I guess what I’m about to reveal isn’t really a skeleton; it’s just something I choose not to talk about.
My family and close friends know and, in the past, only that mattered.
But for some reason, now that Wee One is on the way, I feel compelled to share this story and some feelings I’ve been working through.
In spring of 2008, we found out my husband had a 15-year-old son he’d never met. Yes, you read that correctly … 15 years. It’s a very long, convoluted story with enough greed and secrets to create a Lifetime TV movie.
Suffice it to say, that was an extremely trying time in our lives and relationship.
But, father and son – along with my husband’s parents and sister – have spent the last six years getting to know one another and nurturing their relationships.
At the time, I was harboring a lot of ill will and just general feelings of disgust toward several people involved. I was also dealing with relationship fears. As someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, I didn’t trust myself to school my features during visitations. Essentially, I could see how much getting to know his son meant to my husband and I didn’t want my issues to taint that budding relationship in any way.
Of course, I also did it to protect myself.
I’m a “mother” by nature. I am drawn to children of all ages and often become very invested in the lives of my friends’ kids (attending gymnastics meets, dance recitals, graduations, birthday parties, etc.).
Back then, being a 28-year-old woman who didn’t have children of her own, I honestly couldn’t fathom being a step mother to a teenager. Would I try to “mother” him? Would he like me? What if he rejected me?
After several long, tear-filled conversations with my husband, the decision was made: I would support him, his son and their relationship behind the scenes. I would not take on any sort of step-mother type role. Instead, I would simply be a friendly face when we did get together.
A consequence of my decision, however, is that I often “forget” Randy is already a father, especially since we’re not an integrated family.
I think, for the most part, it stems from the fact that Randy didn’t have the opportunity to raise his son from birth. He never changed the baby’s diaper. He never gave it a bottle. He never taught him how to catch or ride a bike. He didn’t get to see him on his first day of kindergarten. He didn’t get to attend soccer practices or games.
You know, all of those things dads (and moms, of course) do.
Because my heart still breaks for him, I tend to focus on making sure he’ll be involved in ALL of those things (and then some) with our child and I lose sight of the fact that he already has a 19-year-old.
During the course of this pregnancy, there have been two instances where our “normal” family structure became VERY awkward.
Several months ago, as Randy and I were walking through the baby section at Target, he stopped in front of a cute onesie with the words “Best little brother” imprinted on it.
Without even thinking, I said, “But he’s not a little brother …”
As soon as the words left my mouth I realized what a HUGE mistake I’d just made. The crestfallen expression on my husband’s face had barely registered when I backpedaled.
“I can’t believe I just said that. I’m so sorry. I’m an idiot.”
And I turned around and walked away.
I knew if I didn’t I’d be a hot mess of tears and I didn’t want to make a scene.
Randy quietly fell in step beside me and we never spoke of it again.
I confided in a friend and she suggested I go back and purchase the onesie and give it to him as a gift. I did, but it was gone.
I decided to move past what happened and simply work on being better.
On Wednesday, Randy’s family came to visit and I met them for dinner after work.
I’ll be honest, they are a family of few words – the exact opposite of mine. I love them all dearly, but I’ve told Randy in the past that I often feel awkward when we’re all together. You would think I’d be over that after 12 years. Ha!
On this occasion, however, Randy’s dad told the waitress all about the family – including that he had one grandson and another on the way. That led her, of course, to ask how old his grandson was. When she found out he’s 19 and his dad was getting ready to have a baby, she freaked out.
“You’re what? You have a 19-year-old and are having a baby?”
“Oh, God love you!”
“You don’t look old enough to have a kid that age.”
Then she looked at his son and said, “So! You’re going to be the babysitter, huh?”
To which he replied, with a strange look on his face, “Uhh … no.”
I squirmed in my seat and continued to shovel red velvet cake into my mouth.
This woman, with her diarrhea of the mouth, had no clue how uncomfortable she made the three of us. She assumed she knew our dynamics when she couldn’t have been more wrong.
But, the encounter made me reevaluate how I’d like to see things change once Wee One is here.
I want him to be around his half-brother as much as possible. I want them to have whatever kind of relationship suits them. To help foster that, I will gladly start tagging along on visitation days.
It’s time for me to grow up and make strides toward having an adult relationship with Randy’s son.