Have you ever heard the term cocooning? This is a common term in an adopted family but you don't hear it as often in a blended family. The idea is really the same and the benefits are really the same as well. Basically the idea is the first few months or weeks a family adopts a child they do whats called "cocooning" where they work on establishing routines, they do things as a family and build a relationship with each other. Some of the more extreme ideas in cocooning are not really applicable but the idea is really useful in building a solid foundation for your blended family.
Our blended family has slowly been building.. As I stated before we all started living together very early on to make things easier for Joe to have visitation with Penelope and to stay close together in a very rough time in our lives. In the first six months we were all together we lost my father, lost a job, went through a very hurtful custody battle, dealt with moving my mom to another state in the midst of her grief for my dad, realized my grandmother was no longer able to care for herself, dealt with a horrible situation with my farm while I was away, were overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we had to get rid of at Joe's house, had to find a way to combine two entire households into one, and moved ultimately into my home and I ended up spending my first holidays without my kids due to extenuating circumstances and my father. I think ALL of the most stressful things you can have happen in your life (almost) happened to us in a very short period of time. The good news is we all came through it unnaturally strong as a team, and I never (except once during Christmas) ever wanted to kill Joe (or vice versa). We leaned on each other for support and we rallied around each other and we tested our relationship to it's limit and came out with flying colors.
The thing was with all the challenges we had over the last six months we really just wanted to spend this summer being a family. We decided we would take the whole month we had all three kids and really fill the entire calendar with as many activities as we could muster and build memories and build the kids up to start working as a team. Work on building a routine, chores, and setting up clear rules. Actually it wasn't just a "this summer" thing we really made the decision to make a honest effort to keep the kids together as much as possible when they are all at home as though I have primary custody of the boys the boys father is very active in their life and Penelope is with us every other week. It would sound like we have all this time together but in reality between school and errands and work we usually only spend a an hour or two a day together after homework and dinner and on weekends during the school year its really hard to do anything as Penelope comes or leaves on sunday and the boys are gone every sunday. So that really leaves only every other Saturday to do stuff together. And during the week we are only ever in the same house three week days every other week. I'm sure this schedule will get less and less sooner than later as once the kids are a little older a good amount of this time will be filled with activities with their friends. I honestly guess we have maybe three more summers where the kids will actually want to hang out with us.. lol a few extra for Dylan.
So we set out this summer to do as many things as we could together and I think we did a pretty bang up job. We visited Six Flags, White Water, Coca Cola World, The Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, made a trip to Birmingham JUST for Penelope to go to Cheesecake Factory, the Montgomery Zoo, we went bowling almost every every week day and to the pool on base (Thank you to the air force for cheap bowling rates on base!) and of course rode some ponies and the kids learned how to make their own lunches and blew through our art supplies. What did we gain out of it? Well a ton of arguments, temper tantrums, and a few pouty kids... heh.. but the beauty of it was the kids went from calling each other siblings to ACTING like siblings and we worked out some of the feelings we had over all the turmoil of the last few months. It was expensive, it was exausting, it was without a doubt the best thing we could have done for our kids and our family.
I can not honestly say this is truly cocooning but the idea behind it is really the same. When you are a new family and especially a blended family where the schedules between your kids are all different and all over the place spending time together is SO important. I am not sure this gets any less important as time goes on and it certainly is a challenge as if you do something with one kid when another kid is alway there is ALWAYS hurt feelings. In a future post I will tell you guys about how Penelope is still mad at me for going out to eat without her with my mom from back in February. At the time I did not think it was really a big deal but to kids these things really matter. I always tell the kids that life goes on on the days they are not here and we have to keep living our life but in reality they just want to feel like they are equally apart of our family and apart of our extended family which they are 1000% entitled to feel that way as I know without a question of a doubt I would feel the same way.