- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008

Our ever-bustling household is preparing to celebrate my teenage son’s church confirmation, and I’m so looking forward to the wonderful day. Like many remarried friends who have stepfamilies, however, I also have some trepidation about the big event.

I’m hoping this celebration does not include the fireworks that can erupt, especially when bringing together a lot of extended family members in a remarriage situation. I sense that my son, one of millions of children trying to blend into a stepfamily, detects my apprehension, but can’t quite understand it. He wonders, with an innocence I rather admire, why we all just can’t get along.

The answer, of course, is baggage — which many “remarrieds” know, comes in all shapes and sizes. As I prepare for extended family to visit us for the celebration, I cannot help but think about all of the baggage they will bring. Surely they’ll bring their overstuffed, matching Vera Bradley duffels and garment bags, L.L. Bean rolling Pullmans, and the little ones’ adorable blow-up sleeping bags with the latest cartoon characters.

They’ll also bring grief resulting from a divorce, or the death of a loved one. Some are laden with long-boiling anger over past wrongs, along with an inability to forgive. Others come packed with deep-seated fear, or an incessant need to try to control others and their surroundings so they can avoid the possibility of future emotional pain.

That’s lots of baggage spawned from one divorce and one remarriage; one does not have to be Elizabeth Taylor to generate all of this.

A recently conducted survey showed that approximately 103 million people in the United States are remarried or are considering remarriage. If only Samsonite could get a piece of that action!

Recognizing the baggage is, of course, only half the battle. It has taken me decades to identify mine; I’m still working on the second half of dealing with it. Years of counseling teaches one that it isn’t possible to control others. Even wise friends who haven’t attended counseling have solutions for situations like this, such as “think of it as theater” or “keep your sense of humor.”

While I fear the powder keg could ignite this weekend, I choose to focus on my son. This day is all about his hard work, commitment and dedication to something that he has chosen for himself. Once my oldest child and now the middle of five children in his “new” blended family, my son has his own unearned baggage to handle — the stress of joint custody, the feeling of being in the middle and the loss of what could have been. While no party with all sides of his family in attendance could ever replace what is lost to a child resulting from divorce, we have set out to do our best to provide a happy setting for him to celebrate his independent decision to grow in his faith.

As I ponder where everyone will sleep, the eager and anxious teenager asks me who is coming to his party, and adds ever-so-nonchalantly, “Do kids receive gifts for confirmation?” As a dutiful mother trying to convince him that it isn’t about receiving presents, I emphasize the sacrifices that all of the visitors are making to be with him. Indeed, there will be 20 or so wonderful, caring people coming from five states, some of whom are elderly and driving from hundreds of miles away. Just having them in our lives is the gift!

My son startles me out of my thoughts as the first of our out-of-town guests arrives. With a lot of kid still in him, he leaps, or rather pole vaults, down our six stairs with a look of excitement I haven’t seen in him since he was about 5 years old and waking up on Christmas morning in wild-eyed anticipation. I proudly watch as this fine, mature teenager, teetering on the brink of adulthood, politely asks the first of the relatives to arrive, “Can I carry your bags?”

If only he knew.

Paula Bisacre, founder of Remarriage LLC, is the publisher and executive editor of reMarriage magazine (www.remarriagemagazine. com), a quarterly publication that provides practical solutions for the growing remarriage community. Send e-mail to [email protected] magazine.com.

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