As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we're spotlighting a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!
This week, Jesika Davis shares with us how one fateful plane ride changed her life forever -- and for the better.
It's a scary, complicated thing, bringing together two families: Two groups of children that love and adore you individually but have only just begun appreciating you and your spouse as a unit.
In 2009, my future husband (a life-long Marine and East Coast man) and I (a former yoga-instructor, nonprofit- fundraising West Coast girl) met on a plane going to London. We were sitting directly next to each other and spent eight hours developing a deep friendship, a friendship that grew over the next year and blossomed into more.
In 2010, I moved my two children, a three-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, across the country from California to Washington, D.C. to move in with my now-husband and his four boys, ages 4, 7, 10, and 13. We were crazy with fear: fear of the unknown, fear of the known. Will they hate us for doing this to them? Will they love us for what will be a crazy life? Will we just royally and utterly screw this all up?
Once we'd decided to move in together, we -- being the obsessive readers and researchers we are -- immediately hit the book stores and went online in search of the "right" way to do it. Unfortunately, we didn't come across a book on How To Move Across The Country And Integrate Six Children, All Still Reeling From Recent Divorces, While Maintaining and Developing A Close Relationship With The One You Fell In Love With, While Trying To Get Used To Living 3,000 Miles From All Your Friends And Family, While Starting A New Job. That book surprisingly doesn't exist.
We researched, read, sought advice from counselors, teachers and experts. That is our testament to how scared we were, and how badly we wanted to do right by these kids. We did everything we could.
And we made so many mistakes along the way.
It's like right after you've given birth and they wheel you out of the hospital in a wheelchair, through the open doors into the blinding white light of the outside. And then you are on your own. You can't believe they let you leave the place with this amazing tiny little life. They didn't give you an instruction manual, they didn't send a 20-car police escort to make sure you made it home. Nothing. You are on your own and you are slowly waking up to the realization that there is nothing you could have done to prepare yourself for it.
But here we are now. Three years later, celebrating our fourth year of traditions: fourth first-days-of-school, fourth Thanksgiving, fourth Halloween, fourth birthday parties for each sibling. And we have a full house almost every weekend. This past weekend, we had all six kids plus two friends, and it really hardly fazed us. But those first few years were chaos, fighting, learning, adjusting.
It's all coming along for us so much easier now.
The reality is, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how many books you read or how many experts you consult, there is no magic to this. It's hard work. It's dedication. It's being the one true home that is safe, sound, and trustworthy. Divorce is so horrible, destabilizing, and scary. And we've learned that the only thing we can do in response is make our home safe, secure and loving.
It's parenthood, amplified.
It's the good, the bad, and the amazing parts of parenthood, amplified.
Now the kids are 7, 7, 9, 10, 13, and 15. They are adjusted. They come to us for hugs, regardless of which of us is in the house. This past weekend there were more laughing times than sad and there was trust and honesty between us.
We must be doing something right after all. But like any parents, we won't see the end reward for years and years to come.
And that's OK with us. Because already our rewards are amplified.
If you'd like your own family to be featured on a Blended Family Friday, please email us at email@example.com. We're looking forward to hearing your story!
Click through the slideshow below the see photos of Jesika's family.
