When looking back on some of my favorite childhood memories, I think of the King of Prussia Mall. I remember the shop ‘til ya drop days spent with my mom. I never wanted those days to end. Spending time alone with my mom was special because I didn’t have to compete with any other siblings. I felt so cherished. Recently I had a weekend almost all to myself with my dad. No husband, no kids, no siblings (except for the occasional drop ins). It was just some good old-fashioned daddy/daughter time. There sure is something special about one on one quality time with a parent. Times like those make me feel loved beyond measure.
I grew up in what the world calls a “broken home.” Being the second youngest of six kids didn’t make things much easier. My parents were divorced around the time I was 5 years old. Four of my older siblings had spent many years growing up in what seemed like a normal home with a normal mom and dad and normal family memories. Most of my memories begin during the darkest times for my parents. Through the years, it has been a burden to find my place in our family. The parents I grew up knowing weren’t the same as the parents my siblings knew before the divorce. The ugly, green monster of jealousy reared its ugly head quite a few times between my siblings and myself because I wished I could remember mom and dad being happy. I wanted to be a part of the family vacations I saw in the pictures.
Statistics state that 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. Statistics also say that 50% of those divorces involve children under the age of 18. With that, many children are forced to live in that statistic feeling abandoned. It’s not easy to escape the “broken home” stigmas. As children, we can be left questioning our identities, struggling to really find our places and wondering where we belong in this broken puzzle. As the adults involved in the broken marriage try to regain their lives, many times the children are put on the back burner. Sadly, while trying to find themselves again, parents can forget that their children are greatly affected by this new life. Children are left to sort through their emotions on their own, and many are too young to know how to deal with this new life situation.
Now, being the initiator of a broken home, I have realized that my own emotions sometimes need to take the backseat, and I really focus on our children. I take value in those precious times alone with my children. I even value the times when life only allows us just a few minutes of time alone. Not just my biological children but my stepchildren as well. Whether it’s grabbing my first born to have a mini driving sesh or cross stitching with my stepdaughter, I can appreciate the value of those few precious moments alone with them. Not only do I want them to have good memories of their time growing up, I want them to know that they are each equally important to our family and loved by their mom/stepmom.
My advice…. let your children and stepchildren know that they belong right where they are. Show them that even in all of life’s distractions they matter. Take 5 minutes, an hour, or even a special day to let them know that you love them and you value time with them! Life can be demanding of our time, so time may only afford a bike ride or quick lunch date. We’ve made it tradition to have both my bio and step children plan their special day or time. I give them the freedom to decide what we are going to do, and I let them call all of the shots. My children absolutely love it, and I know they will always remember and cherish those times when I made them feel so special!
P.S. Mom – Thanks for all the Cinnabons. I can’t walk past one without thinking of you and our special days! (Luckily, now I can resist them). Dad – Thanks for making the bamboo wind chimes. Every time they clunk outside of our bedroom window I think of you.
Carrie Ellis-Berg has been an elementary school teacher for ten years. Together as a blended family, she and her husband have four children. After realizing the need for children’s books on blending, she felt called to share fun and exciting stories that would help parents and children learn, grow, and adapt in their new family structure. She hopes that her stories will foster and strengthen relationships within the home.