I’m so grateful for my friend Bridget. Beautiful Bridget. Not just on the outside but on the inside too. She is a truly beautiful soul. And a great friend to chat with.
It’s Monday and today we met for a coffee before school pick-up. The conversation came round to how my previous week/weekend had been. I questioned my sanity levels at not having at least one bottle of wine a.k.a. “mummy’s juice” in the house when I heard my story out loud!
Last week was pretty much a train-wreck. There were five traitors. Yes, you read correctly…traitors. I call them traitors as they broke just about every damn rule on our “happy family” wall manifesto. Which states:
“IN THIS HOUSE WE
ACT WITH KINDENSS
TELL THE TRUTH
DO OUR BEST
TRY NEW THINGS
CHEER FOR EACH OTHER
ARE A FAMILY”
Between them, Hangry Man, Anxious Annie, The Intense Police Man, Mr Meanie and Miss Moody Two Shoes were accused of irrational hanger, being stir crazy, being too intense, being too mean and starring in a hormonal shit show. All five were found guilty.
The week started well. Rob and I had a 24-hour getaway planned on Tuesday, a day in the city and romantic overnight stay in a really nice waterfront hotel.
It was our week without the kids. We had watched the ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ documentaries on Netflix, and inspired, Rob was a few days into a juice/smoothie detox.
Come Thursday Rob started morphing into Hangry Man. I had, in my opinion, somewhat of an epiphany around a message I was getting from many women in my last blog survey. Of course, I was explaining my epiphany with great gusto. I am a passionate woman after all. A quality which Rob usually loves about me. However, due to a lack of sugar and, well food in general, Rob became Hangry Man. And Hangry Man does not enjoy gusto. Hangry Man gets irritated by gusto and refers to said gusto as being “too intense for a conversation’…that apparently Hangry Man “has no interest in”. I felt this was a great opportunity for me to fine tune my “fuck you” glaring skills, as the frontal cortex of my brain rationalized it was the excess of broccoli talking and not my loving supportive partner. That was how Thursday night went down.
On Friday morning apologies were made on both sides and balance was restored to the relationship, all was well in the Cope-Byrne household once more. Friday afternoon saw kids descend upon us. Rob’s three kids and my daughter (who had been with us all day anyway as she was off school sick).
Friday evening went well, even when we explained to the kids that we were replacing our homemade pepperoni pizzas with homemade vegetarian pizzas.
Saturday was when the fun times began again. Hangry Man came home from soccer with one of the boys and he was H..A..N..G..R..Y. He started to prepare another vegetable concoction, but quicker than you could say “carrot and spinach smoothie”, we were left agog as Hangry Man proceeded to intensely give a verbal smack-down on the consequences of “defiant behaviour” around a strawberry incident involving one of the kids and the taking of two strawberries more than was allowed.
I surpassed my “fuck you” glaring by laying down a verbal smack-down of my own regarding punishments outweighing crimes and hanger.
Restored balance was no more. I couldn’t talk to Hangry Man because the tip of my tongue had been replaced with a giant can of whoop-ass and I knew I had to calm my farm before discussing the matter further. There wasn’t a lot of conversation between us all day. It took 19 hours for there to be calm on my farm. On Sunday morning, a civil conversation took place, apologies were made. Balance was once again restored. And all was once again well in the Cope-Byrne household.
Enter the remaining traitors.
My daughter has selective mutism and social anxiety. For the purposes of this blog, all you need to know is that her anxiety base line sits quite high some times and if it gets above 80%, we just have to ride out the storm. The storm includes inconsolable crying and irrational behaviours. She has a few triggers and one physical sign we look for is her eyebrows doing a kind of twitch. When we see that, we know her base line is high and we try to get her back to a calm state.
On Sunday morning, Niamh was twitching. She had had a few run-ins with one of the boys. Hangry Man and I discussed it. We would keep an eye on it and make sure we were vigilant around sibling bickering today.
Jaya, Rob’s almost 13 year-old daughter, was in a particularly hormonal mood. She was not in a happy space. Everything was wrong and annoying.
