When I was growing up the term ‘blended family’ or ‘patchwork family’ hadn’t been thought up yet.

Every time I explained my set up it was preceded with ‘Dad was married before he married (and divorced) Mum and I have 2 older sisters.

Now that I’m grown up, my blended family has expanded even more and I have a blended family of my own with my 2 boys, a step-daughter and my partner and I have a (brand new) daughter together. Sometimes it takes us a long time to get our heads around the day to day logistics of everything so it’s hardly surprising when others feel they can’t keep up.

Speaking of logistics. In the last 7 days there have been 3 of our blended families birthdays and it has meant a lot of swapping things around so the kids could spend time with their other parents, siblings etc all on days they were/weren’t meant to be with us. This is all fine as we’ve been doing it for a few years now and we’re all used to the flurry of text messages between me, my partner, his ex, my ex and sometimes the kids, to sort everything out. What I wasn’t prepared for when merging families was the logistics of getting everyone in our household to sign one birthday card.

The kids all have one night in the week where all 4 of them are under the same roof. Except for this week as it’s one of the kids’ parents birthdays. This is only 4 days after the birthday of one of the other parents, and 6 days after a step-sibling. While to anyone else they’re just dates in a calendar, to us they’re logistics of present buying (one child likes to be taken out to buy the gift, another likes to order online and another won’t agree with his brother on what to buy). Card signing and making sure everyone’s in the right place at the right time. Or a few minutes late. Being a few minutes late with 4 kids in tow is my personal strength. Even when we leave loads of time to get to wherever it is we’re going.

This week there has been one card. It’s destination is to be delivered to one of our co-parents on her birthday by one of the kids. Feeling organised I buy the card, take it out of the wrapper and look around the room to see a lone tumbleweed rolling past. I’ve been too organised as no-one is here to sign it. I sign it from me and the baby and leave it on the table where it is promptly ignored for the next couple of days. Next in a move where I threaten to ban the PS4 if the boys don’t make an appearance with pens in hand, it gets signed by the boys. Three down, one to go. My partner is nowhere to be seen. Once I collar him we discover all the pens in the house have vanished. I’m starting to realise why e-cards took off in such a big way when the internet became available. We eventually find a working pen, the card is signed, sealed and ready to be delivered only for us to be met with the information that our carrier pigeon isn’t spending the expected night with us, but another night a few days later (post birthday).

After a quick check to see how many grey hairs I’ve acquired in this process I vow to plan ahead in future. My plan is to sit everyone in the house down (on one of the days we’re all here together) and start a production line of card signing. I’ll buy cards for every occasion and have each family member sign their name. No-one may leave the table until the quota of signatures is met. It’s foolproof I think, even with a couple of members being left handed and smudging the ink as they go.

When people ask me what it’s like to have a big family I’ll tell them this story. I’ll also point out that this whole incident is over signing one solitary card. If it takes that much organisation just imagine what the other logistics of our lives look like (including emailing the wrong teachers about the kids and only finding one, compulsory swimming hat for the entire household). It might be chaotic but I wouldn’t have it any other way.