I’ll never forget the first time I laid my eyes on my now husband. He’s very good looking – broad shoulders, the most sincere blue eyes you’ll ever see – and his 6’4 stature makes him even more striking. I met him at church. I was leading worship when he walked through the large, wooden chapel doors. What was on his shoulder? A man bag? A really large Bible carrier? I later discover that it was a diaper bag. Father of three. Yes, you read correctly. Not one, not two, but three. To be honest, I had never ruled out dating a man with kids. But I also had never truly thought about it either. I was a 32 divorcee and finding a good man was like “nailing jello to a tree. It just ain’t going to happen.” I remember some people saying, “Girl, you need to run.” But without hesitation, I broke all ties to anyone after meeting this man. Now, I am glad that my naivety and belief in love led the way. Our values aligned, sense of humors the same, conversation was intriguing… Plus, he was just so normal. That is a rarity for sure.
Over the past almost two years, I’ve had people applaud me for taking on a man with kids. Granted, the kids are young, 7, 4, and 3. It makes it easier. No one hates me yet, and I’ve become another mother to them. The youngest calls me ” Mommy B.” This was something that she came up with on her own. (I secretly love it.) They feel like my own. But they didn’t always. I struggled with the idea of never having that “first” with my husband. He was a seasoned father and a really good one at that. It intimidated me and made me sad that we couldn’t grow and learn together. I had to grieve those childhood fantasies where life is perfect, you meet prince charming, have kids together, and so on. But who was I kidding? I wasn’t a spring chicken. It’s funny how we hold onto things from our childhood. mother and daughter. The oldest instantly gravitated towards me the moment I met her. You’d think she would’ve been the hardest one to win over. Our same sense of humor and interests in arts and crafts sealed our relationship. We have an understanding of each other, and I see the pain she’s had to face. She knows that I “see” her, and she feels safe with me. The younger two were more of a challenge, and looking back, it was all because of me. I resented that my husband had kids before me. And for some reason, I couldn’t open my heart to them as easily. Therefore, they didn’t to me.
Children will respond when you make the first move – moves of enjoyment, compassion and safety. (I’m a former teacher. I should’ve known this.) The night our relationship changed was during a sixteen hour trip from Wisconsin. What the heck were we thinking taking three kids on a road trip like that? Unfortunately, they didn’t have colds, so nighttime cold medicine wasn’t an option. (Kidding!) It was very late, the rain was pounding the windows, and we had five more hours to go. But my then fiance couldn’t bare to drive any longer. We found the nearest hotel and called to reserve a room. I unbuckled the younger two; we rushed into the hotel and then waited for my fiance in the foyer. The youngest laid her head on my shoulder and grabbed onto me tightly. She wanted me. I felt wanted for the first time. In the foyer, we all stood there waiting for “Dad.” But she kept holding onto me. She didn’t ask for him. No longer did I feel like an outsider looking in, a guest who had out-stayed her welcome. She held on tightly as we made our way up the stairs. I tucked her into bed to get a few hours of sleep. In that moment, I forgot everything. The pain, resentment, immaturity all melted away. I forgot that they weren’t mine biologically. We were a family as we rushed into the hotel, sleepy-eyed and tired.
The next morning, the younger two were more loving with me. I think it was because I provided them safety that night, love and affection without reserve. (Granted, I wasn’t a monster before. We had plenty of special times before this, but, honestly, it was always beneath a veil of sadness or resentment on my end.) Someone told me once, “They’re just people.” That someone was right. They’re just kids, needing their needs met, seeking validation. My heart is open now. The wall has been torn down. They know it. We all feel it. The youngest one… Now, she’s a hero. I, the adult, should’ve opened up first. Maybe she knew that my heart was tender; maybe she knew I was hesitant; or the reality, she was just too tired to hold up her head. But she did hold tightly. And that hug, I’ll never forget. No, don’t applaud me for being a stepmom. (Ugh, I hate that title.) I’m not a hero. They’re just people. And today, I’m sad, not because they’re not mine biologically; not because I won’t have a “first” with my husband. Oh, we’ll have plenty of firsts! And being in a loving relationship with a soulmate is definitely a first for us both. I am sad because the house is quiet; the pitter-patter of their feet aren’t heard upstairs; our dog is sleeping rather than playing; and I will only cook for two tonight. But next week, it’s on for “Mommy B.”