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How I Became Friends With My Stepkids' Mom

“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.

“That sure was, buddy,” I say. I put my turning signal on and ease into the left lane.

“My 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!

“Do you like my mama?” he asks. The stoplight turns red, and I turn to look at him in the backseat.

“Of 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?

For 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.

I 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.

RELATED: What NOT to Say to a Stepmom

When 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’ mama.

“I 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?

But 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, nontraditional family.

RELATED: Don't Say These Things to Your Stepkid

The 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.

Since 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?”

“I know! And people act shocked when we say that we do!” All I could do was nod in agreement.

Because 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.

MORE: What It's LIke to Gain a Stepchild or Stepparent

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