I have to smile when I hear people talk about blended families. “Every family is blended!” I think to myself. When you take a man and a woman from two different families, and they get married – boom! You have a blended family. My family became even more blended when we adopted two children. And though blending can be beautiful, it can also bring new challenges. In her new book, Uncommon Marriage, my friend Lauren Dungy shares how blending her family through adoption brought challenges, but also new insight into her relationship with her husband, Tony.
A married couple needs to focus on both partners’ passions and desires. Otherwise, one of the spouses may be forgotten. It can be so easy to forget that what is important to one partner might not be as important to the other.
I had always been supportive of Tony’s career in sports. We sacrificed, made adjustments, and moved around the country because that was what needed to happen. He was passionate about his job, and I loved supporting him. I think Tony felt the same way about my desire to adopt at that point in our lives. He might not have been as excited about it as I was, but he recognized the importance of what I was experiencing.
Tony and I brought Jordan home in August 2000. And right away we had to deal with something we hadn’t experienced with our other children—colic. Those early days were a little stressful, but we made it work and the colic didn’t last forever.
Yet soon we realized that colic was the least of our concerns. Jordan cried when he was hungry, but that was it. He didn’t cry when he got his immunizations. He didn’t cry when he fell off a bed. His teeth came in really early, and soon I started to find them in his crib or on the floor. I panicked. At first I thought they were coming in too soon and just not holding, but then we saw him pulling them out!
This was a new challenge for us. Our first three children had no real health challenges. But with Jordan we could tell something wasn’t quite right. And once we began consulting the doctors, we realized we were in for some long-term issues. We knew we owed it to Jordan to do all we could to give him the best care and to figure out what was going on.
Jordan’s health problems had the potential to disrupt our marriage. We had to consult with so many doctors because of his rare condition while also making time for ourselves, limited as it was.
This was another time in our marriage when our personality differences became very evident. I’m more emotional, so I was upset by each recommendation that we see another specialist. Tony is a little more laid back. He receives information quietly. It was great to have that balance because I was ready to fall apart whenever I received difficult news, but Tony was able to take in and process the information to help us move forward.
The flip side was that occasionally I wanted to see more passion from Tony. Jordan’s needs were unique and not well understood, even by most of his doctors. A number of health issues might have been overlooked or not addressed if I hadn’t challenged some of the doctors and specialists. Through this experience, I learned that mothers and other primary caregivers see the long-term consequences of doctors’ decision on their children and tend to be more directly affected by them than fathers because they spend more time with the child.
When I felt Tony was a little too laid back, I would treat the problem more aggressively. I wanted to jump on it and make those phone calls and schedule those appointments right away. I knew, though, that it wasn’t that Tony didn’t care; he’s just a little more deliberate. Also, he knew I spent most of my waking hours with Jordan and recognized some abnormal behaviors. Tony understood that my motherly instincts were driving my need to find answers.
Over the course of our marriage, we’ve come to realize that our differences lead to a balance that is good, not bad. Tony will reassure me that “Everything’s going to be okay,” while I will push him a bit, saying, “We’ve got to act.”
Times like those reminded us that God had brought us together, not despite of our differences, but because of them. We both love the Lord and want to serve Him. Our Christian beliefs are our common bond. Having said that, we realize that we are very different.
Mark and I can relate to this story in so many ways. We had different challenges blending our two adopted children into the Merrill mix, but every family has challenges because we are all a blend. Some of us just need more power in the blender!
Find the rest of Tony and Laruen’s adoption story in their new book, Uncommon Marriage: Learning about Lasting Love and Overcoming Life’s Obstacles Together.