BLEND­ING A FAM­ILY

When you fall in love for the sec­ond time it’s not just your own af­fec­tions that need con­sid­er­a­tion. JAI BRE­IT­NAUER looks at the chal­lenges of join­ing two fam­i­lies to­gether

Little Treasures - - NEWS -

How to nav­i­gate life when two fam­i­lies com­bine

Emma Ma­son was work­ing as a restau­rant man­ager in Man­gawhai when her re­la­tion­ship with the fa­ther of her daugh­ter, Natasha, ended. It was ac­ri­mo­nious at first and tricky to nav­i­gate the life of a sin­gle, work­ing mum car­ing for a two-year-old and the dif­fi­cul­ties as­so­ci­ated with the split. Thank­fully, she knew some­one else in the same boat – her boss, Kris Ma­son. “I’ve known Kris, an ex­ec­u­tive chef, for seven years, and al­though he’d al­ways been my boss we had be­come good friends,” says Emma. “He and his part­ner had split up at about the same time.” Al­though Kris’ split was much more am­i­ca­ble, Emma found it was good to have some­one in a sim­i­lar boat to talk to, and they be­gan spend­ing more time to­gether. “We’d both been sin­gle for just un­der a year when we got to­gether,” says Emma. “It was a slow pro­gres­sion, be­cause we were al­ready close. As I’d been work­ing for Kris since Tasha was four months old, she had al­ways known him, he was al­ready a part of our lives.” De­spite Kris and Tasha’s al­ready good re­la­tion­ship, Emma ad­mits Tasha, then three, was a bit stand-off­ish when she be­gan to un­der­stand things had pro­gressed. “When I stayed over at Kris’ for the first time, Tasha came with me. I wanted it to be nat­u­ral, and for her to be a part of the process of us be­com­ing a cou­ple.” Over the next few weeks Emma says Tasha was qui­eter than nor­mal, and not as keen to hang out with Kris. “She didn’t want to go into the kitchen at the restau­rant, and when Kris spoke to her she was re­ally quiet,” ex­plains Emma. “Kris loves kids, and is a rough and tum­ble sort of guy, but Tasha wasn’t play­ing with him.”

Al­though a lit­tle wor­ried at the time, Emma says this quiet phase only lasted a few weeks and soon Tasha’s re­la­tion­ship with Kris was back to nor­mal. Ret­ro­spec­tively, Emma thinks that some of the an­i­mos­ity be­tween her and Tasha’s fa­ther might have in­flu­enced her daugh­ter’s re­ac­tion, and as Emma’s re­la­tion­ship with her ex im­proved, so did Tasha’s re­la­tion­ship with Kris. It also helped that Kris had two girls and the older one, Alyah, now 10, was friends with Tasha, now seven. “They knew each other from school, and had hung out at the restau­rant. They got on bril­liantly,” says Emma. “Kris’ younger daugh­ter, Florence, is only five now. She was still a baby re­ally when we got to­gether, and has just ac­cepted Tasha as part of her life.” The strong and en­dur­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the three girls, even after Alyah and Florence moved to Auck­land with their mum last year, has been a bless­ing for Kris and Emma, who have all three girls to­gether at their home in Man­gawhai ev­ery other week­end. “Kris moved into my house, which has four bed­rooms, so they can have a room each,” says Emma. “That was good for Tasha, as there was very lit­tle change. She didn’t need to get used to a new house, or room or school, her life just car­ried on, but with Kris there as well.” Al­though Emma also had a good re­la­tion­ship with Alyah and Florence from be­fore she and Kris were to­gether, there were a few sticky mo­ments with Alyah early on. “For a long time Alyah wouldn’t ac­cept any au­thor­ity from me at all,” says Emma, who felt that the best ap­proach

‘I made the choice to leave the dis­ci­pline up to Kris for quite a while. It was over about a year that ev­ery­thing be­came nor­mal’

was to step back and let Kris par­ent his own chil­dren. “I made the choice to leave the dis­ci­pline up to Kris for quite a while. It was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion – over a pe­riod of about a year ev­ery­thing be­came nor­mal.” Again, Emma thinks that this sit­u­a­tion was largely in­flu­enced by the re­la­tion­ships of the adults in the sit­u­a­tion, and noted that Man­gawhai is a small town and so ev­ery­one knows what is go­ing on. “There was much less gos­sip than I ex­pected!” laughs Emma. “But still, it did take Kris’ ex some time to be com­fort­able with our re­la­tion­ship, and that may have in­flu­enced Alyah, who was old enough to un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing.” As Kris and Emma’s ex-part­ners have moved on to new re­la­tion­ships, Emma says they’ve had to be aware of the in­flu­ence that could have on the dy­namic. “Tasha’s dad’s new part­ner is Tasha’s old day­care teacher,” says Emma. “It’s good be­cause I know her, and Tasha knows her al­ready, and al­though she was a bit con­fused that Daddy was dat­ing her teacher, they get on well. That was a real weight off my mind.” In Auck­land, Alyah and Florence have two new step-sis­ters.

“Thank­fully, there has been no jeal­ousy on Tasha’s side about that,” says Emma. “I can see how that could hap­pen though. Some­times one of Kris’ girls might say, ‘Well my other step-sis­ter does this’, but Tasha takes it in her stride. She also has lots of cousins and friends so isn’t short of play­mates when Kris’ girls aren’t here.” Emma feels lucky that the girls are able to com­mu­ni­cate with each other well, play to­gether and gen­uinely en­joy each other’s com­pany. “Be­cause Tasha is in the mid­dle, she moves be­tween the other two,” says Emma. “Alyah is very cre­ative and crafty, and they will of­ten sit and make things to­gether. Florence is a bit more of a tomboy; she and Tasha en­joy rough and tum­ble games. Of­ten you will find all three of them play­ing with Lego to­gether for hours. It’s lovely.” For Emma and Kris, blend­ing their fam­i­lies has been rel­a­tively smooth and Emma’s ad­vice to any cou­ples in the same sit­u­a­tion is to keep your chil­dren in the loop. “Kids aren’t stupid – don’t keep them in the dark. It’s a ma­jor chal­lenge and you want them to get along,” says Emma, who wor­ries that se­crets can breed re­sent­ment. “In­tro­duce them early, give them time to get their head around it all. Make it nor­mal, so then it will just be nor­mal.”

‘Kids aren’t stupid – don’t keep them in the dark. It’s a ma­jor chal­lenge and you want them to get along... Make it nor­mal, so then it will just be nor­mal’

Kris and Emma with their chil­dren Florence, Tasha and Alyah.

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