When Curtis and Barbara began dating, Curtis had a 15-month old daughter, Caytlyn, and Barbara was busy raising her two sons, nine-year old Kody and five-year old Konnor.
As couple’s relationship blossomed, they made sure to take things slowly. “We started hanging out with the kids in small doses,” Barbara explains. “Curtis would come to dinner at our house and we would watch a family movie with the kids, or we would go and watch the airplanes land at the airport. Everything we did was pretty simple…when we all spent time together, it was real time.”
Throughout their courtship, the couple made sure they never pushed their relationship on their children. They explained their status to the children each step of the way, and answered all of their questions. “We have always been open with our children,” Barbara says. The pair was also careful to avoid buying the children’s affection, as Barbara feels “too many couples spend money on toys and games instead of investing time and patience into cultivating a bond.”
When he was ready to propose to Barbara, Curtis asked her sons, Kody and Konnor, for their acceptance. They were happy to add Curtis to their family, and excited for his surprise proposal at the top of the Empire State Building.
As they planned their wedding, Barbara and Curtis developed special ways for their children to participate. First, they exchanged gold chains with the children. Then, at the same time, each child along with Barbara and Curtis poured different coloured sand into a vase. “It is says that you come to the ceremony as individuals, and when you leave you are blended,” Barbara explained. “The sand represents the individual. Once you mix the sand together, you can never separate it—you are truly blended.”
Living together proved a seamless transition for this unique family. The children were kept on a stable, regular schedule that included a family dinner every night. “We started a family tradition of going around the table giving everyone a chance to talk about something cool or funny that happened during the day. It helps us remember and focus on something positive that happened that day.”
Another way the family bonded was by tossing out their television. Instead of gluing themselves to the television every day, the family spent time together drawing, painting, flying kites and playing in the yard. “We did everything together,” Barbara says.
Not every interaction and conversation involved fun and games, however. One important topic raised within the family concerned Konnor’s birth father, and whether or not Konnor should call Curtis, “Dad.” Barbara’s ex-husband insisted his new wife be called “Mom,” but Barbara felt differently. “We explained to them that anyone can be a father, but it takes a very special person to be called ‘Dad.’ Only they would know if Curtis was their dad.”
Now, six years later, Barbara, Curtis, Kody, Konnor and Caytlyn maintain their close-knit relationship by continuing to plan family activities and spend as much quality time together as possible. They recognize how lucky they are to have one another and they are incredibly thankful for the bond that they share. “Many people can’t tell we’re a blended family!” Barbara says.