Up until two years ago, my two daughters, Zoe and Ziya, were living here with me, hubby (their stepdad) and their half brother, Ziggy. Things weren’t perfect, of course, but we were a happy modern blended family.
We had to share the girls with their dad and his own blended family too though. They’d borrow the girls on some weekends and holiday vacations. But long ago their dad and I already agreed for the girls to eventually come live with him by the time they reach high school. And so that happened two years ago and we all had to deal with learning how to adjust to our new normal. I was heartbroken but that was the reality we had to face as a blended family. I had to learn how to mother from afar.
These days we only get to borrow our girls every other weekend. Sometimes, it can be as little as one weekend a month because being high school kids, our girls have a lot of school projects and extra-curricular activities that keep them busy. This makes our time with them much more precious. So when they’re here, we try to enjoy every moment and do everything together, now as a party of six because of the addition of new baby, Zander.
Basically, we bond a lot through play. When I say play, I don’t mean just playing with toys. Because we have kids of multiple ages, we have to choose enjoyable activities that will cater to all of them. Below are some of the things we do to bond as a blended family.
We all sleep in the same room.
We’re lucky that our master’s bedroom is big enough not just to house a queen bed but also my workstation, hubby’s workstation plus a sofa bed. It’s also the only room that is air-conditioned. Since our boys, Ziggy and Zander, are only 5 years old and 4 months old, respectively, they co-sleep with us. Then one day, during one of the girls’ visits, hubby decided it would be best if they started sleeping on the sofa bed in our room too rather than stay in their own room. That way, we don’t only get to spend our waking moments together but even our sleeping moments too. After all, we only get to do it once or twice a month.
We watch movies and favorite TV shows together.
The girls don’t get to watch TV a lot in their other home because they’re always busy with schoolwork. So when they’re here, I let them indulge. There’s only one TV set in our house and it’s in the masters bedroom, so we often don’t need to even get out of the room to watch together. A lot of their favorite shows are our favorites too and so this is a fun activity that we enjoy doing together. We usually prepare popcorn or other snacks to make the experience even more fun.
We do artsy, creative stuff together.
Hubby and I love artsy stuff and so it’s no surprise that our kids do too. So, when they’re all around you bet we’ll be doing something creative, one way or another. Our girls love brush calligraphy, a hobby they now share with me although their skills are a lot better than mine. They love to update me with their work and show off whatever new pens they’ve added to their collection. They’ve also inherited my love for creative planning and often watch me when I decorate my planners. I share with them the materials I have and so they’ve started decorating their own planners too.
Both girls have a love for drawing and sketching too, which Ziggy also loves to do. Oftentimes I’d see all three of them hunched over on a table showing each other how to draw or paint different things, sometimes using pens, other times using apps on the Ipad.
We play games.
Although I have downloaded games on my iPad that Ziggy gets to play sometimes, he’s always excited to see what kinds of games his sisters have on their iPad. He loves to play with them because baby Zander can’t play the usual games with him yet.
It’s not all about gadgets though. Our kids love board games as well so we try to play one with them every so often. Some of our most favorite ones are Jenga and Zingo.
We cook together or eat out.
We’re a family that loves to eat. The kids all love to help out in the kitchen and so our weekends are usually divided into one day when we eat in and another day when we eat out. The girls have favorite food that they don’t get to eat in their other home so they usually help me cook them when they’re here. Just the same though, we also enjoy eating out together and discovering new restaurants and cuisines to try.
We go to the park or to the mall.
Whenever there’s a need for us to go buy something during the weekend, we take the kids to the mall. Sometimes we don’t even buy, we just go window shopping. The girls and I love to look at crafting stuff. They also enjoy looking at toys with Ziggy. They even enjoy looking for baby stuff for Zander.
Most of the time, we go to BGC, our favorite place to go because there’s a park. We like to walk around, play or just chill. We like taking photos too and documenting the fun moments we had together. Usually though, it’s not really about where we go. We can go anywhere and just enjoy being together.
We let the girls babysit the boys.
Zoe and Ziya are already 15 and 14 years old, respectively, and so they can already watch over their little brothers. We’ve never left the boys alone with them in the house though. We just let them take care of the boys whenever hubby and I need to finish some chores around the house. This gives the four kids an opportunity to bond and get to know each other better.
Oftentimes, I’d just hear them talking. The usually inquisitive Ziggy will ask his sisters a million different things and they’d try their best to give him an appropriate answer. The girls will tell him stories about what they’ve been doing in school. They all love playing with baby Zander too. They love to kiss, hug and cuddle him. They make silly faces and silly noises to make him laugh.
We explore new things together.
Nothing beats experiencing something new with ones loved ones. In our case, we encourage our kids to try new things all the time in order to widen their horizons. We make it a point to try new things especially when the girls are around so that no one will fee left out. It can be as simple as trying out a new dish, a new toy or even a new activity, just like the fun run we hubby and the kids participated in last year while pregnant me cheered them on from the sidelines. Sure they didn’t win any medals then but at least they finished the race together and had fun.
Or just like playing at Kidzania for the first time together. The kids might not have been able to do all the activities there but they had fun together and learned a lot too.
I admit that even if we try to do all these things, the time we spend together as a complete party of six is hardly ever enough. We still miss the girls a lot and wish that they could just stay with us 100% of the time. Ziggy actually always counts the days until we get to see the girls again. I’m sure Zander will do the same too as he grows older.
I’ve learned so many things about our set up though. I’ve learned that, especially in our situation, quality time is more important than quantity. It doesn’t matter if the girls are only with us a few times a month. What matters is that we make those days count. What matters is that we spend those days together.
I’ve learned that even when they are far apart, the bond between our four kids can remain the same. When they see each other it’s like they were just together yesterday. There’s no awkwardness at all. I’d like to think it’s because of the efforts we take into updating each other constantly through text messages, group chats or video calls. No matter where they are or what they do, we love each of our four kids and that’s never going to change.
I’ve learned that mothering from afar doesn’t make me less of a mom. True, I no longer get to physically take care of my girls on a daily basis. Though it pains me sometimes, I just take this as an opportunity to spend more time with my young boys who are most in need of my physical presence. That doesn’t mean though that I’m not emotionally and mentally there for my girls. I always am. I’m always thinking of them, always communicating with them to make sure everything is fine with them. It’s just that this is the type of mother they need me to be right now.
I’ve learned that even though the girls are afar and that we’re not your typical normal family, it doesn’t make us any less of a family. The girls will always be a huge part of our family. Without them, we are not a party of six. Without them, we’re incomplete.