You must be cringing as you read this. You must be thinking I’m going to school you on how to treat your new boyfriend. You must be thinking I’m going to lay down some laws about how to treat my children.
That is not at all what this letter is about.
I would like to welcome you.
Welcome to this unique dynamic of “modern family.” Welcome to the way we wing this life and this relationship. Yes, I said relationship, but not by its standard definition.
The children keep us in a relationship, much like your work keeps you in a relationship with your boss. If success is the goal, whether in work or parenting, the relationship between those who strive for that is important. I will not fill this letter with none-of-my-business-type of advice on how to treat a man I have known since I was 20. I won’t tell you anything that is personal about him; anything that he chooses to share is between you two. I’m not going to tell you why things did not work between us. All I will say on the subject of us is what I say to everyone:
To me, he’s a great guy — for someone else.
This might sound weird, but I’m so excited about you. My sons will see a side of their father that they don’t even know they missed. They’ll witness the kind of happiness that blooms from the excitement, joy and mystery that comes with a new relationship. They’ll see their father beaming with hope. They’ll hear him laugh (too much and too loud, as they’ve reported to us) and speak with a new charm in his voice. And because they love and admire him, all of these things will make them happier, too.
I want you to know that it is so important to be yourself around us. Please don’t ever feel threatened, intimidated or out of place around us. Just like you, we are also fumbling through the newness of your place in our lives. We trust that if you are good enough for him, you are good enough for us. We expect you to have quirks, flaws and a uniqueness about you that might leave us scratching our heads from time to time.
And we don’t want you to change a thing.
Don’t ever feel like you can’t speak to me, my (new) husband or any of the boys. Say anything. Or say nothing at all. Please be you.
You’re going to see us (the kids, mostly, but also my husband and me) quite often. You’re going to find yourself sitting with us at concerts, plays, games, graduations and many other events. It will feel awkward at first, maybe, but I hope that changes quickly. While the kids know very well that their father and I are divorced and done, they need to know that we are united in our support of them, and this is one of the many ways we will unapologetically display that support.
I want them to look out at the audience while on stage and see all of us together watching them with pride and excitement. Many of my friends have asked me if sitting between their father and stepfather feels weird. I have done weirder things to esteem, encourage, teach and build my sons. (Singing ridiculous songs about potty training is the first thing that comes to my mind.) This is no sweat. I ask that you join us (when you are ready) and become part of the united front that supports them unconditionally.
You may find yourself sitting through conversations between him and me. Please understand that we need to communicate in order to run our successful “business” of raising amazing humans. Sometimes we need to do it often. And along with the trust I mentioned in the former paragraph, there is trust that you will know when it’s appropriate to chime in. Should you ever feel uncomfortable or insignificant during times like this, I ask that you look at the bigger picture and keep in mind that our communication outside the subject of our children is almost non-existent.
He will never call to ask me advice on fashion. (which is a good thing because I have none!)
He won’t call me to chat about a TV show he enjoys.
He won’t call me to complain about his work day.
Our relationship revolves around three growing boys. While other subjects may arise while we’re in the same space for a long period of time, please know that my role in his life is “mother of his children.”
I give you a lot of credit for embarking on a relationship with a father of teenage boys! This is new to them, too, and they have no idea what to do or say around you. They are teenagers with their own lives, hopes, dreams and intentions, and they may not always be at their best. I ask that as you become more of a presence in their lives, you get to know them individually.
My hope is that as time goes by and you are around them more, that you’ll have a unique relationship with each of them. This will take deliberate work and effort. And at times it won’t be easy, much like anything else that is worthwhile.
I hope this letter doesn’t scare you off. I imagine you understand that there is no way I could get all of this out when I met you for the first time and wondered if I was supposed to awkwardly shake your hand.
Carefully and respectfully, I welcome you.