Meet the Allen’s
● By Hood Magazine
Step inside the Allen home in Sioux Falls and you’re greeted with loving smiles, Pudge, the family dog (a 135 pound Newfoundland) and shoes for kids of all ages neatly lined in the entry way.
Recently blended by marriage, Brian and Anne Allen share a story of common values, an abundance of love and a dedication to their new family. But getting to this point came with many unique twists and turns. They worked in the same building for three years and exchanged only a handful of words during that time. The reconnection came later after some small talk through social media and months of casual conversation.
“I finally told her two people can go to lunch and the world wont stop turning,” said Brian. “We had that first lunch and from that lunch until right now, it’s not that we’ve been inseparable, but we are close. We look in every nook and cranny to find ways to spend time together.”
Anne recalls the beginning of their relationship. Sitting on the couch holding hands with Brian, she remembers where she was at in life after her divorce.
“I was in a place of taking care of my kids, my dogs, going to work and I didn’t really see how there would be room for another person in this mix,” said Anne. “I had a plan. I wasn’t interested in dating and this came out of nowhere for me and altered my plan that I was living. It took me awhile to decide that it was ok to go ahead and hang out with him and get away from this screen and keyboard we had been hiding behind. I agreed to a lunch date after two and a half months.”
That lunch date led to more time together and then introducing children. Brian has two boys Austin (10) and Cameron (7). Anne has three children Olivia (7), Jack (6) and Elsie (4).
“You get to a certain point in life and you know,” said Anne. “We knew this is real. We are in this for the right reasons. Because of that we wanted to protect it and not push it too quickly. The first time they all met was a play date.”
The play date was a huge hit and the kids got along great. It was the beginning of a new journey. Anne was sure to set the ground rules early and Brian knew this was who he was meant to be with.
“Anne told me early on you cannot love me and ignore the kids,” said Brian. She said, ‘It’s a package deal.’ I thought wow! This is a woman who has her priorities in place and is not going to settle. When she told me that, it made me love her more. I realized we want the same thing here, a fully functional family. Whether its your biological parent, or step parent you’re going to be loved and cared for and safe in this relationship.”
The Allen’s were married in August, 2014. Much like their lives are today, the wedding was inclusive of family.
“If you walk around the house you see wedding pictures everywhere, said Anne. “It was the first day of our family. It’s a shared memory that blended families sometimes struggle with. In a traditional family, you get married, you have years of being newlyweds and you welcome children and you have all these memories and all this time. In blended families you don’t have that. You don’t have the history. You get five kids all at once. We are making our own memories now.”
Making those memories includes juggling rigorous schedules. Brian is the evening news anchor at KSFY-TV and works the opposite schedule of Anne, Director of Media Services at Media One. While it can be a challenge, they work diligently to find time to spend together creating new memories as a new family.
“Not that we had the perfect plan laid out,” said Brian. “We had guide points to make memories to have common shared experiences. To make sure everyone does feel included. It’s easier said than done. It’s tough to give any of the kids individual attention to the extent you’d like to, but we’ve sort of turned that on its ear and celebrated the fact that we have more people in our family and more people to love and who love you and who you can depend on. We call ourselves ‘The Allen 7.’”
And they’ve quickly learned that they’re like many families with five children.
“You can have all these great plans and this great vision and we’re going to have this wonderful family,” said Anne. “You have to understand we have five children each with their own different personalities and as all parents know, you never know what you are going to get day to day with any of them. I think something we tend to do is anytime there is a bump in the road, you think they’re having trouble adjusting to new siblings, step mom/step dad, new home. You maybe ask what are we doing wrong? The more honest truth is they’re probably being a kid and having a day.”
While Anne and Brian don’t have a rulebook to follow for their blended family, they’re learning as they go and reflecting back on Anne’s adoption of her oldest daughter for some clarity.
“When you go through an adoption, there’s home study, training, reading so you’re maybe a little more prepared for things,” said Anne. “When you’re blending a family, you don’t get all that background training. That’s one thing I remembered from the training for adoption was that if they’re struggling in school, you might think it’s because they’re adopted. No, they’re just being a kid.”
And while the kids are being kids, Brian and Anne are working as a team to be a cohesive family.
“We never wanted to be married and live a life parallel to each other,” said Brian. “It’s not going to be worth the work to bring this family together if we aren’t going to be a family in every sense of the word. It hasn’t been easy. There have been some discussions that have forced us to stop and really think about what we are doing and how we are doing it. At the end of our first lunch, it was clear with me that this was someone I had to spend time with. I knew she was someone that I wanted to invest time in, whatever that ended up being. Looking back to everything that’s happened, I can’t imagine doing that with anyone else.”