Meet Kelly And Todd's Family
"Love for your partner's children isn't automatic. Just because you love someone doesn't mean that you're going to automatically love their children. All relationships take time to grow and develop. Be willing to give everyone the time and space that they need. It will come." <a href="hhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/20/blended-family-friday_n_3957283.html">Read Kelly and Todd's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Wendy And George's Family
"Be selfless, be positive, be kind. They will live and learn by example, so make it a good one. This is now your family, and you can create your own happiness!" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/13/blended-family_n_3917007.html">Read Wendy and George's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Rochelle And Philip's Family
"The best part of being a blended family is that you have a bond with another partial nuclear family who shares your pain of going through a divorce and you just get each other. You grow to love each other and over time you heal and start to feel like a whole family again." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/blended-family-friday_n_3876493.html" target="_blank">Read Rochelle and Philip's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Justin's Family
"When my stepdad and I went out to gather wood, we would talk about everything from school and sports, to girls and manhood. He also let me drive the truck, which was one of my first experiences behind the wheel. At the time I hated going out in the cold and gathering wood, but looking back on it now, I would not have traded it for anything. I would not be where I am now without my stepdad." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/30/blended-family-_n_3839142.html">Read Justin's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Beth And Dominic's Family
"We are happy overall, but still struggle on many day-to-day issues. My only advice would be to remember why you chose to come together in the first place -- the love that you have for your partner. Your partner's children are an extension of them and this makes them just as important to your happiness." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/blended-family-_n_3798943.html">Read Beth and Dominic's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Raiye And Tobias's Family
"Remember "this, too, shall pass." The good, the bad, the ugly -- don't get too attached to any one feeling. Also, use a chore chart, for the love of all that's good in the world. Seriously, it changed everything." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/16/blended-family_n_3764176.html">Read Raiye and Tobias's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Andi And JD's Family
"Some of our kids have all their parents looking out for their best interests, and some of our kids have a biological father or mother who gives them no emotional or financial support. Everyone comes from a different place, and carries different hurts. Our job as their parents is to love them through all of that, and to provide consistent boundaries no matter what." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/09/blended-family-friday-mee_6_n_3728473.html">Read Andi and JD's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Kate And Chad's Family
"The love is the best part. There is so much love in our family; it is breathtaking. Holding the love of a child that you did not create is an amazing thing to experience. Both of us agree we could not love each other’s biological children more. " <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/02/blended-family-friday_n_3691984.html">Read Kate and Chad's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Pam, Mac And Tony's Family
"I'm proud that we all made a conscious effort to put our differences aside, forgive what happened in the past and commit to raising a child who feels 'whole.' It has never been about what I want or what he wants as much as what is best for our daughter." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/25/blended-family_n_3655018.html">Read Pam, Mac and Tony's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Matt And Nicole's Family
"It takes a lot of work but it's worth it. Every hug proves you are doing something right! Every laugh shows there is joy in the family. And every time someone wants to hold your hand or sit with you on the couch, you are building your connection to each other." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/blended-family_n_3619882.html">Read Matt and Nicole's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meg And Jeritt's Family
"The 'blending' will test the bounds of your compassion, but you want to come out of this feeling like you did the very best that you could. You are helping the children to write the story of their lives. You want it to be as positive as possible." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/12/blended-family_n_3582550.html#slide=2686147">Read Meg and Jeritt's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Clarissa, Keith And Rick's Family
"My advice would be to take a few steps back, try to think outside of the box and look at the potential for minimal drama and maximum happiness for your family, especially for the children involved. Sometimes you need to look past yourself, and be very selfless." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/05/blended-family-friday-_n_3530952.html">Read Clarissa, Keith and Rick's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Ivy Lifton's Family
"If you can envision two trees so close together that their trunks and branches touch one another, you will see the connection but still see two trees. Blended families are like the two trees. The outside world sees two trees while the family strives to make it one by intertwining the roots, by nurturing it." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/blended-family-friday_n_3474262.html">Read Ivy Lifton's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Michele And Barry's Family
"Make your marriage your top priority. This is a new marriage and it needs time and energy and nurturing. If you ignore it, it will fail and you have already done that once to your children and do not want to do it again." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/blended-family-friday_n_3474262.html">Read Meet Michele and Barry's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Katie And Kurt's Family
"Do your best to be respectful to the other parent and <em>always</em> keep your word or promises to the kids. They're struggling with the loss of their family and they need to build trust with you as their stepparent." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/14/blended-family-_n_3437032.html">Read Meet Katie and Kurt's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Kara And Richard's Family
"Give it time! We have only recently arrived at a place where we all feel secure in our role in our family but it took years, tears and lots of flexibility. It might take one family a few months to have the wrinkles ironed out or it might take years." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/blended-family-friday-mee_n_3399272.html">Read Meet Kara and Richard's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Harriet And Joe's Family