We were taking the kids to the local indoor trampoline park. It was meant to be a great family day out. I was ready for some happy fun after dealing with Hangry Man for the last few days. But waking up to the twitching and annoyed whining, policing and some mean comments from the other traitors made me think happy fun was not going to be the menu today. I hugged Rob as if sucking in some kind of superpower to get me through the day ahead.
And boy did I need it. Fast forward to the evening. It was a shit show, the type of night where it was cereal all round for dinner. I wanted a dog…I need someone in this family who is emotionally stable and who does not have a cuddle threshold.
Jaya was in her room, lying on her bed in a river of irrational tears. This usually hardy girl was upset over everything. In particular Niamh. Because I had taken Jaya out during the day yesterday, but I had brought Niamh. And because Niamh had smacked her on the bum. And several other bizarre reasons. Rob was trying to rationalize with her. But he was like a startled deer in the headlights being a man, having to deal with a raw teenage hormonal meltdown. She asked if Niamh could come to us the weeks that Rob’s kids are at their mums.
Phoenix, Rob’s youngest, who has a love/hate relationship with Niamh (they are about 9 months apart age wise) had spent part of the day bickering with Niamh and in between consoling Jaya, Rob had had to explain to him why telling Niamh he hates her is not okay! Xavier, Rob’s other son had been intensely policing everyone, telling them off and giving them a good dose of “I told you so” when they got in trouble. Not as helpful as one would think when the goal is to reduce the sibling bickering!
And in the meantime, I had Niamh crying on my lap in her room. She was about to tip over above 80%. We had been dealing with her ups and downs all day. And she was telling me that she hates Phoenix. And asking if the other kids could come the weeks she is at her dads.
And in between the to-ing and the fro-ing, Rob and I gave each other some knowing “wtf”, “why do we not have wine in the house?”, “is it nearly the kid’s bedtime yet?”, “it’s only been 48 hours”, “have kids they said…it’ll be fun they said” glances.
Finally, all children had been seen to and Rob and I were alone in the living room. Quiet. Will we ever have a weekend on our weeks where it doesn’t seem like WW3 is about to commence between the little people? At least for now balance had been restored…for the third time in a few days.
There are many things that are great about meeting a partner when you are both in your early 40’s. You have gained a wealth of knowledge and life experience. You choose your mate carefully, based on a wider criteria than you do in your 20’s. Rob and I have, on the whole, a fantastic relationship. We are similar and different in ways that complement each other. Our experiences have taught us how to argue in a healthy way for the most part. We always talk things through until matters are fully resolved. And neither of us can hold a grudge. If we don’t talk for 19 hours, it’s because we are processing how to resolve the issue. At the end of the day we want love not war!
But it’s not all fun and games. The older you get the easier it becomes to be independent and set in your ways. Compromise doesn’t come as easy when you add four kids into the mix. We don’t just learn how to navigate ourselves in this relationship. We navigate as a blended family.
Amongst other things we have to learn how to set boundaries and rules for all children bearing in mind that we already had our own boundaries and rules for our own kids before we met. We have to learn how to facilitate healthy and happy sibling relationships between all the children (if anyone has the manual for that by the way, please get in touch!!!). We have to learn how to discipline and co-parent each other’s children without feeling like we are crossing a line. We have to learn how to consistently love a child that is not ours when their behaviour drives us nuts. And much more.
For us personally, I also have to learn all about boys, that come with all that dirt and high energy and mess. For Rob, he has to remember the emotional rollercoaster of co-parenting a 7 year-old girl. For both of us we have to also learn about parenting and co-parenting a child with selective mutism and social anxiety and a child who is on the cusp of the dreaded teenage years.
I love my daughter more than life itself, more than I could love anything or anyone. I love my partner very much. He is my best friend and the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. I love all three of his children as much as I can without them being my blood.
And whilst being part of a blended family does come with its challenges, and days when I honestly could trade them all in for a pack of dogs, I have to admit, I would be lost without mine. Despite the traitors!!