"The life of a blended family". Our Poly Life is written by any one of a poly-fi quad. Each month they will share with readers about issues they face as a blended and committed poly family with nine children still at home. You can read more about them at their website; Our Poly Life.

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Our Poly Teens

By the end of this month, our household will be blessed with four teenagers. The mere thought of that terrifies me.

As our families happen to align, we have two high school freshmen - a boy and a girl - both nearing 15 years old with birthdays only 3 months apart. We have another set of middle school children – again a boy and girl – these will both turn 13 this month only twenty days apart.

Fix and Temptress have tread the teen waters before with their oldest daughter (now in college and out of the house) and several nephews they have helped raise. Big and I have no such experience. As with every other family related issue, we are learning to find middle ground between theory and workability.

This will certainly not be a column focusing on “how to live through the teen years in a poly household,” because, let’s face it, we haven’t done that yet. It’s heading more in the direction of “what we think we’ll have to face and overcome.”

Unification. The first and foremost encumbrance was to get the four parents in the same mindset where privilege and responsibilities are concerned. The good news is we have done most of that over the last two years with only minor discrepancies. With four very different upbringings and family styles, you can imagine how the four of us have had to meld our visions of the children’s teen years.

I think we are finally to the place where we agree these last four years between 14 and 18 are the time when we need to be ever vigilant, but not under foot. We now have a backwards ticking clock in which we are faced with the responsibility of conveying character, decision making skills, and accountability to the children that will become our future.

Everyone makes mistakes, but as upcoming adults, the harsh realities of the “real world” will be upon them soon enough. The central goal of most any parent is to release sound and capable adults into the world in which we must all coexist. When these maturing teens step out and make poor choices now, four loving parents will be available for discerning correction and fine tuning their visions while still in the semi-safe clutches of the family nest.

Schedules. We have already begun to face the onslaught of the freshmen activity roster. All of the children have an activity or two in which they are involved, but the daily commitment (most of which are seasonal) we find exists at the high school level is greater than I remember. This requires a certain amount of choreography in the home to make sure our young adults are able to participate in those things in which they find passion and purpose. As a parent, I love seeing them fashion their future selves by taking pieces of the current experience and locking it away in their heart. And it’s worth it to us to do a little driving to insure that materializes.

Driving. Although we don’t have any young drivers at this time, the oldest two are approaching 15, and we are facing permits and training. We are deciding what is and is not allowable behavior for driving privileges, and we are certainly in agreement the keys to the car will be our trump card of consequences.

Our state has some very limiting laws (this is a good thing) regarding teen driving, so as parents we won’t have to set down more restrictive guides, just to make sure the existing are maintained. Whew, one less area to have to invent for ourselves.

Dating. As agreed upon by all four of the parents, we won’t be allowing one-on-one car dating until the age of 16. Aside from that, we will be allowing group and chaperoned outings for special events and circumstances until the age of “free” dating. Take this evening for example…

Tonight Dear Daughter, age fourteen and three-quarters, will be picked up by a Young Man and his parents and delivered to her freshman homecoming dance. Young Man has been a friend of hers for several years and as kids go is not only respectful and courteous, but genuinely likeable. This kid, also age 14, is “just a friend” and is escorting our Little Miss so that she might avoid the awkwardness that comes with attending events with someone less known. Be this as it may, the Father still felt need to go and have conversation with Young Man. It went something like this:

“If I was loaning you my car, I would have certain expectations about how you would care for it, the purpose of requiring its usage, and what condition it would be returned. I’m certain you and I are in agreement that I value my daughter ever so much more than my car.”

As Father stood in the kitchen recounting the tale to both Mommies, an expectant 13 year old daughter stood listening with mouth somewhat aghast. The thought that this man (not her biological Dad) might actually – GASP – interview her potential dates?? And the answer to that my friend is yes. Both fathers have their own style of protecting that which is important to them. Big will do the interviewing; Fix will just answer the door with his best “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” face on and baseball bat in hand. To each his own.

Challenges. No one gets through this life unscathed. And if we did, what use would we be? As humans we are an amalgam of our experiences and beliefs. Everything we do, see, and feel become part of us, and we in turn, are a product of the life we lead. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses that make us individuals. It is these positive and negative traits that get us into the most trouble, even when we mean well.

In my near forty years I have had my share of challenges. Not nearly as many some, but far more than others. I expect similar of all other people, including my children. As a mother, I can honestly look at each one of our children and list the unique issues that will most likely give them loft or pause. With this in mind, I dare say our coming days will not only be full of fond memories, but be interspersed with our share of challenges. With nine children, there is no way to expect a seamless transition into adulthood for all of them, nay, any of them. But more important than the problems we’ll experience is the approach in which we’ll counter them – understanding them for the learning opportunities they are and exercising our best efforts to overcome.

~the laundry goddess, October 13, 2007

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