Monday, February 8, 2016

A Peek Inside the Blended Family: Schedules

I have mentioned briefly here that we are making some significant changes in our lives this year.  One of those changes is our custody schedule with Reagan, my stepdaughter.  Seven years ago this month, we went through a trial in family court trying to get shared custody of her after a year and a half of motions, mediation, conciliation, and more accusations than you'd believe.  Ultimately, George was awarded shared custody in April 2009.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief that we were finally done!

It turned out that breath was very premature as just a month later we received notification that Reagan's mom appealed the decision to Superior Court.  Nearly 8 months after the original decision, we were notified that the lower court/s decision was upheld and shared custody it was.

We had more encounters with authorities during these few years than I could have ever imagined in my lifetime. Children's Services social workers, the police department, court judges, attorneys. You name it, I'm sure we encountered them. We miscarried a baby who would have turned 6 last month. We did everything humanly possible to shield my son from all of this, but at the end of the day, he certainly did not get my best all the time.  My greatest regret.

Reagan's mom fought so vehemently against Reagan being at our house for so many years.

For a couple years after the trial, we had Reagan for half the week --Wednesday through Saturday. For kindergarten and first grade, she lived in her mom's school district and we traveled the 30-40 minutes to take her and pick her up from school each week during our time.  When she was in 2nd grade, her mom moved to a new house and we were back in court asking for Reagan to go to school in our school district as her mom's move put them in a significantly less favorable district.  At that time, her mom decided that now having to drive Reagan her half of the week was a hardship and wasn't willing to travel the 30-40 minutes to take her to school near our house.

As a result, we ended up with a new schedule of Reagan living with us Monday through Friday and with her mom on the weekends. The new judge ordered any Monday or Friday off from school would be spent with her mom to keep the time as even as possible during the school year. We quickly began to recognize that as much as we loved the extra time with Reagan, having it be all "work" time was tough. We made the best of it at that year.  The following year for 3rd grade, we all agreed to continue the summer schedule of week on/week off into the school year.  It made life a little easier to be able to have a more normal life together.

Shortly before starting 4th grade, Reagan's mom decided that it was too much of hardship to drive that much and back to that M-F schedule we went. As Reagan continued to get older, in both 4th and 5th grades, and wanted to be more involved with activities and friends she went to school with, not being at our house on the weekends became increasingly more difficult.  Her mom was protective of "her" time on the weekends and also didn't want to drive back and forth for a party or a sleepover or event.  As a tween, this was pretty devastating to always miss. It was hard to continually ask her mom to let us have her for a birthday party or pumpkin patch visit or every other family thing we do on the weekends where she was always missing.

Those are just the logistics.  The emotions and missing out have affected her as well. There has always been manipulation and back and forth trouble stirring on her end mainly between her mom and myself. None of that helped foster positive relationships.

As 5th grade continued, it became increasingly evident that this schedule of all school week with us and weekends with mom just wasn't working.  All the work and none of the down time.
Reagan exhibited poor behavior that was enabled to continue. I felt like everything we did was  undermined, our marriage was strained, I was not the best mom to the rest of my kids, and resentment began to creep in.

George and I knew our solution was that Reagan's schedule needed to change to be more balanced. The thought of going back to court disgusted us, however.  We attempted to talk with Reagan's mom about possible changes for the 6th grade school year. We presented numerous varieties of schedules to make time more balanced for Reagan. All were rejected for various reasons.  Driving is always the main issue.

So after fighting at every single turn to keep Reagan from our house for years, she resisted having a more balanced schedule and have equal time instead of us having full-time that we'd had for years.  Ironic, no?

Our summer schedule of week on/week off came and went. Reagan started the school year for the first time ever with her mom this current year and back we went to our school schedule of M-F with us and weekends with her mom. After more attempts to work with Reagan's mom to have a more balanced schedule and reaching no agreement at all, George and I decided on our time frame to begin working on going back to court and requesting a schedule change. We always hope to be able to come to an agreement with Reagan's mom and avoid court.

Being accountable and held responsible is not something Reagan has consistently had to deal with in her life, unfortunately. That makes for a lot of blame on other people for actions, words, choices. Thus, I'm always the "bad guy." For years, I have been that bad guy. Expectations in our house are high.  We work very hard to raise all of our children to be good, kind people who are successful in school as well as in the world.  Reagan is a model student. She excels, thrives, and has the potential to do something great with her life!

This past December, Reagan at 11 1/2 years old, knew she would be having to deal with some consequences for her actions at the end of a school day. Instead of facing her dad when she got home, she opted to tell her teacher and guidance counselor that she was afraid to come home that day because I had been abusive. Yes, you're reading this correctly.  Reagan thought if she said that and called her mom, she'd get to go home with her mom that day instead of coming home.  Her mom drove on a random Tuesday to school to pick Reagan up.  George was called and was on speaker phone with the principal, the guidance counselor, and Reagan's mom (at school) and told the information that Reagan had shared at school.   George said on the phone all of it was nuts and Reagan was to come home on the bus as normal.  That court order that states we have Reagan M-F, of course the school had to follow and send her home and her mother unable to take her.  She came home on the bus.

After she got home, George, Reagan, and I had a conversation about what happened, why she said what she said, explained the seriousness {again} of false accusations.  George went to sleep before getting up for all of us to go to Andrew's band concert while I made supper. While the kids were eating, there was a knock on the door.  I answered and two police officers were there.  They needed to speak with George and Reagan after a phone call from Reagan's mother that I had abused Reagan.  The police confirmed that I had not abused her and Reagan told them she lied at school.

Simply put, we were back 8 years with accusations flying. Only this time Reagan wasn't a three, four, or five year old who could be convinced to say whatever. This time she is an almost 12 year old willing to lie and manipulate to get what she wants, no matter the cost.  That is dangerous. Dangerous.

While I wholeheartedly believe Reagan's intention that day was to just get to go home with her mom---not bring the police into our home again, Reagan is still responsible for her actions and those she made that day have been damaging.  Lily is afraid when someone knocks on the door it's the police. Andrew missed out on his entire family watching his band concert.

As a result of all of this, we were left trying to figure out where to go from there.  How do we handle Reagan, her behavior, choices, manipulation.  One piece we knew for was absolutely evident that her schedule needed to change for the betterment of all.

After a lot of discussion, back and forth, and up and down, we all agreed for the remainder of the 6th grade school year, Reagan will be on a week at our house and a week at her mom's house just like the summer schedule.

While all things are not resolved, the current balance of schedule started about a month ago, and so far things have been good. It's brought back a sense of normality into our house, positivity, the kids have down time without school and although Reagan hasn't yet worked out her friend stuff--the opportunity is now there.

We're not sure how things will be schedule wise as Reagan starts middle school next Fall, but we know we can't go back to us having all the school week again. It just doesn't work.

It's never easy to talk about the tough stuff and blended families is definitely a very taboo subject, but the older I get the more I recognize that it's important to talk about it.  I have decided to share more of our story and what real life looks like in a blended family---the good, the bad, the ugly.  I hope you'll stick around!


  1. I had to comment on this because I've seen how hard it is. In my own case I was with the kids' mother as a roomie a lot for years and knew the kids well and how they behaved. Their mother is gracious with our time with the kids too. I pray this all sorts out in the best for all of you

  2. I hope you find a schedule that works well for both families!