Ten years later, we’re still not divorced.

I’m secretly hoping I’ll wake up on the morning of our 10th wedding anniversary to a fanfare of golden trumpets, fireworks and maybe even a large trophy. I imagine pretty pageant queens handing me bouquets of flowers, placing a sparkling crown upon my head and hanging a sash across my shoulders that reads “Mrs. 10 Years of Marriage in a Blended Family 2013” and I will stumble out of bed, crying and waving to the crowd of trumpeting cherubs and adoring fans.  I will even be wearing a bra and I won’t have bad morning breath.

“Thank you!  Thank you all so much!  I couldn’t have done this without the loving support of my friends and family!  I want to thank my parents for taking the kids overnight every so often so we could get away to fancy hotel rooms and take naps.  You guys are the best.  I’d also like to thank all those school teachers for keeping my kids occupied for a solid six hours; my husband and I couldn’t have had those lunch dates without your constant willingness to keep them out of trouble.  And most importantly, thank you to my husband for never following through with those threats of leaving me when I was acting like a deranged lunatic, sprawled out in the middle of the kitchen floor, wailing about not getting the potato puff casserole right for the 47th time.  I never did get it right and we’re probably all better off that way.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Time also flies when you’re struggling to find the fun.

From the moment our eyes locked in the garden department of Kmart, on Mother’s Day many years ago, not only have the “Blue Light Special” jokes never gotten old, but the passage of time has never been so blaringly obvious.  That moment and all the moments that followed within days, I was lifted from my safe, familiar life as a single mother to my little curly blonde girl, and I was placed in the arms a small green-eyed boy who needed a mother more than I could have ever known.  There are still days when his need for a mother jolts me into the present moment and I have to remind myself to breath.  The passage of time has given me massive amounts of real, spontaneous love from the hearts of children, two I carried inside my body and one I didn’t.  The passage of time has also brought about my deepest pain, my most self-absorbed moments of motherhood.

You have no control over time; it passes even if you beg for it to stand still during the beautiful moments.

And time also passes at its own seemingly sluggish speed even when you selfishly try to wish the years away because you don’t believe you can do this one more day.  You just can’t give him what he needs because you have no idea what that is.  But you do you know what he needs; it just requires more than you’ve ever given anybody.  It means learning to love somebody because they need you to.

When I meet another parent of a blended family, I want to reach out to them and whisper “I understand.  It gets easier so don’t give up.”  And I want to hug the children of blended families and tell them “Yes, you are loved just as much.”

I wish I could go back in time and say those things to myself because I lived in countless moments just needing permission to not love him as much as I wanted to.  I needed assurance to know it would get easier and that the love would eventually come.

It did come.  And it continues to grow.

Time has been my greatest teacher.  Eleven years is long enough to learn to love a child.  Eleven years is also barely enough time to show him how much love is inside your heart.

Eleven years of blending the lives of completely separate people, unrelated to one another by blood but entirely in love with each other by choice.

When somebody looks at our family and says kind things about us, about how happy we seem or how my oldest son has my green eyes, I smile.  And then I slap my husband on the butt, mostly because that’s how I high-five him, but also because we did it.  Not only have we stayed in love, grown more deeply in love, but we’ve kept our promise to these kids.  We’ve made and kept many promises because we want to get it right this time and even when all I want to do is wrap my husband’s head in duct tape and roll him down the driveway because he still can’t pick his damns socks up off the floor, these kids need us to have our act together this time around.  Not that duct tape isn’t a useful parenting tool.

We had everything we needed to make this work, but there was always an empty chair, an empty spot in the car, in my heart, in our lives as a family.  Having a third child together was exactly what this little blend of a family needed and what makes our third child so special is that he’s related to every one of us.  He’s ours collectively.  He’s that missing piece of the puzzle that had been sitting on the kitchen table, unfinished for so long.  He’s the “sealed with a kiss” on the promise letter we wrote to our two oldest.  And although every one of my children was wished for, whether in hindsight or in anticipation, his arrival meant something big, something more tangible than a promise.

They would put their small hands on my belly, knowing but not truly understanding that inside was something belonging to them and when the time came, they would be needed to help.

He’s spoiled rotten, has us all wrapped around his smelly little fingers and although they complain about how much of a pain he is, I catch them piggy-backing him wherever he wants to go and lingering at his bedside, just because he pretends to be scared of the monsters under his bed.  I find his big sister styling his hair, reminding him how special and strong he is and I hear big brother whispering that if bullies every give him trouble, “you just let me know.”

Some days I forget how much blending our family has been through and also I forget their names and just call them “His, Hers & Ours” because every kid feels super special when they get compared to a set of bathroom towels.

And other days I feel like a chunk of bleeding, pureed mango and if I could climb out of this blender, that’d be fine by me.  Because when everybody is jockeying for their position in a blended family, it’s really all about who Mother loves most.  YOU!  Get off my boob.  YOU!  Stop trying to crawl back home and YOU!  Stop licking me!  I love you all equally but right now I’m two whines away from a bottle of it.  And I’m banking on a good chance that mothers of nuclear families are tempted to run away every once in a while too.  Also I feel better when I tell myself that.

Happy 10th Year Anniversary, Jason.  We can call ourselves blended, step, half, dysfunctional or just bat-shit crazy but we made it farther than either of us imagined and I have a feeling we’re either going to keep getting better or we’re just going to lose our marbles completely and ship them all off to live with my sister.

Renée Chalou-Ennis

About Renée Chalou-Ennis

Renée Chalou-Ennis lives in Presque Isle with her husband Jason and their three children, ages 17, 15 and 8. She owns a wellness center and instructs fitness classes part-time. Amidst battling the breeding laundry pile and negotiating the hormonally-fueled spectacles that accompany raising two teenagers, she enjoys helping motivate people to reach their fitness goals. She’s learned not to take herself entirely too seriously and tries to inject as much humor into life, work, play and parenting as possible, much to the teenagers’ chagrin. She’s fairly certain they’ll grow to like her someday. From the challenge of blending a family, part-time home schooling her children, having a severely asthmatic child, raising teenagers, life in rural Maine or losing 30 lbs to transform herself from sedentary sideline mother to competitive athlete mother, Renée writes about a life worth living well, even when it's so funny you want to cry.