pleasant memories.
Ron Deal says parents must validate their children’s struggles and their fears during the blending process. I wish someone would have recognized the pressure I faced, from within and without, and told me, “I know this is hard for you.” Perhaps my transition might have been less painful.
Do you know someone who could benefit from this teaching? You can listen to the broadcast or download the transcripts from http://www.familylife.com/audio/series/2013/stepfamily-blender-or-crockpot.
How does this teaching affect you as a child of divorce or as a blended family parent?