We are a blended family.
Every other week, our 6-year-old Abby lives with us. The other weeks, she lives with her dad and stepmom.
Over the years, Ty and I have cobbled together our own toolbox of tricks for how to make a blended family work. But we weren’t prepared for what would happen when we decided to add another little one to our family.
An Unexpected Bump
I’ve always had the same last name – my maiden name. And while Ty is a modern man who loves to bake and prides himself on dressing well, when we got married he didn’t consider changing his last name to mine. And then Abby’s last name is from my first marriage.
One family. Three different last names.
When I got pregnant three years ago, Abby was beyond excited that she’d be getting a little sister or brother.
At 20 weeks pregnant, we found out that little one was a girl. It didn’t take us long after that to settle on a name – Bailey.
A couple days after we told Abby what her sister’s name would be, Abby and I were sitting on the living room floor playing Go Fish.
I shuffled the cards for the next game.
“Mommy,” Abby said. “What will Bailey’s last name be?”
I looked up to see a tiny wrinkle of worry between her little eyebrows.
“Well, we haven’t decided for sure, but she’ll probably have Ty’s last name.”
“Why won’t she have my last name?”
I reached out and rubbed her back. “Honey, your last name is related to your dad. Bailey isn’t related to him at all, so it wouldn’t make sense for her to have that last name.”
Her chin dropped to her chest.
“I just want to have the same last name as my sister.”
A Parenting Dilemma
We had lots of talks about how they’d be connected as sisters because they both grew inside my belly. That they were the only people in the world who’d know what my heart sounds like from the inside.
We talked about how Ty and I have different last names, but that didn’t make us any less connected as a family.
But still, Abby was sad. She felt like she wouldn’t have anything in common with her sister.
One night after Abby was in bed, Ty and I were brainstorming other ways to help Abby feel connected to her baby sister.
“Maybe we could give Bailey the same middle name as Abby?” I said.
“We could,” Ty said. “But what happens if we decide to have another one down the line? Will they all have to have the same middle name?”
We sat in silence for a few seconds.
I sighed. “Most families can call themselves the Millers or the Smiths or the Griswolds. We miss out on that.”
“What if we came up with our own name then?” Ty asked.
“What, like change all our names to be the same?”
“No, just a name we use to refer to ourselves as a family.”
It’s really not fair that he gets all the good ideas.
The Next Morning
Over pancakes and eggs, we shared the idea with Abby. We’d come up with a special name, just for our little blended family.
She LOVED it.
Then we just had to decide what to call ourselves.
We like to bake together, so we considered The Bakers.
We like to tinker in the garage fixing broken things – and we’d just seen and loved Wreck-It Ralph – so we thought about becoming The Fix-It Family.
We threw out idea after idea, but nothing seemed to be the perfect fit.
Then finally, we figured it out.
We live right up against a wooded area, so from the very first day we toured the house that would become our family home, we’ve called it “The Treehouse.”
And so, we became The Treehouse Family.
A Quick Tip for How to Make a Blended Family Work
If you’re looking for a way to create a sense of togetherness for your blended family, try coming up with a special family name you all have in common.
It seems so simple, but it’s been a huge help in keeping us connected as a family. We use our special name to build our identity as a family. We use it to reinforce our values. We use it to rally around a common goal.
When something goes wrong or not as planned, we say, “But what’s the thing about the Treehouse family? We figure stuff out. We fix it!”
When it’s time to tidy up, we don’t have to mess around with chore charts or paying our kids to help around the house. We just say, “This is the Treehouse family’s house, so it’s our job as a family to help keep it tidy and clean.”
When Abby asks to go out for ice cream after dinner, all she has to say is: “Because the Treehouse family loves dessert!”
And you really can’t argue with that line of reasoning.
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In your family, how do you stay connected? Share your tip in a comment below!
I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.