Ready, Set, Blend!
Getting married was never on my To-Do List. Even after I moved in with CC when he got custody of the kids, I wasn’t thinking about getting married.
A few months after we all started living together, #3 came home from school and seemed frustrated. She was usually a pretty easy-going kid, so I tried to get her to open up. We talked about her day and I could tell there was something else she wasn’t telling me. She finally blurted out, “Is it okay if I just tell people you’re my stepmom? ‘Cause you kind of are and it’s easier than saying you’re my dad’s girlfriend.”
Of course she could call me that, I told her. I certainly didn’t mind. But that small exchange shifted my attention to a very important point:
Being a parent–even if you are acting in a parental role without a title– calls for you to consider how your personal decisions will affect the children in your life. Not that every decision you make is going to be what the kids want–life doesn’t work quite that way. It’s more of an awareness that you aren’t the only one who matters anymore. This is an automatic, no-brainer for most bio parents. It was not automatic for me. I had to choose to make it intentional.
Some personal decisions affect kids more directly and obviously than others. Moving to a new state, for instance, means that everyone moving is making adjustments and restarting some parts of their lives. What to have for dinner affects everyone eating that meal, but unless one of them has a life-threatening food allergy, who cares, really?
The decision whether or not to get married had always seemed to me nobody’s business but my own. Not my parents’, not my friends’. I wasn’t getting married and it was simply not up for discussion. Now I took a moment and put myself in this girl’s shoes. What must it be like to be the new kid in town, nine years old, and every time my ride came for me at school my new friends, who changed daily, asked if that was my mom? Unless I wanted to be disloyal to my mom, I would have to give a lengthy explanation about how she was actually just my dad’s girlfriend but I lived with them. It would open up a whole slew of other questions that I didn’t want to answer. That would get real old, real fast.
In my mind, I was already committed to this family. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, but did they? I could be as modern and open-minded as I wanted to, but the fact remained that in these kids’ minds, being married meant I was sticking around. If their dad and I weren’t married, the whole living situation was unstable to them. It was as simple as that, despite their own first-hand experience that not all marriages last.
I took a secret informal survey and learned that none of the kids were opposed to me getting married to their dad. Or at least, if they were, they weren’t going to tell me. So we moved ahead.
Ah, c’mon. It was actually more romantic than that. I did tell him I wanted an honest-to-God proposal, and I got one. This decision wasn’t made purely on logic, and certainly not out of obligation. But it was this one short conversation with a nine-year-old girl over after school snacks that opened me up to reconsidering some long-held negative beliefs that I had about marriage. Those beliefs were based on fears and bad examples, and I’d let them blind me to the good examples of marriages I had in my life all around me. I didn’t need to hold on to that fear any more. It was only serving to restrict the flow of love.
Our wedding was a celebration of all of us officially becoming a family. Above all, we wanted it to be fun- kind of like a great party where we also just happened to get married. We chose an informal beach wedding- bare feet and sand pails and a place to change into your swimsuits to go swimming in the ocean after the ceremony. The menu included things kids would like to eat: shrimp, corn on the cob, ice cream sandwiches. There was a band, temporary tattoos, and beach balls.
The kids stood as our attendants, which meant I had four bridesmaids and our best man was five years old. We walked down the makeshift aisle and our best man got very busy, intently burying things in the sand. He buried his dad’s shoes, the mic stand, the speaker stands, the officiator’s shoes. Then came what remains to this day my favorite part of the wedding. For no apparent reason, our best man stood up and hauled ass down the beach like his life depended on it. We were in the middle of our vows, trying not to laugh– which proved to be impossible. One of our friends had to run after him and bring him back.
Thank God he didn’t have the rings.
JM Randolph became a step-mom in 2006, when her boyfriend at the time got temporary emergency custody of his five (yes, five!) children and she moved in to help out. Temporary turned permanent when they were married in 2008. She and her husband both work as stagehands and enjoy (most days) their houseful of teen girls, one 11-year-old boy and two Puggles. She blogs at accidentalstepmom.com. Facebook: https://www.