Most people become parents when someone gets pregnant and has a baby. Mine was a bit more gradual and a bit complicated. My wife and I were both married to other people when we met and became friends. Her marriage was ending for various reasons that weren’t me but that I exacerbated and brought to the surface. My marriage ended because my husband is a smart and wonderful man who saw that I’d fallen in love and it wasn’t with him.
My husband gifted me with a divorce that lasted a total of two weeks and was finalized on Valentines Day. Her husband managed to drag their divorce out for more than a year and led to a brutal multi-year custody battle that left me unable to be around her son for close to 5 years. Since I was living with her at the time that meant that while she had custody of her son during the week I was homeless. Luckily I was never without a place to sleep. Friends opened their homes and hearts to me as we fought our way through the courts.
Eventually the custody battle ended in the only way any custody battle ends in, a bloody draw. I was able to return to living at home full time. Finally I would be able to spend time with the boy again. When I’d been banned from his presence he had just turned three. He’d been living with me for the better part of 18 months at that point. There hadn’t been a goodbye. One day I was just suddenly gone. He’d heard stories about me for 5 years. Good ones from his Mom and horrible(false) ones from his Dad. I was a Superhero and a Monster all rolled up in one. When he saw me again he was reserved and a little shy but friendly. There was an adjustment period to say the least.
Then I married his mom.
Suddenly I was there in his life all the time. I’d spent years listening to stories of him growing up and aching to be part of it as more than a name or a ghost. But I didn’t have any experience Doing it. It wasn’t easy for my wife either. She had been managing as a single parent with him for all this time. Suddenly our relationship had a whole new dimension. One that cut into her time with her son. And there I was asking to be part of the equation when it came to making parenting decisions.
The boy and I were both used to having my wife’s sole attention at home. Now we seemed to be vying for it. Thankfully as the adult in the situation when my wife brought it to my attention I was able to correct my behavior. If I wanted to be a parent I had to be a responsible adult not just a good wife. We all had to figure out what my being in the mix meant.
I’d like to say that there was just a small adjustment period and now we are all good but we all had some growing to do as our lives intertwined more and more. There were a few tearful conversations but there has been a lot of laughter too. Respecting each others needs has been key. But truthfully the thing that has been the best for helping us make it is that we talk to each other. The boy gets age appropriate explanations until he’s satisfied with the answers. Everyone keeps each other up on what’s going on in our lives and we ALL Listen to each other with the assumption that the other person isn’t trying to intentionally hurt us or be critical.
It’s taken us a couple of years to work out this give and take. It’s fantastic when it works but we are human and sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s OK. We have enough faith in each other to keep trying. We will make it.