President's Message #9, Winter 1999
by Dr. Marjorie Engel
Thoughts about the new millennium crop up at odd times—such as when I am in the midst of reviewing a new contract opportunity for SAA. Then again, maybe the timing isn't so odd. I'm committing SAA to activities in the next century! In spite of debates about exactly when the new millennium begins, writing the year 2000 is going to be a big deal. December 31, 1999 won't be just any New Year's celebration. It will be special.
I don't usually make New Year resolutions. Since this date will mark the fact that I have lived in two centuries, maybe this year should be an exception. Nowhere is it written that we should expect to be happy, vigorous, up-and-doing, all of the time. Yet, stepfamilies and the professionals who work with them sometimes seem to focus almost entirely on problem solving. Most therapists say that we tend to find what we're looking for. So, how's this for a New Year's Resolution: "In the year 2000, I'm going to look for the humor in stepfamily living and laugh more." Let's face it, stepfamilies are funny.
Children are often the best sources for humor that comes by way of literal interpretations and viewing life from a surprise vantage point. One of my favorite stories is about the couple with two daughters and one son from previous marriages. Charles and Karen said, "The kids immediately began a campaign to have us get married sooner than we were planning. One night, we had a dinner of hot dogs with candlelight and music. Becca piped up, 'Isn't this romantic? Just the five of us!"
Following a special weekend of sailing, my daughter, Jenny, announced her engagement to one of our granddaughters by saying, "Alex asked me to marry him in the rowboat!" Instead of being excited about a family party, Bridget looked puzzled. "But Aunt Jenny, where will we all sit?"
While I'm on the topic of weddings, several years ago The New York Times wrote about a bridal party. The maid of honor was eleven, the best man, thirteen, and the usher, eight. All three were described as "model attendants at their mother's second marriage." Later that year, the children attended their father at his second marriage. "I'm getting the hang of it now," remarked the thirteen-year-old.
Emily and John Visher each had a son named David when they married forty years ago. Recently, at a family reunion, they overheard two of their grandsons talking. "My grandparents are a little crazy. They got confused and named two sons David."
Then there were the two youngsters having a conversation going to and fro on the playground swings: "My mother's maiden name? Carlson Hyphen." And the surprise request when it came time for the regular bedtime story: "Tell me again about that day you got it all together." Bill Keane, creator of The Family Circus" cartoon, depicted one side of a mother-daughter chat: "Greg's mother is divorced from his real daddy, and she has a step-husband now." And the there was a grade-school youngster who notified his buddy: "I'm under new management... My mom married again."
Please send us your humorous family stories. The new SAA web site and our redesigned newsletter provide opportunities for us to share the lighter moments of stepfamily living. And stepfamily living that takes me back to the upcoming New Year's Eve.
My guess is that there are going to be very few teenage baby sitters who will admit to availability on this particular once-in-a-lifetime evening. So, chances are good that you will be sitting at home with your respective offspring, a bowl of popcorn, and videos. It might be fun to take a trip down stepfamily movie memory lane.
Consider renting the 1960s stepfamily comedies: the amiable but a little slow on laughs "With Six You Get Eggroll" starring Doris Day, or the delightfully well made comedy classic starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, "Yours, Mine, and Ours." And, at the stroke of twelve, give a toast to your stepfamily and resolve to look for and enjoy the funny side of life. Party hats off to Stepfamily
Dr. Marjorie Engel is president of the Stepfamily Association of America