Blended Family Rituals: about ice cream, mustard and goodnight wishes

Blended Family Rituals: about ice cream, mustard and goodnight wishes

The Glue that Binds

If you ask about the glue that keeps our blended family together, I could reply with classics like ‘unconditional love’, ‘reciprocal respect’ or ‘bonding through fun’. All those are indeed values we hold high in our family of two plus two plus two.

But the special superglue which makes us a family are definitely our family rituals and routines.

In our family, each Thursday is Ice Cream Day. Not just because we all like ice cream, but because on Thursday we celebrate being a family of six again.

Both my kids and my husband’s daughters return from their time with their other parents on Thursday. In the early days of being a blended family, Thursdays would sometimes be filled with tears, silence or just general awkwardness, so we looked for ways to ease the transition. Hence, Ice Cream Day came into being!

Many years later, we feel they don’t really ‘need’ Ice Cream Day anymore, but it still feels appropriate to celebrate being a family on a weekly basis. Besides, who wouldn’t cherish a fixed day to indulge in ice cream!

The Importance of Rituals

Personally, I feel rituals like Ice Cream Day help our kids experience our family home, and by extension, the world, as a predictable, safe place. It gives them something to hold on to.

Especially during the ongoing, turbulent times. Ice Cream Day and other rituals continued to give them a sense of security and comfort. A few months ago, one of our girls casually remarked—halfway through her Thursday Cornetto—that ‘Coronavirus cancelled a lot of things, but not Ice Cream Day!’

Other rituals we have as a family, are less thought through in advance, but became an important aspect of our family identity almost by accident.

When we hear the theme song from Frozen in the kid’s playlist, we need to yell ‘Kasteel!’ at the exact moment in the song when Elsa would build her ice castle in the movie. Just imagine the bewildered looks from bystanders when they hear the six of us in our car yelling ‘Kasteel!’ from the top of our lungs through the open windows, seemingly out of nowhere. We giggle, discuss who’s the winner – the one who was not too early and not too late – and proceed with waiting for our cue to loudly sing ‘Mosterd! Mosterd!’ when Master of Puppets is on. In our family, this song is about mustard. And occasionally about ketchup.

Building Family Security

Our family rituals are a bit like inside jokes. They have a special meaning to us as a family exclusively, and some of them even express our family values in a fun way.

On top of that, they provide the kids with a sense of identity as a member of our family. Especially in a blended family as ours, these casual instances of ‘belonging’ seem truly valuable.

By holding on to our rituals, I also aspire to instill some loving, fun memories in the kids. While slowly but loudly repeating the same mantra of six goodnight phrases when going down the stairs after tucking them in, I secretly hope they will pass this ceremony on to their own kids, one day.

‘Slaapwel. Zoete dromen. Welterusten. Hou van je. Tot morgen. Dikke kus.’

‘Sleep tight. Sweet dreams. Nighty night. Love you. See you tomorrow. Big kiss.’

Each their favorite good night phrase.

Each their daily reminder of security, identity and loving care.

All bundled up in one twenty-second-ritual.

I’m sure you all have some rituals in your families, maybe even without realizing their value. I would love to hear about them, big and small!

This is an original post to World Moms Network by our contributor from BelgiumKatinka Wouters from Belgium. The image used in this post is credited to Kenta Kikuchi from the open shared site, unsplash.com.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

More Posts

BELGIUM: Coucou, One Mom’s Battle with Depression

BELGIUM: Coucou, One Mom’s Battle with Depression

black-flagsToday is my birthday but I don’t feel the need to celebrate.

It’s not about getting older. I don’t mind adding years to my curriculum. The years and some grey hairs might actually help to finally getting profiled as a mature scientist.

It’s about celebrating life. My life. I don’t feel like I should celebrate it while I’m going under in yet another episode of depression.

It has been two years since I was diagnosed with severe depression. I guess my reluctance to celebrate my birthday means I still haven’t come to terms with it. I’ve had therapy. I’m taking my meds. And still depression lurks around the corner. I loathe it. Depression makes me loath depression. At least thàt part makes sense.

But then there’s my children. They are my everything. They are the reason I’m holding on while giving up. I don’t struggle to take care of myself for me. I take care of myself for them. Depression or not, I’m still their mother. And I feel incredibly guilty about that.

