Day 2: How to Cook a Stepfamily
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)
Whether you realize it or not, you have a set of assumptions about how to cook your stepfamily. By that, I mean your approach to how your stepfamily “ought” to come together. Brenda was cooking her family with a blender.
“It happened again the other night,” she began. “My 14-year-old son, Braden, walked in the living room and started asking me to help him with his math homework when his stepfather, Tim, who is much better at math than me, was sitting right there. Braden never asks Tim for help with anything. It makes me so frustrated. I told him he had to ask Tim for help.”
Obviously Brenda’s goal is to help her son connect with his stepfather. Her method of cooking is to force them together, much like what a blender does to the various ingredients, by pushing Braden to ask Tim for help. There is nothing wrong with Brenda’s goal, but there is something misguided about using a blender to force the ingredients together.
This “blender” cooking method attempts to force people to love each other, rather than allowing them to take responsibility for applying Christ’s command to love one another—in a gradual manner that is tolerable for them.
That’s the problem with many common cooking styles used by adults in stepfamilies: They tend to create pressure, which inadvertently builds walls between the various “ingredients.” Food processor parents chop up one another’s history when they demand that stepchildren call their stepparent “daddy” or “mommy.” Microwave parents avoid labels like “stepfamily’ because they don’t want to be any different than biological families, while pressure cooker parents insist that family members celebrate the holiday in the exact same manner.
Smart stepfamilies understand that relationships take time and that the forcing action of “blending” creates resistance, not connection. As the video suggests, they cook with a crock-pot. For example, if we could rewind Brenda’s run-in with her son, a crock-pot mentality might have calmed her anxiety and reminded her that since right now her son feels most safe with her, she should respond to his dilemma. Over time, that might change as Braden shares more of himself with Tim and their relationship matures. Asking his stepfather for help at that time will more comfortably flow from their bond. Until then, Brenda should be patient with her son, not push too hard, and keep reminding herself that they aren’t finished cooking yet.
Based on The Smart Stepfamily by Ron L. Deal. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Ron Deal delivers a daily word of encouragement for those in stepfamilies and those who know them with 60-second short features from FamilyLife Blended®. Listen today.