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“My mama bought me some new shoes. At her house she did. That was soooo sweet of my mama, wasn’t it?” My 3-year-old (soon-to-be) stepson
asks from the backseat. I can see him in the rearview mirror, a Spider-Man toy
clutched in one hand and his sister’s naked Barbie in the other.
sure was, buddy,” I say. I put my turning signal on and ease into the left
mama is sooo pretty. She sure is pretty,” he tells me, looking out the window.
I smile. He is a very affectionate little boy, a little boy that doles out
compliments like he’s Santa. Sam, I like
your hair! Sam, I like your dress! I like your shoes! I like your bathtub!
you like my mama?” he asks. The stoplight turns red, and I turn to look at him
in the backseat.
course I do, bud! I like your mama a lot.” I give him a smile, and he smiles
back before yammering on about how he needs a booster seat, a happy meal and
maybe a horsey. I can’t follow his conversation. Instead, I spend the rest of
the car ride playing his question over and over in my head. Do you like my mama? His sweet voice
fills my thoughts, and my brain imagines the question as bright bubble letters
floating through the clouds. Any minute, Elmo’s going to appear and sing a song
with Big Bird using that one lyric: Do
you like my mama?
the record, it could be a catchy tune.
I wanted my future kids to grow up feeling comfortable around her. I wanted all of us to be a big, nontraditional family.
wouldn’t say I was completely unprepared for that question, but I didn’t expect
it. Especially not from a 3-year-old who has never heard a negative thing
about his mama from anyone in our home, and that is something I can say with
absolute certainty. When you become involved with someone who has children,
it’s pretty much rule No. 1: Thou
shalt not talk garbage on thinefiancé'schildren’s mother. Ever. No
exceptions. And trust me, I have never had any issue with this rule.
we got home, I opened Facebook and begin tapping out a message to someone not
on my friends list:
Hey, this is random,
but I just wanted to share with you the conversation I just had Trey. He went
on about how sweet his mama was for buying him shoes and how she was “soooo
pretty, my mama sure is pretty”. I thought I’d share that with you!
And then I sent it to the kids’
hope it wasn’t weird,” I told my fiancé, David, later. “I mean we’re not even
Facebook friends or anything.” And it’s true. Despite having a pleasant
attitude any time we see each other, we've never sat
together during an awards ceremony or shared commentary at the pre-K field day.
We were polite and made small talk, but there also had been a few awkward moments peppered in.
In the first few months of
knowing each other, I stood on the sidelines and let her and David take care of
the conversation. It’s not that we were ever ugly to each other or that either
one of us ever started some huge fight, it was just awkward. I was her ex-husband’s fiancé, and they were
still trying to heal wounded egos from the divorce. Lately, we had been
chattier, talking for a few extra minutes during drop-off and pick-up, but
getting together for coffee or to share margaritas one night still
seemed impossible. She was the ex-wife and I was the fiancé, and being polite was
all we would ever manage, right?
that day, I decided that wasn’t enough. I decided that I wanted to be her friend. That I wanted all of us to sit
together during the next kindergarten graduation, that I wanted Trey to come to
one area of the baseball bleachers to
get his hugs and his juice box, that I wanted Chloe to grow up knowing she
could invite both of us to watch her try on wedding dresses and it wouldn't be awkward, that we would enjoy the hell out of it. I wanted my future kids
to grow up feeling comfortable around her. I wanted all of us to be a big,
next day, she added me on Facebook, sent me a message thanking me for sharing
it with her and then a few days later, told me how much she appreciated me and
how glad she was that I was in her children’s lives.
then, our relationship has grown even more. Last time we dropped the kids off
at her home, it was 6:15. By the time David and I finished talking to her, and
her husband and got back in the car, it was 8:35. I turned to David as were
leaving and said “Remember when we all first met and you said that we would
always be friendly with each other, but we weren’t ever going to get together
and play cards or anything? Well now I can totally see us all getting together
one night.” It is a relationship that so few people understand. I told her last
Sunday that when people hear I’m going to become a stepmom, the first thing
they ask is “Do you get along with their mom?”
know! And people act shocked when we say that we do!” All I could do was nod in
no matter what anyone thinks, no matter how many people may tell both of us
“Watch your back, there’s an ulterior motive there,” I know that this is right
for so many reasons. And the two most important ones? Well they’re the ones in
the backseat of my car, asking me if I like their mama, telling me that their
mama said we could all go trick-or-treating together this year, hugging me when
they run into me in a store while shopping with their mama. They’re the ones
who are comfortable talking about her to me and about me to her. They’re the
most important reasons of all, the only reasons that really matter.