I often feel I should never have decided to have children, let alone adopt a child. I worry about not providing a stabile environment for them to grow up in. I worry about transfering my lability to them. I worry about pushing them away from me when I’m over and out. I worry a lot.

In turn, they both worry about me.

My 9-year old son is the most worried and gets really affectionate when he sees I’m going through yet another rough patch. He doesn’t like to talk about it, but he does want to understand. My 7-year old daughter on the other hand, likes to tell everyone about her mom who is a bit coucou. She likes to talk about depression a lot.

So I talked to them about depression. I referred to it as the black balloon, and added some details as they grew older. They know some wires in my head are not connected as they should. That information is not coming in the right way. That I need to rest a lot to heal. That I’m in fact, yes, a bit coucou.

I also told them that it is still OK to laugh at me when I’m so utterly confused that I lose at every board game. That it’s all right and maybe even fun to instruct me on how to cook diner. And most importantly that I still love them with every inch of my coucou head.

Even on my birthday.

How do you feel about ‘combining’ mental illness with motherhood? Do you talk about mental illness with your children?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by K10K in Belgium. The picture is credited to the author.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

More Posts

BELGIUM: Keeping A Secret

BELGIUM: Keeping A Secret

Secret_K10KSecrets. I believe they’re important. Especially for children.

When I think about adults with secrets, I mostly imagine sadness, nasty stuff or crime. Mostly sadness though. Actually, I don’t even know if I have big or little secrets myself. Probably not. I’ll have to think about it.

But a child with a secret, I absolutely love that. It’s touching and a little bit nostalgic. It makes me think about the candy I once hid under our beech tree, savouring one every once in a while, including the black sand it was buried in. My secret treasure…

My two children, they share a secret. The youngest however, age 7, is absolutely terrible at keeping secrets. At Mother’s Day, she has never made anything, especially not for me, and I shouldn’t go looking behind the couch at all. Oh, and it doesn’t have hearts all over it. That kind of terrible. She just adores sharing inside knowledge. And now she has to keep a secret.

Yesterday, she almost told me, while we were driving home from school. It was a school secret, completely fresh and just begging to be shared with the world. Or at least with me. Her big brother was just in time to keep her from giving it away.

When we got home, she whispered she would tell me later, when her brother was not there. Now that was quite a difficult parenting moment for me.

You need to know that I am a terribly curious person. It makes me who I am. I could never be a mail woman. All those closed letters, never knowing what is inside, what the story is behind that stamp, whether it is good news or not: my fingers would itch all the time. At least as a scientist, I can give in to that natural curiosity and the urge to reveal secrets.

That day, I had to grit my teeth and be a mother, not a scientist. I told her she was not allowed to tell me their secret. I explained to her that it is important for siblings to have little secrets, so they learn to trust each other. I did tell her she could tell me the secret if it was about something dangerous or something which didn’t feel right to her.

I ended my little speech by telling her I didn’t want to know their little secret anyway.

She didn’t believe that last bit. This daughter of mine is less naive than I am.

But she did walk away without spilling the secret. I’m not sure which one of us had the hardest time at that.

It has been five weeks and I still don’t know what it was about.

It’s killing me.

How do you feel about your children keeping secrets? Do you think it is important for them or do you fear they will also keep less innocent secrets when they grow up?

This is an original post to World Moms Network by K10K. Photo credit: Lisa M Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

 

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

More Posts

BELGIUM: Kungfu Adoption

BELGIUM: Kungfu Adoption

Despicable Me. Mr Peabody and Sherman. Meet the Robinsons. Annie. Tangled. Mowgli. Kungfu Panda.

Adoption – or the search for roots and heritage – seems a very recurrent and strong theme in children’s movies and tales. I guess it has to do with the struggle each child goes through, when exploring her identity and finding her place in an increasingly bigger world while she grows up. Who hasn’t fantasized, once, about being adopted and actually being royalty, or an adventurer’s kid? We wanted to have a strong heritage, because it would radiate on us. We would be strong and shiny and extraordinary too. Or we just wished for those other parents who would never ever make us go to bed at  eight pm or force us to eat broccoli soup.

