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...

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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...

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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...

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NETHERLANDS: Holding Onto Hope In The Face Of Terrorism

NETHERLANDS: Holding Onto Hope In The Face Of Terrorism

mirjamI write this in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium on March 22th.

When I came home from work on Tuesday, I turned on the news and watched chaos and destruction. I am not particularly partial to watching the news, but this hit really close to home. I watched in shock and horror, not completely able to grasp exactly what I was watching.

Privileged as I have been most of my life, this kind of violence and terrorism are things that I watch on television or read about in the newspapers.

As my kids walked in, I felt a strong need to give them some sort of explanation or assurance that they were safe. I couldn’t. I was at a loss for words at that moment.

“Terrorists fight a war against unarmed women, children and elders,” I said. “They fight innocent people instead of playing by the rules and fighting against soldiers. That is what’s so wrong about terrorism. These victims had nothing to do with any war whatsoever. There were just living their lives.”

The news reporter switched to his colleagues in Beirut.

“What are the responses there?” he asked.

“People are shocked and appalled,” the reporter answered. “Although there are some who are happy that ISIS has been able to strike one of their enemies.”

I for one couldn’t understand why that was being reported hours after the attack. I can only imagine what it would feel like to lose a loved one to terrorism and to hear that people are cheering about it.

It was another hate seed being planted.

But sometimes my heart is flooded with fear and my mind worries about the future. It is not the terrorist attacks that scare me the most. What scares me the most is the growing intolerance against Muslims, refugees, and foreigners in Europe.

I see that hatred is growing, and bitter seeds of hate are being planted, watered, and rooted. My response is to double my efforts in teaching my children compassion, kindness and tolerance toward others. I realize that my reactions, my responses to these violent acts, will teach them how to respond to hate. So I refuse to be overwhelmed by fear or hatred. I grab onto hope and hold it tight.

On Friday, it was reported that in Brussels, people were writing messages of love and solidarity on the streets. The simple gesture of people writing with colored chalk warmed my heart.

Because if we are able turn to love instead of hatred, the terrorists haven’t won.

My heart goes out to the people affected by this tragedy.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu –

How do you hold onto hope in the wake of terrorism? How do you talk to your children about it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Picture credit: Christine Organ.

Mirjam

Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands.
She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life.
Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home.
She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera.
Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it.
She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways.
But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself.
You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.

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BELGIUM: Sunny Clouded Eyes

BELGIUM: Sunny Clouded Eyes

katinkaDoes that mean I get a cane now?

And a dog?

That would be sooooo cool!

She was excited, my precious one. She skipped and danced, as we left the hospital. I had just explained to her, in careful wording, that she was now officially ‘disabled’. At the last tests, her eyesight was down to ten percent, which was substantially less than a bystander would judge. Most people don’t even notice she is 90 % blind.

She compensates a lot, the therapist confirmed. She constantly moves her head around to get a full view with the remaining ten percent. Her eye-brain-connection is still flexible and easily adjusts. She even unconsciously practices echo localisation. The scientist in me finds thàt extremely cool.

The overwhelmed mother, on the other hand, was nearly in tears. I had known what was coming. I had heard the forecast. I had seen the clouds. But still, the thunder unsettled me.

Disabled. The phrasing seems so inappropriate for her. She is so able!

She is in first grade now and struggles to learn how to read. Focusing on the letters is extremely tiring for her. She keeps losing track of the word she is reading, as it disappears in the 90 % cloudy view. She literally has to press her nose next to the word she is deciphering. Writing is even harder, with minimal sight to guide her hand.

But still, she keeps trying. For the last month, she has worked twice as hard as her classmates. She has begged for extra homework and practised until her neck was hurting too much from bending down. For now, she just craved to learn how to read.

So that’s what she did. Last Thursday, she passed her first reading test. Yes, she was far slower than her peers. But she passed. I’ve never been prouder.

