When Selene and Avery Evans got married in 2007, they weren’t entirely sure how they were going to merge their two families. They had five kids from previous marriages between them, ranging in ages from kindergarten to high school, and a new house with enough space for everybody to have their own room. But if you ask anybody in the seven-person blended family what they remember most about the early days of living under the same roof, they all say the same thing: Rock Band. You know, the multiplayer video game that came out in 2007, complete with guitars, a drum set, and microphone for vocals. For the newly-formed family, the game was an unexpected bonding opportunity.
“We’d make it no-fail so we could all play together,” said Avery’s 22-year-old daughter Josie, recalling the satisfying irony of watching her older brother and youngest stepsister, roughly 12 years apart in age, wail on the guitars side-by-side in front of the family room TV. “It was like the great equalizer.”
Selene and Avery were happy to give all five kids their space, and knew the older ones in particular may be more inclined to shut themselves into their rooms. But nobody had TVs or computers in their bedrooms, Avery said, so they had to venture out to the common areas for any screen time.
“That was by design,” Avery said. “The only way they could enjoy the television or computer was in communal space. So you could disappear into your room and have private time, but you couldn’t just disappear into your room and play on the computer or watch television.”
With or without Rock Band—or Sims, a computer game that Selene’s daughter Cina said she specifically remembers learning to play alongside Josie—everyone admits that it wasn’t always easy.
“Everyone kind of had their moments,” Cina said.
Cina and her sister Chloe were both in elementary school when their mom got remarried —young enough, Cina said, that she doesn’t remember much about her parents’ marriage. She said the transition was less about the emotions around gaining a step-parent and some new step-siblings, and more about the newfound challenge of dividing their lives between two houses. Cina and Chloe bring their belongings across town each week to evenly divide their time between Selene and Avery’s house and the house where their dad lives with their stepmom, three stepsisters, and half-brother.
But for Cina, a high school student who describes herself as being pretty laid back, blended family life has given her the patience and ability to work with just about anybody.
“It’s made me a more open-minded person, more understanding,” she said, adding that a lot of her friends also have divorced parents, and the concept of blended families isn’t stigmatized the way it used to be.
Josie, who said she was “just excited to be getting little sisters,” agreed, and said that more people in the house meant more resources, opinions and advice.
“It just increases the possibility in your life, whether it’s having another role model, or having other siblings and realizing there are different sorts of people with different backgrounds,” Josie said. “Most people don’t get confronted with that in their own homes. Mostly you go out into the world to meet people who aren’t in your immediate family or like you.”
Selene is the first to admit that even though they didn’t have many “Brady Bunch”-esque disaster moments, it wasn’t always perfect. But she recognized early on that sometimes you have to just go with the flow, even if that means there wouldn’t be any bread left for dinner because everybody kept grabbing slices as they congregated in the kitchen to chat while she finished cooking. With that many people under one roof, there has to be a semblance of organization and structure, obviously, but for the Evans family, it seems that the organic, unplanned moments are the ones that they remember.
“I didn’t get it right a lot of the time, but it’s about taking pleasure in those moments,” Selene said. “Like when we’re down playing Rock Band and it’s 9:30 on a school night, but everybody is getting along and it’s like, alright well, it’ll be O.K. if we don’t go to bed at 9pm.”