August 22, 2016 a day that will never be mentioned in the history of the world, but this day set the tone for our blended family in the STICU at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. On this day, the day after Lindsay’s accident, a nurse asked that Lindsay’s parents come with her to a small waiting room to meet with her and Lindsay’s doctors. We walked in, all four of us, and the hospital staff attending looked at us, not with a puzzled look, but a surprised look. As we stood in this small room, a room that would end up being our room for the worst news any parent could ever hear and the most devastating decisions any parent would ever have to make. I felt the need to tell the nurses and the doctors, “Lindsay has four parents, and there will be no meetings, no discussions, and no decisions made unless all four parents are present.” This was so very important to me for one reason and one reason only, family. You never say the words “dysfunctional or blended” without them being followed up with the word family.
Family, “Kelli and Brett were as much a part of Lindsay’s life as Kellie and myself were when she passed away. Yes, Kellie and I were Lindsay biological parents, we brought her into this world, we raised her, and we watch her transform from an infant to a vibrant young woman. In the middle of this transformation, for Jarrett and Lindsay both, Kellie and I divorced. Was it easy, no, but when is divorce ever easy. It is hard on everyone, but you live through it, you carry on because of your children. You have to make to best of a bad situation for your children, you have to act like the adults that you are for your children. Your children have to feel like they are more important than who is getting the couch or the china, and Kellie and I tried our best to do just that. It was a long and hard road, but we figured it out. Communication and consistency were the two main factors in trying to keep Jarrett and Lindsay’s life as normal as possible. Was every conversation concerning the kids a ray of sunshine? I would be lying if I said it was, but somehow we always seemed to come to an agreement, a compromise, some type of plan that worked for all involved.
I want to go back to that room, the room where the staff had that look of surprise when we all walked in. I, at the time, did not understand why they seemed so surprised to see four people coming together for their child. I came to find out that this is not always the situation when there is a child of a blended family in the STICU. Anytime you put four completely different personalities, with a past, in the same room the outcome my not always be pleasant. We began to hear stories of how families would deny visitation of an ex-spouse, how families would argue and fight in the child’s room over who could be in the room. How life changing decisions were being made without the other parent being present because of a stack of papers some lawyer had stuffed in a file. This literally broke my heart, not that it could be broken anymore. That child lying in that hospital bed, weather it be Lindsay or any other child, did not ask to come into this world. They did not get to pick who their parents were going to be, they did not have a choice, but the parents in that blended family have a choice. They can chose to come together or they can chose to divide. Let me tell you from a long road of experience, coming together is probably the path less taken, reason why, because it is hard, it is painful, it takes work and it is filled with days you have to learn to pick your battles. Are we the the poster family for dysfunctionality, absolutely not. We have our rough moments, we have our disagreements and we have bumps in the road, but at the end of the day we work through them. We work through them for our children and ourselves, because like it or not, we are a family.
If you are divorced parents, please do not wait until your child is graduating from high school, walking down the aisle, handing you your first grandchild or lying in a hospital bed clinging to life to start putting function in your dysfunction. Don’t wait until you are having to make life altering decision to leave your animosity, your grudges, your stack of legal documents at the door, start today. Put your pride aside, let your anger go, and take the first steps on the path of being a blended dysfunctional family. I understand there are families where there is no hope for this working blended family, but if there is one sign of hope, one ray of sunshine, one small chance, any open line of communication, use it, build on it, and start your way down the path less taken.
The bottom line, when you, as parents made the decision to bring a child into this world, it is no longer about you. It is about the infant, the toddler, the child, the teenager, the young adult, the parent of your grandchild, that you have and will continue to love and cherish until the day one of you breathes their last here on this earth. I have already been to this crossroad and believe me choosing the right path is so much easier when you are a functioning blended Family.
Thank you and God’s never ending blessing on my wife Kelli, Lindsay’s mom Kellie, her husband Brett and our son Jarrett.