The Grass is Always Greener

It’s so true, isn’t it? It doesn’t really matter where people find themselves, they always want to be somewhere else. Or be someone else. Or live somewhere else. Or work someplace else. Or learn something else. Ask a teenager and you’ll get a whole laundry list of things they wish they could change about themselves, their life, or their family. Ask a blended teenager and you’ll touch a topic so hot you’ll have to pull your hand away quickly before it gets burned. Ouch! Not quick enough? Then immerse that hand, or heart, under cold running water and find some aloe vera. No problem, I’m here to help.

In reality, blended kids do have it tough. Not really harder than nuclear family teens, but definitely different. For them, their biological parents don’t talk unless they absolutely have to and they certainly don’t live underneath the same roof. As blended kids, they go back and forth and never quite know what they missed while they were gone from one home or maybe unsure where they stand when they return. They keep up with two sets of house rules, priorities, expectations, information, siblings, eating patterns, music selection, fashion selections, television viewing, and family experiences. Then there’s the stuff they juggle that MUST mix between the two families like homework and music practice and sports activities. And at some point, it all comes down to communication or the lack thereof. By and large, a majority of blended families can work these details out cordially, but there are some, heaven helps us, who are far from blessed in that department.

Teens these days are SO social with each other, yet seem to be linguistically challenged with the adults in their lives. They want people to care about them but they don those dangling earbuds and resent any interruption in their musical bubble. They think they know it all and that no one on the planet understands them or their perspective, yet they make no real attempt to share it. They want help, a listening ear, or compassion but instead, they put a wall up just to see if we, the dreaded parents, will find a way over it. They will put stuff out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, and in texting what they will not dialog about with the folks who love them the most and are providing for their every need on a daily basis. Hmmm. Do you see a problem arising?

The tipping point usually revolves around some conflict that runs just under the surface regarding a parent or step-parent situation. Ah yes, the proverbial elephant in the room. It goes something like this, the teen has kept the majority of an “issue at large” hidden or buried, the parent (or step-parent) has attempted to break through the facade either through confrontation or comedy. But at the moment both are frustrated, deadlines still loom, schedules are still packed and daily life marches (or stumbles) on. Eventually, it all reaches a boiling point. You know, the temperature where liquid bubbles and spits create a veritable mess outside the pan that is trying to contain it. So how do we blended families cope in the midst of a potential volcanic eruption?

The cliché answer is to keep the lines of communication open. If that worked, we wouldn’t be in this mess, to begin with, would we? It’s a tennis match people. It takes two players to keep the ball in play! You lob it out there and it doesn’t come back, it’s pretty much game over for that moment. Okay yes, we should always be approachable, but the real game plan is this: Be Relentless! As Joe White says in his book, “Sticking with Your Teen,” “Never give up. Move forward no matter what. Don’t stop the good stuff. Stick with the things you know are right. Love unconditionally. Stay put as a parent when you’d rather run.” Words of wisdom.

The greener grass to a blended teenager sounds like this: “My parents shouldn’t have split up. You’re not my parent. You can’t tell me what to do. My teachers don’t understand my situation. You don’t appreciate my music. You don’t like my friends. You won’t give me a chance. You love my siblings more. My life isn’t fair.” The greener grass to step-parent sounds like this: “I didn’t ask to be put in the middle of this. You’re not my biological child (but I love you like one). You don’t have to obey me (but I have your best interest at heart). You don’t appreciate my music (I’m not that old). You don’t like my friends (I know, they’re not teenagers). You won’t give me a chance. You love your biological parents more. My life isn’t fair either.”

So there you have it and here we are, together at the end of the day. Grieving a bit over that way we thought life would turn out and how it actually did, doesn’t quite match. Teens, open up a bit. Parents, especially step-parents, be relentless. Perhaps with some rain and sun and time, a little green grass might show up on our side of the fence too.

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