27

Family photo fun time with an international blended family of six

This set of photos from Maine-based Justine Johnson Photography celebrates a blended family of AWESOME: Manya and Brian live in Kenya with their four kiddos. These two were both divorced when they met, and happily joined her two daughters and his two sons together. When the six of them were altogether visiting grandparents in Maine last summer they decided to round up the gang for photos — and here's what they came away with.

31

My step-son is worried we won't love him if we have a kid: how can we reassure him?

I'm engaged to marry the love of my life next year. We've been together for four years, and I've been a step-mother to his eleven-year-old for three-and-a-half of those four years. I really love this kid — I often feel like he could be my own child, and we have a special "just us" language we regularly use. My step-son has repeatedly told us that he doesn't want us to have a child of our own. His dad and I do plan to have a child, and since we're older it'll probably be sooner than later.

9

How can I make sure my step-kids have friends when they visit us in the summer?

I have never wanted bio-kids of my own, but I fell in love with a father and now I have two step-kids who I love to pieces! They live full time with their bio-mom and her family and currently are overseas because of the military, so we keep in touch via phone calls, Skype, packages, and very infrequent visits. We just got the news that they will be moving back to the States (yay!) and our visitation will become more frequent and regular. We have a great relationship, but I want them to really feel like our house is their other home, and I especially want them to have social support and friends in our community who they will be able to return to on summers and school holidays.

45

How do you handle jealous grandparents?

My husband and I are expecting our first child in September. My parents are divorced and both remarried. My mom has some anxiety issues that she generally handles very well, but can get overly emotional very easily when it comes to me (an only child). She has a jealous streak when it comes to my Step-Mom, which is not helped by the fact that while my Dad and Step-Mom live 10 minutes away, my Mom and Step-Dad are a good five hours away.

21

I'm an atheist but my step-kid is religious: how do I respect his beliefs while expressing mine?

I have a nine-year-old stepson. I've been in his life since he was two-years-old. We've always split time 50-50 between the houses. My partner and I are definitely offbeat. We're tattooed, politically radical and activist-y, feminist, intentionally unmarried, and atheists. Around the time my stepson was four, his biological mom "found Jesus" and joined an evangelical, fundamentalist church. Needless to say, this was a difficult transition. Now, our little dude is coming to our house and evangelizing to us, trying to convert us.

21

The bright side to a "broken" home

As co-parents we have established a new type of relationship between us and the boys have settled into their schedules. Both of us are now in committed relationships, so new parental figures and extended families have been added to the mix. While we don't aim to all vacation together or live next door to each other, we can truthfully attest to life and happiness as amicable dual households. Even still, we hit rough patches. It's hard not to blame every temper tantrum on the transitioning between places or question if your kids are somewhat permanently scarred.

75

I became a parent by straightening a bathroom towel

Does my stepdaughter ever even notice that the towel gets magically straightened? I have no idea, but the chances of her thanking me for it are slim, and my mother was right. It's not the point. Is it important that the towel be straightened? Well, it certainly increases the chances that she actually gets a dry towel next time, but who knows if she even notices whether or not her towel is dry? It makes me feel better about the state of the bathroom and in the grand scheme of parenting, that is not something to be taken lightly.

15

I had to ground my step-son for the first time and it made me feel like a "real" parent

I love my little man. He's seven, and while not mine by birth, he sure as hell is mine by love. The four of us parents, (mom, step dad, dad, and me — step mom) get along pretty well, and while we disagree on some things, we try to compromise and present a united front. Usually, this isn't too hard — he's a good kid, hardly ever misbehaves, and for the most part a good talk will prevent any major infractions of the rules. That is, it was easy until yesterday.