We sat on the futon in his little apartment that he shared with my friends boyfriend. Little Miss Thang was all of 4 years old. She was curled up between us and we were watching Enchanted. The dad in the movie was talking to his little girl and asked her what she thought about him asking his girlfriend to be his wife.
My monster (before I knew he would be called that), reached for the remote and hit pause. He looked down at his daughters beautiful little face and said, “What do you think about me asking her to marry me?” as he gestured towards me. She looked up at him with her big brown eyes and then at me. Back and forth she went with a pensive look on her face. Then she smiled brightly and said, “Yes!”
Our eyes caught over her head and we smiled warmly at each other. I was filled with joy and overwhelming love for this little family I had found. Lost in our own thoughts, this sweet little girl gained our attention by jumping up off the futon and with a wide stance and hands on her hips she said, “Welllll?”
Her dad said, “Well, what?”
And she very seriously stated, “Well, aren’t ya gonna do it?” with her hand coming off her hip and aiming towards me. “Aren’t you gonna ask her, Dad??”, she said.
We erupted into laughter and pulled her in and hugged and kissed and reveled in the joy of feeling like we all belonged.
A few months later he asked me to be his wife and I said yes.
A year later we stood before all of our friends and family and said, “I do”.
Miss Thang wore a beautiful little white dress. She had a ring of little yellow flowers on her head, a yellow sash around her waist, and held a small bouquet of matching flowers in her hands. Before I said her vows to her father, I knelt down before her and said my vows to her. That not only was I planning to love her daddy my entire life but that I also was promising to love her. I ended these vows with a line from one of our favorite books we read together often…
“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
In the years that followed, it became quite clear that loving her father my entire life would prove impossible. He turned from the man of my dreams into the monster in my nightmares. He went from my prince in shining armor to my abuser. But I meant my vows that day and though I was unable to keep one set of them, I will always keep the other. The words I spoke to the vivacious little girl who became my daughter long before I ever stood before that crowd and stated “my baby you’ll be” still ring true.
This weekend, her father will take another woman to the alter and vow before friends and family to love her forever. She will state the same. This woman will become the step mother to not only my precious little girl but to the two amazing little boys I birthed.
I cannot help but think how starkly different this wedding looks than his last.
I cannot help but think that this woman’s hell has only just begun.
I do not know what my little girl, now a grown teenager, will wear or if there will be little yellow flowers in her hair. I do not know how she feels about this union. I don’t know if there will be vows said to her or my sons.
I do know how those two little boys, now 9 and 8, feel about their dad getting married to a woman that isn’t their mother. The comments that make me laugh like “we have to wear these STUPID dress pants and pointy shoes, Mom!” to “I’m not sure about having a step mom. I already have a mom.” They are anxious but positive. They are brave little men.
I never imagined years ago that I’d be sending my children off every other weekend with their dad and another woman. That they would have a completely separate home and life and family that didn’t include me at all. That nearing 40, I’d be a divorcee raising two boys on my own and that little girl would be completely absent from my life.
I sit here and think over the years since I sat curled up with that little girl and her dad on an uncomfy futon in a crappy little apartment. I think about that young woman that was full of so much hope and capable of so much love. I think of the bright future she had before her. And I sit here a war torn older woman. Once broken but now strong. Still full of hope but for completely different things and more capable of love than ever before because I know what it really means now.
And one thing rings truer than any other, to those three children whom I carry in my heart daily, my vows (whether spoken publicly or whispered into the air) remain..
“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my babies you’ll be.”