Parenting

My Stepson Told Me His Dad Didn't Want To Marry Me

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Originally Published: 
Nicole De Khors/ Burst

“My daddy doesn’t want to marry you!”

I remember rushing to get ready for my fiancé and my first date. Yelling down to my roommate, proclaiming I was done with dating for the summer if this one didn’t work out. Online dating, please, who really meets their husband this way?

It was his smile, or I should say the way he smiled at me that caught my attention. I knew right off the bat he was interested. It was on our second date where the conversation took a more serious turn.

“I have something to tell you before we move any further,” he said. I jokingly asked if he had just gotten out of prison. “Close,” he said, “but actually I’m recently divorced and have a two-year-old son.”

The idea of dating a divorced man, let alone a divorced man with kids, was something that never crossed my mind. I was still in my twenties at that time, with little to no personal baggage of my own and a thriving career, did I really want to take this on?

John was upfront from the start; he was a packaged deal and wanted me to be a part of it. There were no games, no back and forth. By our fourth date he wanted to make it official. It was refreshing and terrifying all at the same time.

The conversations that followed surrounding a messy divorce, custody battles, and shared time made me want to run for the door more than once. Not to mention the slew of new insecurities and questions that started to flood my head. Will his son like me? Will I like him? Am I ready for this type of commitment? Where will I fit in?

Six months later, my fears were put to rest when John and I decided it was time for me to meet his son. Blonde hair, blue eyes and the same magnetic smile as the man I was now very much in love with — I was a goner.

In the years that followed, I settled into my new role nicely. I never understood when friends, even family members, would comment on our situation. “Oh he’s divorced, really? And a kid, oh my.” “How is the ex? Do you get along with her?” “Do you know what you are getting yourself into?” “Just be careful. You know you are NOT the mother.” One particular night I remember asking a friend who had previously dated a man with children if she had any advice. Without hesitation, she said, “You have two options. You can run. Or, number two, live by one motto: ‘Not my monkey, not my circus.'”

Really? Was she comparing my relationship to Barnum and Bailey? Were these the only options I had? Well, not me! I told myself as I sipped on my second glass of Pinot Grigio. They obviously don’t know our relationship!

In part it was true — up until this point there had been no major bumps in the road. No inkling of those horror stories that come along with dating a divorced man. Thinking back, this was mainly due to John. He truly meant what he said on those first few dates; he wanted me to be a major part of his son’s life. I never felt left out during weekend visits. Every activity or holiday we planned together. He shielded me from the drama of his first marriage and the pain it has caused him — something I still maintain I will never be a part of, as long as I can help it. I have always had a wonderful and loving relationship with his son and believed it would only get better after we became engaged. That was until a few months ago when my perfect fantasy slapped me in the face.

It was a typical morning. I was making my second cup of coffee and cleaning up from the night before. John was taking a shower and getting ready for the day. His son was on the floor playing with the newest Lego contraption we had just put together and loudly yelling, “I am Batman!” Like I said, a very typical morning.

“Katie,” he suddenly said, staring up at me.

“Yes, bud?”

“My daddy told me he doesn’t want to marry you.”

“What?” I wondered if I’d heard him wrong.

“My daddy doesn’t want to marry you.”

I stopped what I was doing and sat next to him on the couch. “Now, buddy, I know your daddy did not say that. Are you upset Daddy and I are getting married? If you are, you can tell me.”

“No, I’m not upset,” he said. “But I think Daddy should marry Mommy. Mommies and Daddies should be married. Can you marry someone else?”

My heart sank. He had never expressed any feeling of wanting his parents to be together so it never dawned on me he would be upset about us getting married. I felt like I had failed him in some way for being so naïve.

Over the next few months, I poured over every stepmom book I could get my hands on. Reading every article on blended families and how to make this “thing” work. I found some articles endearing and hopeful, and some that quite frankly scared the crap out of me. I felt all my past insecurities bubbling up to the surface and I wanted to scream. Was I really back to this place of questioning whether or not I was ready for this type family dynamic? Am I ok with this being my life forever?

And then I remembered the advice my friend gave me years before: “Not my monkey, not my circus.” At the time, I was too blinded by my perfect blended family fantasy to understand what she meant. But then it hit me: It’s not my responsibility! I could spend months, or even years, torturing myself, wondering if my future stepson will ever fully accept me. Or I can come to the realization that I am not responsible for a situation I ultimately have no control over.

Am I upset to know that deep down he would like me out of the picture? Yes, of course! But I am also thankful — thankful because in some way it has allowed me to let go of this unrealistic dream I have held on to for far too long. I have come to the conclusion that in the end, no one wants a stepmom, but also no one expects to be a stepmom. The best I can do is show up each day and give it my all. Will there be hiccups, fights, and drama in the future? Yes, I am certain of it. But this is the role I have chosen to play. And hopefully, one day, the little boy I have grown to love so much will be happy I have chosen him too.

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