“We have two mommies now!” This is what my ten-year-old son shouted while he tried to swing his arms around my wife and my waists as we walked in the door, freshly returned from our honeymoon. Moments later my tweenage daughter skidded into the room with a huge smile on her face and hip-checked him out of the way to kiss us both hello.
I just stood there for a minute in the entryway of my home, looking at each of these wonderful people in amazement that this was my life. I mean, for so long it was just the three of us and the endless juggling of work and daycare schedules, custody drop offs, school projects and dinners together, really bad dates, money flowing out the door for PTA and dance and karate, and the general psychosis of raising two young children as a single mother. But, we always made it through and managed to have a bit of fun besides. And you know what? I liked it that way. I was Queen of my castle, owner of my own disasters, and the solo parent basking in the sunshine of my beautiful kids.
So, how did we get here?
Ten years ago I was living outside of Los Angeles after ending an unhappy marriage, and the three of us were in our first little apartment together. I was experiencing being a working mom for the first time and actually really loving the feeling of independence and accomplishment. I was doing this, and everyone was okay.
Disaster had been averted and at that moment I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to get married again. Over the next several years I watched my kids grow from babies into real little people, and I grew more confident and independent as a woman and mother. We had ups and downs, and I had some good dates and even ok boyfriends, but I still believed that just the three of us was the way it was going to be, the way it should be, and then I met Meg.
I sent her a typically awkward message one afternoon after she had popped up on my dating profile a few times and when she answered back straight away that we should meet for coffee that night I did some quick mental math to see if I could make it back from dropping off the kids in time. Being terrible at math, I ended up meeting her late. But this beautiful, funny woman wanted to see me anyway. She graciously accepted my peace offering of a peanut butter chocolate blondie and we chatted and laughed and walked for hours. When she excitedly accepted my invitation to come over and watch some X-Files by listing her favorite episodes by season and title, I knew I might be in trouble.
Meg and I dated for a few months, getting to know each other in that pseudo-rom-com way that typifies early relationships. We chatted about everything and did more walking and watching X-Files and drinking coffee. I slowly let on to the madness of my life, letting the veil of organization slip a little at a time until she regularly saw me dashing around from drop-offs to dance classes to work to night school, and my calm and cool text messages became parceled out between homework help, dinner, laundry runs, and bedtime routines. When she did not run screaming, I decided that it was time to meet the kids.
Early one Wednesday morning we met up at the Starbucks close to their school. This time I bought us all muffins as an offering between meeting nations, and new relationships were forged over steamy cups of chamomile and coffee and muffin papers that were passed around so that no one might be deprived the treat of trying each flavor. There was easy laughter and smiles and as we went our separate ways, us to the school drop-off line and Meg to her office, I was both elated and uneasy. I mean everything went really well, like really well. There was no weirdness or silent cringes from my side of the table. The kids liked her, she liked the kids, and I liked them together, liked us together. But what did that mean?
I decided to forge ahead and little by little I did learn to let my guard down as I saw the three of them get to know each other. We started spending time together not only at our little apartment, but at Meg’s house, which she dubbed "The Camp," and to which the kids increasingly requested we go. Choruses of “Are we going to The Camp tonight?” and “Can we pleassseeee go to The Camp today?!” started springing up every Sunday that they were home, and we made a space together in the world: Me, my little girl, my sweet boy, and now my wonderful girlfriend. I started thinking about the future and realized that maybe this really was a good thing, that I could trust "us" and that maybe, just maybe I could see myself getting married after all.
Needless to say, when I walked into my son’s room one night after returning to our apartment to find him sobbing into his pillow, I was heartbroken. Things seemed to be going so well, so what now? After a few minutes of deep breaths and backrubs he blurted out, “I don’t want anything to change! I’m afraid that Meg is going to go away!” In that moment, my decision was made, and I scooped him onto my lap and asked him what he would think about me asking Meg if she wanted to get married and make us an official family. He leapt up and hugged me so hard I thought that he would never let me go.
The next day I asked my daughter the same question and she reacted with squeals and shrieks and hugs, so I started shopping for rings and on the second anniversary of our first date I proposed at the top of the city of Los Angeles and mercifully she said yes. We set a date for the next year to be married on the third anniversary of our first date, which would now become the first day of our new life together.
The kids helped with the planning and decorating. They invited all of their friends, and we invited ours, as well as our big families who graciously traveled from all across the country to be with us. On the big day we met under an arch in front of a row of docked sailboats with my daughter standing as my Maid of Honor, and my son standing as our Best Man. Meg and I exchanged vows and we all lit a unity candle as a symbol of the four of us becoming one.
Before we all ate cake and pie and danced ourselves into some pretty serious blisters, both of my children stood up looking so grown and gave speeches talking about their joy in seeing their mom happy and with a real partner. I truly saw at that moment that we had all given each other this gift. I may have offered the ring, but Meg and the kids had first offered up their openness and love to myself and each other. Trying to save my mascara, I grabbed a tissue and looked around to see that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
So, a couple of fabulous Hawaiian weeks later I stood there in my doorway and looked around astonished at my luck. And now, nearly a year in we’re navigating life together. I’m learning to give up control, Meg is learning to be a stepmother, the kids are learning how to have two parents in their home. There is still the endless juggling of work and school schedules, custody drop-offs, school projects and dinners together, the occasional grown-up dates, money flowing out the door for field trips and ballet and rock climbing, and the general psychosis of raising two children, but now we’re doing it all together and managing to have a bit of fun besides.
And you know what? I like it this way. I share the throne with my Co-Queen in our little ranch house castle, we own our disasters together, and I have the absolute pleasure of watching my beautiful family bask in the sunshine of each other.