As an adoptive parent, I try to carefully probe for my daughter’s feelings about the adoption-themed movies she loves to watch. We are very open about her adoption, but it’s not like we organize family discussions around the theme. We just make sure she knows she can talk to us about anything, including her feelings about being adopted.

The movies help her to grasp the complex feelings she has about her adoption-status. She loves us, but she misses her birth mother. She feels loved, but also rejected. She belongs in Belgium and in Ethiopia. She’s torn between two loyalties. It’s all way too complex for a seven-year old to deal with. Being adopted is not the gift many people seem to think it is to her.

She watched Tangled (or Rapunzel for some of us) right about the same time she was struggling with being our daughter. She was absolutely thrilled when she found out the ‘mother’ of Rapunzel was actually a witch who had stolen the princess as a baby. Oh yes. I became that witch to her in no time. We must have stolen her, she tended to say. Because no parent who loved her child would ever give it up for adoption. It was her way of dealing with rejection. And it give her leave to rebel against every single ‘no’ we gave her. We were not her parents anyway.

The Tangled-phase passed. Today, she relates to Po, and not just because she likes his Kungfu that much.

This Panda is as clearly adopted as she is. His is both black and white, like she is. And, most importantly, he met with his birth family. Just like she wants to.

So she watches Po’s adventures over and over again. She has this special giggle she keeps just for him. And she talks to me about her wishes and sorrows afterwards, without being probed. Infinitely more agreeable than the Tangled-period, for sure.

I’m already looking forward to the next movie-releases.

Do movies or cartoons help your children to reflect about their emotions? Can your children relate to struggling movie characters?

This is an original post by K10K of Belgium. Photo credit: homard.net. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

More Posts

BELGIUM: My Frame World

BELGIUM: My Frame World

reality frame worldNext to me in the coffee shop, an elderly lady loudly complains to everyone who cares to listen. How poignant it is, this refugees’ crisis. How she doesn’t understand how nothing can be done to help all those poor people. How entire families are torn for life. How her hair had cost 80 euros. Seventyninepointfive full euros. Scandalous, don’t you think so, miss?

I try to escape her glaring eyes. I’d like to escape and take all of them with me, those refugees. To a world without expensive hairdressers. To a world where their devastating pictures don’t need to travel around social media. To a world where a simple I’m on the run is enough to offer help.

I’m not sure where this world is. It doesn’t seem to be ours. Ours is full of rich self-preservation. I have worked hard for my wealth. I will not share it. I do not wish to be bothered with the misery of others.

Well, I’m more than less disgusted by those I’s.

And still, there I am, blogging about my petty worries. About the difficulties my kids face at their expensive private school. About depression, because my perfect life is not perfect enough. About baking homemade cookies. All the while, somewhere else, another mother has to choose between her own drowning or that of her child. Knowing she doesn’t have a choice, in the end. It will probably be both anyway.

More than ever, my world has two realities. One reality is manageable, the other is immense. The manageable reality is my reference, a framework to enable me to keep functioning. It enables me to get up at a quarter past seven to cut some pieces of imported mango for my precious children. To sigh when looking at overflowing laundry baskets. To nag about an energy-devouring meeting that took longer than expected. It’s the framework that’s keeping me whole. The Frame World.

The other part is bigger and endlessly more complex. It’s the angry, overarching Dome World. In this world I’m the naive, fleet-footed creature that is called out to fight the Great Evil that is hiding in the Dome, where no escape is possible. It’s the theme of many heroic stories, like I love to read them. Lord of the Flee.

The reality of the Dome World today is raw and ruthless. We can try to change the picture of the drowned toddler in an icon, giving him wings and balloons, but it’s too late. It’s too late for all those children who didn’t wash up at the feet of a photographer. We’ve let them down.

There is no escape from this Dome World. You can only bang on the glass wall and try to hide in your own Frame World. But the Frame of those fleeing families has been reduced to firewood. Without a frame they’re adrift. More than literally.

Later today, I will find out once again where I can contribute to help.

Later today. Again, I’m disgusted. Later today, because I’ve promised homemade pizza to my children.

After all, my Frame World is still there.

How do you deal with the discrepancy between your own private life and the tragedies around it? Does your Frame World help keeping you sane or is it rather keeping you from acting?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K @ The Penguin and The Panther. Photo credit: Bart Everson. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

More Posts