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!
Today, we'd like you to meet the family of Nick Ford and Nicole Cirino, who wed just a few weeks ago on February 16.
First off, introduce us to your family.
Our family consists of Nick (42), Nicole (39), Natalie (10), Isabella (9) and Mateo (7). Natalie is Nick’s daughter and Isabella and Mateo are Nicole’s children.
How long have you and your spouse been together?
We have been together for two and a half years, having met on New Year’s Eve 2010 at the party of a mutual friend.
Tell us a little about introducing the kids to one another. How'd that go over?
From the outset, we were both very conscious of our kids and we’d all been through painful divorces. Early on we decided to not expose our kids to another broken relationship, so we spent a long time alone before even meeting each other’s children, let alone introducing the children to each other.
This was not an easy strategy to pursue, as the kids are perceptive and they soon realized that each of them had a potential family they hadn’t met. Slowly they started to get information –- a boy and a girl, their ages, the schools they were at. It became clear that we were getting close to making introductions, and this was a stressful period –- what if the kids hated each other? The kids are all strong personalities, and three can be a difficult mix. We strategized. The introductions would be brief, and contain intense bursts of fun. The day soon approached, some seven months after we first met. We decided on cupcakes then a local children’s theater show. It went well, we were far more stressed than they were, as it turned out. The kids wanted to play some more. More fun stuff –- a weekend away, outings to the pool, sleepovers. Really getting them comfortable as a group.
Tell us a little about your wedding! Did you incorporate the kids into the ceremony in any way?
We included our kids in most aspects of the planning. They helped with choosing colors, the cake (green and red with polka dots!), the music and the decor.
The ceremony was centered around the concept of family and illustrated with a sand ceremony to stress the integration that we strived for. A simple act aimed at the children, each one of us took turns to pour a different color bottle of sand into a larger container, representing the blend in clear terms and stressing inclusivity.
Bella and Natalie sang at the ceremony and Mateo performed a choreographed dance to One Direction during the reception. It was a great time and they all took pride in their contribution and delighted in dancing the night away. Our children felt like it was their wedding in some ways and we made it clear that it was a way for family and friends to celebrate our new family.
What's the biggest challenges of blended family life?
The biggest challenge in the beginning is tolerating small fights and squabbles between the children. We carefully planned every aspect of the children meeting and were thrilled when they begged for us to move in together, get married, etc. As all children do, it didn’t take long for our children to act like “siblings.” They had fights over the TV, who got the most pancakes, which child got the most bedtime stories. We at first tried to step in, worried that if we did not fix their argument then our future would be bleak. After reading parenting books and reflecting on our reactions we then learned to step back and help them solve their own problems as that would make a stronger relationship as well as teach them key social skills.
What's the best thing about being part of a blended family?
After nearly two years, our family has blended and we deal together with the trials and tribulations of daily life. The best thing is watching the kids bond and grow together, watching them learn to resolve issues, and witnessing the beginning of life-long relationships. We also have the strength of each other as strong, solid, experienced parents coming into new family life with past experience and a fresh approach to parenting.
What makes you proudest of your family?
Our children are beautiful and spirited and full of life. They are allowed to be kids despite having a few tough years in their past with divorces and moving homes, schools, etc. They are proud and grounded in the new family and take every opportunity they have to introduce each other as their new step sister/brother.
What advice do you have for other blended families who feel like a peaceful family dynamic is out of reach?
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.
If we had to offer any advice to other families it would be have a common set of ground rules and agree on them first. Show fairness across the board and keep things on as scheduled and predictable a basis as possible. Sometimes the strength of a blend is that the step parent will catch the ear of a child more effectively than the birth parent. Above all, be loving and committed to each other and show that in front of your children. The kids don’t deserve anything less.
Click through the slideshow the see photos of Nicole and Nick's family.
If you'd like your own family to be featured on a Blended Family Friday, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're looking forward to hearing your story!