As with any family, blended families have struggles and challenges.  Our family has certainly had our share.  It takes work to make any family thrive and bond, but it is worth it.  Last night we saw that the seeds we have been planting have taken root.

Somehow my daughter, Huh, has attracted the attention of a kid at school that she has absolutely no interest in as someone to date.  And the reason she has no interest in him is because of the way he treats her. 

It started out innocently enough.  They had a few classes together last year and worked the same after-school job at a grocery store.  Huh felt comfortable enough to give him her phone number.  She nicknamed him “The Blaxican” because, even though he is black, he looks Hispanic (and in Huh’s mind all Hispanics are from Mexico).  He liked the nickname and proudly referred to himself as “The Blaxican.”

One winter night they were both gathering carts at the grocery store when The Blaxican threw a snowball at Huh.  She’s the playful sort so she lobbed one back.  He threw another and again she lightly threw one back at him.  He then zinged one that hit her in the face.  When she was telling me about it later she said, “Mom, I think he really meant to hurt me.  It hurt.  And it’s just the way he threw it.  He wanted it to hurt.”

Well, Huh doesn’t take stuff like that lying down.  She scooped up snow and zinged one back at The Blaxican that hit him “where it counts.”  It dropped him.  Huh finished gathering carts and calmly walked back into the store.  (Note to all teenage boys:  Don’t start a snowball fight with a softball player.  Just don’t.)

You would think something like that would make a boy back off, but just the opposite happened.  He reacted by wanting to date Huh.  But he did it in a very unhealthy way.  Huh had decided she wasn’t interested in dating him and told him so.  His tactic was to write her profanity laced notes begging her to go out with him.  She ignored them.  He then sent her notes inviting her to fight him.  If she lost the fight she would have to go out with him.  If she won the fight he would leave her alone.

Did he honestly think any girl would want to go out with a guy that just beat her up??!?  Or that even wants to fight her, for that matter?  When Huh showed me those notes The Blaxican quickly earned the NEVER vote from me.  As in, he will never be allowed to date my daughter.  I told Huh that she could make me the bad guy.  She could simply tell him that I’d seen the notes and had declared that she could never go out with him.  He responded by telling Huh to sneak behind my back, that I would never have to know.  If I wrote all of the crap this kid tried last year it would take too long to type.  Let’s just say that Huh endured a lot.  I advised her to not even respond to his texts because he seemed to enjoy making her angry.  I recognized manipulation and control and pointed it out to my daughter so that she could learn to recognize it herself.  And a couple of times I offered to go to the school and speak with officials there, but Huh said she wanted to handle it herself.

The Blaxican and his tactics became the topic of conversation in our home and even around the neighborhood as we shared with others what he was doing.  Squid sometimes joked that maybe he and his friends would have to do something to scare off The Blaxican.  Then he would usually say, “Naw, I don’t want to get involved.”  Thankfully the school year ended and Huh didn’t have to see The Blaxican anymore since she had quit her job because of her rigorous softball schedule.

The busy summer flew by and Huh began her Senior year last week.  The afternoon of the first day all of the kids excitedly told us about their day and Huh reported that she’d had a great day except for one thing.  “B is in my English class,” she reported.

“Who?”  I didn’t recognize the name.

“The Blaxican.”

“Oh.”  A pause.  “I’m sorry.” 

Juju said, “Oh!  I saw him today in the hall.  He says that you guys have been dating secretly all summer.”

Huh and I laughed out loud.  Huh’s summer schedule was so full of softball, vacations, and camp that she didn’t have much time for dating.  The times that she did go out on dates the boys came to the house so that I could meet them.  There was no way Huh could have done anything behind my back.  The lie was so laughably pathetic that we both let it slide.

Last night was the second football game of the season.  Everybody was going to the game because it was against the cross-town rivals and our school took the state championship last year.  Huh and Mack had some friends came to the house to get dressed all in black and do their hair and make-up in ways to show their school spirit.  Squid, as a recent graduate, was also going to the game to catch up with friends before they all go away to college.  He also wanted to see how the football team looked.

