The wedding happened. Leading up to it, I was excited, but also a little scared. What would my fiance’s kids do?
I know they love me, but would the wedding itself — the long day of hanging around, and standing in front of people while wearing formal clothes, and being told to please not go chase frogs in the pond at this particular moment — bring out the best in them, or the worst?
And I had something else on my mind, too. My vows. I knew I wanted to say something to the kids, but there was one paragraph that I waffled on.
Because it mentioned the kids’ mom.
It was my wedding to their dad, and I knew it was supposed to be just about us, the four of us. But it crosses my mind, often, to think about how their mom feels, how I would feel if another woman was talking to my kids, so I wanted to include this part. But was it weird?
I showed it to my fiance, and he got all teary and signed off on it, wholeheartedly. When we got to the venue, I showed it to my bridesmaids, and they liked it, too.
The final test would be when I said it to the kids, I guess. Would they even get it? Would it be as important to them as it felt to me?
The wedding came. There had been late bedtimes and crying and splinters and refrains of “I’m bored” — even an ER visit — over the course of the previous two days, but none of that mattered now. We were getting married.
My dad and I walked down the aisle. I cried a little. My new husband cried a lot. I said my vows to him. He said his vows to me.
Then — “There’s something else, too,” I added. “Today isn’t just about us becoming a couple, but a family.” And I asked Joe and Jan to come around to the front so I could say a few things to them.
And — they were smiling.
Both of them.
Both kids had such genuine smiles on their faces as they looked back at me. And it made my smile bigger.
There, I made my promises to them. And I started with the promise that I’d waffled over, the one about their mom.
“I promise, first of all,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady, “to never try to replace your mom. Because you’re her kids, and she loves you, and she will always be the mom in your life.
“But I’m so lucky that I get to be the stepmom in your life. And I promise to try to be the best one that I can be.”
I looked at them. They were both still looking at me, still paying attention. And I think they got it.
I went on to promise other things, like to to play video games with them and fail miserably, and to always be there for a hug when they need it.
“And I promise to always, always tell you that I love you,” I said.
It wasn’t in the script, but the moment called for one of those hugs I’d promised. I reached over to them, and the three of us had a little hug together. And they were still smiling.
Afterwards, the rest of the day was a blur. From photos to food to pinatas and plenty of dancing, it went by so fast. The kids were there for most of it, and most of the time there were smiles.
When their bedtime came, they wanted me to be there with them. My new stepdaughter wanted to snuggle. My new stepson told me, several times, how beautiful I looked, and that he couldn’t believe the day had actually happened.
I couldn’t believe it had happened either. It hadn’t been without its hiccups and even its meltdowns, but those weren’t the things we’d remember.
When we packed up to go home the next day, we piled into the car and drove away.
“Daddy,” my stepdaughter said, looking out the window, “when you have a wedding next time, can we do it here again?”
My new husband and I looked at each other and grinned. The plan is, knock on wood, to never have another wedding again. But. To me, that was a pretty resounding seal of approval.