Saturday, May 5, 2012

Step Family Class Week One

One day while driving around Aaron saw a billboard for step family classes. After going to the website from the billboard we decided to sign up. It is a six week program run by Utah State University. We thought it would be a good idea not only for Aaron and I, but the kids as well, if they were willing to go (and if his ex wife was ok with it). They are on Thursday nights in Orem, although they have several different locations and schedules to attend. We just figured this one would be the easiest. The program provides a free meal and dessert to the family as well!

I was pretty nervous for the first class, but looking back it was totally silly to feel that way.We invited Aaron's ex wife, but she didn't come. Maybe that's why I was nervous, because I thought she was going to be there. I haven't met her yet. All four kids came with us and we had pizza and salad for dinner. After dinner they divided us up by age groups. The adults/couples all stayed in the main room, kids five and under went to a playroom, kids 6 - 11 went to one class with a designated teacher and kids 12-18 went to another class. Aaron's kids are 5, 7, 9, and 11, so the older three were all in the same class.(Their names are Dacia, Kasia, Tagan, and Sierra, respectively)

When it was just the adults in the room they put bowls of M&M's on each table. They instructed us to each take some, but we weren't allowed to eat them. After a minute they explained that for each M&M we took, we had to share a fact about ourselves. I can't remember how many I grabbed, I think it was around 6 or 7. One guy grabbed like 16! So they capped the facts at 10. it was a fun little activity and would be great for a simple "get to know you" game. It was interesting to go around the room and hear a little bit about each of the couples; how long they had been married, how many kids they each had individually, how many they had together, etc... In one couple the wife had 3 kids, the husband had 3 kids, they had one together and they had just found out they were pregnant with twins! CRAZY. Aaron and I had the least amount, since I don't have any. We were the only couple where one spouse didn't have any kids, and we were also the only couple who was engaged. Everyone else had been married for at least a few years. Once we shared about ourselves they let us eat the M&M's. :)

After going around the room and hearing about everyone we went straight into a lesson. They showed a true or false questionnaire on a big screen and had us go through each of the questions individually, then as a class we went over them. The questions were mainly about what most people think of divorce nowadays compared to 100 or 200 years ago. The answers were shocking!! I wanted to share some of them, but I seem to have misplaced my handouts with notes on it. If I find it later I'll come back and edit this post, but for now, some divorce/remarriage stats I wrote down in my notebook.

- About 1/2 of first marriages end in divorce
- About 65% of couples who have divorced have kids
- 75% of divorced people remarry, most within 2 years
- About 1/2 of marriages in a year are remarriages
-Remarriages are most at risk within the first 5 years (this one is scary, but of course I can see how it is true)

After the bulk of the lesson they gave us another handout and wanted us to list our favorite thing to do with each of the family members. They also had a section at the bottom that had questions like, "If I could change one thing about our family it would be..." After about 5 minutes of completing the handout they brought the kids from ages 6 to 18 back in the room. They had filled out a similar worksheet and we were to each to share ours. The kids worksheet had the same information on it, but it was in a different layout. Theirs had a big flower and they were to fill out a family member for each of the petals. Aaron's second oldest, Tagan, who is 9 didn't take anything serious and filled everything out with either burping or farting. He told us he hid under the table through most of their class time and made farting noises by putting his hand in his armpit. He wouldn't discuss anything serious with us about his worksheet and wandered away to one of the couches in the room. I'm not sure if he thinks that by avoiding talking about it and ignoring his feelings they will go away or what. Kasia was really good about sharing hers, but didn't put me in one of the petals. It kind of hurt my feelings, but I can't hold that against her. Technically, I'm not a family member yet. Sierra included me on hers, and she wrote that she doesn't know me very well yet, but she is trying. Out of all the kids, Sierra has probably been the most open about her feelings and accepting of me. It is probably because she is the oldest, but it does make me feel a little better.

After sharing what we learned in class they brought the younger group of kids in and we all had dessert. They served us giant cookies, like the ones from Costco. We asked Dacia what they did in her class, and pretty much they just played the whole time - must have been fun! As soon as they served dessert they basically said everyone could leave when they were ready. We were the last ones to leave, as we were still discussing some things with the kids. At one point Kasia was standing on a chair and asked her dad to pick her up. I offered to pick her up and put her down on the ground and she told me her mom told her I was not allowed to pick up or hold her or Dacia. Ouch. I knew she wasn't saying it to be hurtful, it was completely innocent and she was only repeating what he mom told her and following her mother's rules. Aaron got down on her eye level and asked why her mom said that. She told us it was because I was not a mommy or daddy and only mommies or daddies could hold their kids. Aaron asked about grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, or family friends (he named his best friend and his wife by name). She didn't know how to answer. Aaron then asked her what she thought about me picking them up. She just stared at him with an unsure look on her face. I told Kasia and all the kids that I am not their mom, that they will always have their mom and dad no matter what, but I am the girl who their dad is marrying. We left right after that. I was really bugged by the whole situation, but I wasn't going to let the kids see. Aaron could tell though and after I was back at my house in Salt Lake we talked about it a little.

Marriage is difficult in any situation, regardless of a previous divorce or whether or not kids are involved. Do people still get married?? You bet they do! I know this isn't going to be easy, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to marry Aaron.

Lastly, I want to share a quote that was presented in class and I felt was important:

"To marry again represents the triumph of hope over experience."
-Samuel Johnson

I feel this is especially true for Aaron. I'm so grateful to have been introduced to him.


Tracy said...

That class sounds so interesting. It is nice that they have classes like that available. I'm sure things with the kids will get better as they get to know you more and you become a normal part of their life. Right now it is still so new. I feel bad for kids in divorced families... they go through so much and a lot of times don't really know how to handle their feelings of what is going on. I'm sure you have been handling things great and that the kids will love you.... It will get better. In the meantime, good for you for recognizing a hard situation and going to classes early! I admire that.

Jillian said...

Thank you so much for sharing!!! What a neat idea to offer those type of classes. Love and hugs to you!!!