"When Joe and I first blended our family, our six kids were our number-one priority. Treating our kids like individuals and not as a 'herd,' as we called it, was a key component to making each of our kids feel special and feel like an important part of the family, which they were." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/blended-family-friday-mee_5_n_3361975.html">Read Harriet and Joe's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Chelsea And Jeremy's Family
"My husband and I refuse to treat any of the children any differently. We see them all as 'ours,' which I think is very important. We try to make sure all children feel equal and included in our family and our lives." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/24/blended-family-friday-mee_4_n_3328763.html">Read Chelsea and Jeremy's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Maureen And Tom's Family
"Our children have really become true siblings. They love (and hate) one another just like regular siblings. They have taken a tough situation and made it into something beautiful." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/17/blended-family-friday-mee_3_n_3288745.html">Read Maureen and Tom's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Stacee's Family
"Both of my dad's exes and all the kids lived under one roof. My brothers and I were raised as siblings -- not half siblings but just siblings -- and we had two moms (although Goonie and Mikey call my mom auntie). On the weekends, dad only had to make one stop to pick up all his kids!" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/10/blended-family-friday-mee_2_n_3247059.html">Read Stacee's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Anessa And Keith's Family
"Do not beat yourself up for making a mistake -- after all, we are human. Just love one another and be there for the kids especially when they push away -- that is when they need and want you the most." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/03/blended-family-friday_n_3204734.html">Read Anessa and Keith's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Wendy And Arlando's Family
"Our children are all grown and out on their own, but when we get together there is no greater feeling. Sitting around a table and watching our adult children interact with each other is the best part of having a blended family. They look out for each other; in fact, sometimes we joke that they know more about each other than we do." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/26/blended-family-friday-mee_1_n_3158951.html">Read Wendy and Arlando's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Samara And Jeff's Family
"My stepkids have realized over the years how blessed they are to have a family situation where there is peace between their parents, where we all live within the same community and school district and where there is genuine love for all of the kids." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/19/blended-family-friday-mee_0_n_3113074.html">Read Samara and Jeff's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Susan And Peter's Family
"The kids are really the ones who wanted us to get married. I think they need to feel like this is forever. Recently, Jake, Peter's son, told me he wants my son Jamie to be his best man someday. I get teary thinking about it." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/12/blended-family-friday_n_3056616.html" target="_hplink">Read Susan and Peter's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Amy And Eric's Family
"Think of a blended family as being made or 'cooked' in a crock pot, not a pressure cooker. Each person has to find their comfort level and will do so on their own time. Be willing to give your biological children your blessing to love their other parent and spouse." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/blended-family-friday_n_3017443.html" target="_hplink">Read Amy and Eric's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Mimi And Stu's Family
"My advice to anyone working on blending a family is to always put the child first. Never, ever, say a negative word about your ex in front of your child. Be flexible and patient. It takes time. Always remember when the kids are acting out it's because they are hurting. Take a deep breath and think of a way to lift them up." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/29/blended-family-friday_n_2975161.html">Read Mimi and Stu's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Valerie And Brandon's Family
"Finding time to love and pay attention to everyone as they need is the biggest challenge. Some days there isn't enough of me, but it's fun feeding, clothing and loving all these people. They make me crazy, but I like it!" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/22/blended-family-friday-mee_n_2927660.html">Read Valerie and Brandon's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Jen And Ryan's Family
"The best thing about being a part of a blended family is being able to show the children what a real, loving marriage and family looks like ... The lessons that they learn though the adjustment and the tough times are good ones. They see that two people who love each other can weather the storm of life and stay together." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/15/blended-family-friday_n_2885521.html" target="_hplink">Read Jen and Ryan's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Nicole And Nick's Family
"Let kids be kids. Don't expect too much of them. Don't push new family members on each other but work hard to find in each a common interest and build on it. Our two girls bonded over the new 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' series and spent hours collecting gear and acting out each of the characters." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/blended-family-friday-_n_2832153.html" target="_hplink">Read Nicole and Nick's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Crissy And Jimmy's Family
"We feel fortunate to show [our kids] what a healthy, loving partnership looks like. No one goes into marriage thinking they will be divorced one day. It is even more painful when there are children involved. The best thing, we believe, we could do is show our children that it is possible to be in a loving, stable relationship built on mutual trust and respect." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/01/blended-family_n_2776391.html" target="_hplink">Read Crissy and Jimmy's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Karen And Shawn's Family
"Every blended family has a different make-up of people and personalities and paths they have to take to arrive at the door to success. I've chosen to take one day, (and sometimes one glass of wine) at a time and here we are six years later." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/22/blended-family-friday-mee_n_2729140.html">Read Karen and Shawn's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Elizabeth And Donald's Family
"We are proudest of the fact that we are a family -- blended or not. When one has an event (swimming, lacrosse, dance, band) we all show up. It's not always possible to be everywhere for everything, but we show up for each other and everyone knows they are important." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/blended-family-friday-mee_n_2681378.html">Read Elizabeth and Donald's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>