- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

Talk about living the dream! Our family just returned from a trip to Cooperstown Dreams Park, near the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where my 12-year-old’s baseball team played in a weeklong invitational tournament, along with 103 teams from the U.S. and Canada.

Since I am not a baseball buff; it rained off and mostly on for the majority of the week; I was worried beyond belief in the park’s infirmary with my diabetic son for five hours; our lodging was in the middle of nowhere; and we had a rodent friend joining us for chips and dip in our kitchen one night, I probably should explain how this was a good dream.

It was one of our best stepfamily vacations ever. It truly was a remarkable experience. During our first six years, my husband and I read several books about stepfamily vacations, urging couples like us to plan ahead and communicate about expectations beforehand. The vacations did not run very smoothly; we probably tried way too hard to make everyone happy and ended up miserable at times.

This time we thoroughly discussed some things beforehand, just as we have before. We talked in detail about our budget, schedule, what games and activities the kids may like, and even made plans to stay in a roomy place on a lake so our 17-year-old sons would have something to do besides watch four Little League games every day with their parents.

So, why will this getaway be so memorable? It is true that Cooperstown Dreams Park does a fantastic job of providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for young ballplayers; it exceeded all of our expectations. That, however, is not the only thing that made this vacation a standout. Perhaps the icing on the cake is related to what I would like to call the seven-year blend — not itch, but blend.

I have heard from stepfamily experts and read repeatedly about how it takes about seven years for a stepfamily to blend successfully. (Some stepfamily experts do not like the term “stepfamily blending” because it implies the family members lose their individual identities. Personally, I am OK with the term; there is no doubt that each of our seven stepfamily members has a unique identity.)

Is it a coincidence that we just entered our seventh year of remarriage and the trip went so smoothly? Everyone interacted extremely well. No one complained. Siblings and stepsiblings supported one another.

In our earlier years, stepparents with whom we spoke were in one of two camps. In the first camp were people just like us who were married for less than seven years and who wondered sometimes how they ever would get through stepfamily challenges successfully. The second camp was comprised of couples who had been happily remarried for more than 15 years with children that had all grown up and moved out. Campers from this second group calmly and knowingly said, “Just give it time. Be patient. And, keep your sense of humor.” There were a couple of days when more than a few of us in the first camp, including me, heard this and just wanted to roll up their tent and go home. Wasn’t there anyone in between?

Now I’m wondering whether I’ve crossed the line into that second camp. While there are times when I think I still may have one foot in the first camp, our stepfamily dynamics are delightedly improving. It wasn’t just the dream vacation — in fact, the night after our return from Cooperstown, my oldest stepdaughter suggested she come over with her boyfriend for a family game night and everyone had an enjoyable time. In year one, I don’t think either she or I could have ever pictured this scene of everyone laughing and playfully interacting. It was one of our best nights ever.

All of us have come a long way since our first family outings and gatherings, which my husband and I affectionately called “forced family fun time.” I now know firsthand that time, patience and a sense of humor are the keys to successful stepfamily blending. It just takes time. If you are a stepparent feeling like you want to pack up your gear, please contact me. You, too, can live the dream with the right support and resources.

Send e-mail to publisher@remarriagemagazine.com.

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