I have a small little garden that I have been working on for years now. Every year, I plant bulbs and tubers for a colorful variety of flowers. Read on to see what this has to do with #blendedfamilies.

There have been a few years when I transplanted select shrubs to hopefully establish (some day) the garden I have envisioned for years. You should see my Limelight Hydrangea- beautiful! The first year after I planted it not one blossom appeared. I worried a bit until my neighbor taught me the sleep, creep, leap concept. This simply means the first year a shrub is transplanted it seems to grow very little- like it's just sleeping. The second year shows small, creeping growth and usually the third year it leaps forward with many blossoms and lots of growth.

What I have learned is that I have very little (actually none) ability to make the flowers blossom at a desired time. I also realized that in the Fall I can neither predict when leaves change colors or how long or bright they will be at their peak. This year my burning bush was its most stunning red the first weekend of November. I'm thinking last year it was a week earlier.

I could try extra water or extra sun to speed along the growth process. Perhaps some fertilizer or plant food could make flowers pop when I want. No matter how hard I try however, I cannot manipulate the tulips to open on Easter morning or time the Glads so they all blossom at the same time. Ultimately the only thing I can do is cultivate and wait.

Stepfamilies have their own sleep, creep and leap process. Usually it takes five to eight years for a blending family to really start to blossom.  There are many processes whereby you can influence good or bad but most are not all that predictable at least as far as when they might be accomplished. Perhaps you have two or three stepchildren that don't seem too interested in showing you respect or any sort of acceptance. Unless you are acting like a jerk, don't take this too personally. They could simply be in the sleep stage.

After some searching, I discovered for myself why this 'sleep' stage happens. Evidently when you uproot a shrub from its home it goes into a dormant like phase in order to heal and recover. Hmmm, that analagy is way too easy. Kids who lose a parent or go through a divorce need time to recover. In fact, kids who have been living with a single parent that remarries need time to figure things out.

When a new, significant adult who adds the title 'stepparent' joins their family their place in the family is gonna be perceived to be insecure no matter what you do to reassure them. The sleep stage for kids/stepkids can be expressed in a number of ways.

Some kids withdraw, some act out in various ways. Some try to cling to their parent, others try to take the role of protector. How children 'sleep' is not always predictable. You can be sure that I could write several articles about this (don't worry I will). The main point here is for you to be aware and patient.

Cultivating includes patience and understanding not high pressure demands to accept the new family. If a parent takes this approach, he or she will most likely prolong the child's insecurities. Find ways to speak the truth in love and set limits graciously. I can say the obvious - children are not adults - but surprisingly parents and stepparents will still expect their children to take it like an adult.

If you are the stepparent, it is most likely too early to even be seen as a mentor let alone a parent. Work at being trustworthy by treating your spouse (their parent) with love and respect. If you are the parent - same thing.  Avoid putting pressure on your spouse (their stepparent) to suddenly look and act like a parent.  If you fight in front of the kids, keep it low key and fair. Escalating conflict that includes demeaning, belittling or blaming words force children to take sides or just withdraw further. If needed, seek help for your marriage.
As children begin to trust that this new family is functioning and stable, (years not months) it allows them to start to grow again. Remember that creeping is still slow. Maintain your calmer relationship building activities and continue to redirect your own impatience. The goal here is to not only last but to blossom; for everyone to blossom; your marriage, the children, all the various relationships. Cultivate not irritate.

I have this shrub that I transplanted several years ago. I loved its promised unique blossoms and the beautiful golden color in the Fall. In fact when I put it in the ground it already had some of these cool flowers. It didn't blossom for the next two years and then because I was overly concerned about there being too much sun I moved it again. After another year of no blossoms and little interest in the Fall, I decided I needed to cultivate as advised and stop irritating it with anxious hovering. This Fall, for the first time, it has begun to show its interesting golden leaves. I think it's creeping. Yay! Maybe next year I will see those flowers. If not, I'll wait.