Since we don’t have anyone on the team this year (I went to games last year because Squid was on the team) I opted to stay home with my third grade son who has absolutely no interest in football.  I didn’t get to witness what happened, but I heard all about it when the girls returned home.

Apparently The Blaxican managed to get a seat in the stands near Huh, Mack, and their friends.  Huh ignored him.  The Blaxican’s ten year old brother was right in front of them.  When he heard someone call Huh’s name he turned around and asked, “Are you Huh?”

Huh didn’t know who he was so answered him, “yes.”

“Blaxican is my big brother.  He says you are coming over to the house after the game and that he has a stack of condoms waiting.”

That is the only part of what the younger brother said last night that my girls and their friends would tell me.  They said he told them many other things that The Blaxican had said about my daughter but they didn’t want to repeat them.  They said the words were “sick.”

Huh was so upset by whatever the younger brother was saying that she got up and left the stands.  Squid, who was sitting with friends, saw her get up and leave.  He was too far away to hear what was being said but he could tell that it was The Blaxican that had upset her.  Squid left his friends and walked up to The Blaxican.  He got very close and said, “Lay off of Huh.”  And then to make sure he was understood he said, “I mean it.  Leave.  Her.  Alone.”

Huh’s friends report that they have never seen Squid look so serious.  The Blaxican got up and left a little while later.

While the girls and their friends were reporting all of this to me in our kitchen after they returned from the game Huh interrupted the tale to say, “I just got a text from The Blaxican.  He says he’s not going to talk to me anymore and that he’s going to leave me alone.”

Whether or not it is a permanent change remains to be seen.  But, for now, The Blaxican knows that Huh is being watched over by her big (step) brother.  Yes, the unity and bonding seeds that were sown have taken root.

A quick tip on a busy day:

On occasion view You Tube videos with your kids.  It can be a great way to bond with them.  My daughters recently found a You Tube video that was a compilation of old 80’s music videos.  They called me into the room to watch it because they thought I “might like to take a walk down memory lane.”  It was fun to watch, but the fun really began when I started naming songs and artists that weren’t a part of the compilation and they typed the names in to view whatever videos might be available.

There was laughter when they saw Boy George and shrieks when they saw Twisted Sister.  We took a look at Devo, Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Duran Duran, Oingo Boingo, Queen, ZZ Top, Kiss and many more.  We laughed so hard at some of the videos we had tears coming out of our eyes.

“O M G Mom, the 80’s were hilarious!”

And it isn’t just music videos we’ve viewed together.  We have been struck by the talent of a six year old guitar player.  We’ve wondered how another little boy can know so much about vacuum cleaners.  We have been touched by stories of people overcoming great odds.  And we’ve laughed at a sneezing panda. 

One video of a guy driving down a highway on a motorcycle while texting prompted a conversation about what NOT to do while driving.  So much of what the kids find to view on You Tube can be a conversation starter. 

I don’t advocate spending hours and hours on the computer.  I prefer my kids and step kids to choose other activities, but I have learned that if I hear, “Hey Mom, come look at this,” it is something they really do want to share with me and I should take the time to go see.  It has been a safe way to bond with my stepkids.  Sharing a laugh about something builds good memories.  And I don’t always wait for the kids to find things to show me.  Sometimes I find things that I think are worth sharing and then I call everyone in to see.  We based an entire Family Home Evening lesson on a You Tube video that I found once.  Another time I pulled up Blue Man Group so the kids could see parts of a show that Hub and I had attended but the kids hadn’t.  It piqued their interest and if Blue Man Group ever comes back into town they may want to earn some money for tickets.

Embracing what kids today are interested in can help in forging a bond and in building a relationship.  I once wrote a post about texting teens as a way to bond.  Joining them on You Tube occasionally will do the same thing.  Laughing at those old 80’s videos with my daughters is now one of my favorite memories.  I hope they can say the same.