As of today, with her official label of disabled, she is entitled to extra support, both at home and in school. We’ll get her a special, tilted desk to spare her neck. Binoculars to keep track of the writing on the board and other magnification aids. Learning will become easier for her from now on.

2015 WMB Quote K10K Disabled

And no, she won’t get a cane and a dog just yet.

She wasn’t even disappointed and kept skipping, not noticing all the people who had to jump aside to let her pass.

I don’t need them anyway!

Instead, she asked for eye make-up.

You know, because the doctor said I have such lovely eyes.

She chose yellow, which turned golden on her skin.

Sunny clouded eyes.

How do you talk with your child about disabilities? Do you recognize the lightness of heart a child can deal with it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K @ The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post 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...

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BELGIUM : Parenting – Keeping Them Close

BELGIUM : Parenting – Keeping Them Close

Close_K10KTimes are confusing for a parent. Library shelves are filled with parenting guides. Tips and tricks for the perfect reward system are stacked next to the rant on why keeping rewards from a kid is essentially the same as punishing him or her. Online you can find the benefits of co-sleeping a click away from co-sleeping horror stories. Natural parenting blogs are hijacked by those who think kids these days just need more discipline.

I’ve read a lot of those books, blogs and papers. Some in despair, some out of curiosity and some even at the request of my son’s psychologist or as optional literature while preparing for the adoption of our daughter.

Did I get any wiser? Yes I did. But not necessarily in the ways the books and blogs were meant. At first I just concluded that the parenting style you adapt should be customized, to you and to your child. I took some advice from one book and integrated it in a style I found on a blog. It worked, for a while.

But still the situation left me puzzled. Why do we need all this in the first place? Why do I know so many children who regularly see therapists? Why do parents feel like they lack the parenting skills that should come naturally to them?

I for one don’t think that we as parents have all suddenly been deprived of the parenting skills our grandparents had. And I refuse to believe that more children are born with or develop disorders these days.

So if it’s not the parents and not the children, what causes us parents to feel like we are failing and need help?

I hope you don’t expect me to have the answer. I’m only another struggling mother. My six-year-old throws toddler tantrums when I talk to other grown-ups and thinks just about everything is either boooooring or unfair. My eight-year-old gets frustrated and even aggressive over one math mistake while all other 49 exercises are correct. These are the small issues we have on a daily basis. I won’t go into the big ones.

The only answer I have found for myself is that the way my children react to me depends highly on the state of our relationship at that point. Because we’ve been taught in our adoption course about the need for attachment between parent and adopted child, we tend to invest a lot of time in one-on-one time with our daughter. To keep the balance, we do the same with our biological son. To me, this is the only approach which has worked for both of my very different kids, and which keeps on working whenever we invest time in it. Yesterday I had some lovely one-on-one time with my daughter at the lake and today, nothing is boring to her. She doesn’t disobey, she’s helpful and polite. My son, on the other hand, will go to an amusement park with friends today. I know for a fact that he will be unbearable tonight, unless I keep him very close from the moment he’s back.

So is that it? Is keeping your children close the answer? Is it not the parents nor the children that have changed over the last decades, but their relationship?

Honestly, I don’t know. It might. The changing relationship between parents and children nowadays might be what’s causing the boom of parenting books. Children do seem to orient themselves more to their peers, or to pop stars for that matter, instead of to their parents. As a consequence, said parents seem to lose part of the authority that used to be natural to them. And without authority or influence, you’re nowhere as a parent, are you?

It might seem suffocating or overprotective, but for myself, I will continue to try and keep my children close. We will wear crazy matching outfits from time to time, we will cook and cry together, we will cuddle and pillow fight. I will keep investing in that state of our relationship. Because the moments I open myself up to be close to them, either physically or mentally, I don’t need therapists or parenting guides. I don’t even need parenting skills.

With my children close, I can just be a parent.

How do you feel about the booming business of parenting guides? Do you believe keeping your children close is key?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K @ The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post 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...

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