The popcorn and the nachos were burned, and the whole neighborhood knew it.
After E. Jeffrey Hill’s wife passed away from breast cancer, the struggles of being both the mom and the dad set in. His daughter put popcorn in the microwave for not three minutes but 30 minutes. While Hill and his kids were taking care of the microwave fire on the front lawn, his son’s nachos in the broiler also started smoking.
“All the neighbors come out looking at the mess thinking, ‘This poor family that lost their mother,’ ” Hill said. “It’s hard sometimes.”
Hill’s class focused on the myths and realities of blended families from his own experience and from his studies for the School of Family Life. He remarried a woman named Tammy who had four kids to add to his own eight.
“Blending families always happens, not because we planned it that way, but it just happens,” Hill said. “God loves all His children. Christ created a world where bad things happen like cancer and divorce to help us become more like Him.”
One piece of advice he offered is to take a step back and look at the progress a family has made over time after being in a blended family.
“Once we take a step back, we can always say we’re making progress,” Hill said. “Step-parenting and blending families is complicated.”
He said one of the most important things for step-parents to remember is to never take offense and to not try to replace the role of the parent.
“Be a friend first,” Hill said. “That friendship will turn into mutual respect, and in time, that respect can turn into fondness.”
Patrick and Martha Davis from Anaheim, Calif., said becoming comfortable within a blended family takes time.
“Be a friend first and a parent last,” Martha said.
Martha married Patrick, who had four children from a divorce from his first wife.
“Take each child as the individual they are,” Patrick said. “You have to work on a case-by-case basis. That strife can be there whether you’re the parent or the step-parent.”
The couple has been married three years, and Martha said there have been plenty of ups and down, but it’s important to remember to recognize the change in each individual family member’s life.
“We always think it’s going to be this person and this person happily ever after, but if there is a death or divorce, you have to deal with those changes,” Martha said.
Hill said it takes about four to seven years for a blended family to feel like a first family. He also said one of the most important steps to remember is to always honor the other parent, whether it be a deceased parent or a divorced parent.
“Do not demean the first family,” Hill said. “If there is a divorce, do not demean the parent. In family prayer, we pray for the departed spouses. We pray that they can be involved in helping our children. Honor those parents as much as possible.”