A tribute to the mamas and the papas and the grands.
All the stories end the same. Girl meets boy. Girl marries boy. Girl and boy have a baby and live happily ever after.
So what happens when your story looks different? What happens when things fall apart?
I met my husband when my son, Eli, was 18 months old. Although my relationship with his Dad hadn’t worked out, we remained good friends committed to raising him with kindness and respect.
When a relationship ends, there are always hurt feelings. There are different sides to every story, depending who you ask and on what day. But when a child is involved, none of that matters. You pick yourself up and you do everything you can to show your child he is loved, above all else.
That’s what we have done and will keep trying to do.
Eli stood with us at our wedding in my parents’ backyard. We tied a big fat rope into an actual knot, which we all three pulled tight as part of the ceremony. At a second celebration in Jared’s hometown, Eli’s name was written with ours on the cake, inside a hand-drawn icing heart.
At only two years old, perhaps he said it best: “Now you will take care of me, and I will take care of you.”
When Doug and Caryn got married a few years later, we were all invited to the wedding, where Eli served as ring bearer. We weren’t seated at the back of the room, but rather right up front with the bride and groom and the rest of the family – because that’s what we all are. Family.
Every year on Eli’s birthday, we have a big special dinner together. We talk and we laugh and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. At holidays and birthdays, when gifts arrive for Eli – they arrive for Addy and George, too.
We try not to step on each other’s toes. We talk to each other about big decisions. Eli is still young, and he may have questions for us in time. When that day comes, we will do our best to answer thoughtfully and honestly.
While there may be harder roads ahead, I hope we will be able to navigate them with as much grace as we have managed since we set off into this uncharted chapter.
In a modern world, I know we’re not the only family of our kind. But I hear things from friends, and I don’t like what I hear. I’m not saying we’re any better at this than anyone else. I just have trouble understanding why grown adults can’t get along for the sake of their children. What’s up with that?
Eli doesn’t care for the words ‘stepfather’ or ‘stepmother’. He loves us all the same. Lucky for us, we all recognize and appreciate the important roles we play in his life.
To Jared, thank you for choosing us both and for always putting family first. Thank you for loving Eli the same way you love his little brother and sister.
To Doug, thank you for your faith and space and trust, for telling me I’m doing great in the midst of all the chaos, and for letting Eli lead the way.
To Caryn, thank you for making it so easy. I never once wondered if you liked me – and I never once doubted how much I like you.
To all the grandparents and great-grands, thank you for understanding that things don’t always turn out the way we think they will – sometimes they’re even better.
You see, Eli didn’t lose anything when our relationship changed. Instead, he got more. Two moms and two dads, and a whole gaggle of grandparents who love and support him endlessly.
So, maybe we’re all just winging it – but if we make a choice every day to do the best we can for our kids, then maybe they’ll know what to do if their story takes a turn they weren’t expecting.
All you have to do is follow the love.