Disclaimer: my husband already knows this. And, in fact, he didn’t want to ever get married either. We actually told each other not to get the other’s hopes up when we first met. Funny how things work out…
For eight years, I was a single mom and happy to be one. While my pregnancy was unplanned and unexpected, it was not at all unwelcome. I’d always wanted to be a mom. I never imagined it would happen the way and when it did, but life never really goes how you expect it to and that was my first big lesson in just how different it can be. I was in no financial position to be a mom, let alone a single one. The situation was miles away from ideal. But, as his onesie says, he was perfect.
Being a mom came easy. Loving him was even easier. But caring for him the way I wanted to was so hard. I never had enough time or energy or money to give him even a fraction of what I wished I could. I wanted to give him the best. I wanted to give him the whole world. But I had so little, so I gave him what I could: I gave him all of me. He was the center of my universe. Everything I did, everything I had was for him. My son filled every inch of my heart and was always more than enough. And hey, I grew up without a dad and I turned out all right. We would be fine. He would be fine.
And he was. He was happy, healthy, smart and oh, so sweet. Though our life was not without its hardships and struggles, I tried really hard to make sure he didn’t know it. Being a single mom is not easy. I had more rough days than smooth ones. More hard times than I care to count. But I was lucky. WE were lucky. I had a lot of help from my mom, from my sister and uncle (who are, appropriately, his godparents), from my grandparents and from my best friends (both in title and by definition), Mish and Tink. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it absolutely does. And I had the best village. I thought it was all we’d ever need. And for a long time, it was. And then it wasn’t anymore. He just kept getting bigger and older. He needed more and different things, stuff I was afraid I couldn’t give him.
Truth be told, when I found out I was having a boy, I freaked out. I didn’t know what to do with a boy. I was your typical girlie girl. I’d grown up with my baby sister and cousin, both girls. I mean, I had boy cousins too, so I knew something about little boys, but I didn’t know how to raise one.
At first, it was pretty easy. We played with dinosaurs instead of ponies, trucks and trains instead of baby dolls, pirates instead of princesses. We watched Cars and Dumbo instead of Beauty and the Beast and Frozen. And it was fun. It was awesome, actually. Being a boy mom was just so easy. Or maybe it was just being HIS mom that was easy.
I got into football when he did, learned the plays and the penalties, the positions and the players. We joined Pop Warner and I was a team mom. I thought I’d figured out this boy mom thing pretty good. For the most part…
Before I knew it, my little boy was a young man. In the blink of an eye, I suddenly felt like I wasn’t enough for him. He was literally the only kid on the field who didn’t have a dad there. I tried so hard, I was always there, I was a “cool football mom,” but no matter what, I was just not a dad. And though I knew all along he needed a father, being hit in the face with how badly he now WANTED one was a wake-up call I wasn’t ready for.
Guilt and regret flooded me. Had I made a mistake not trying to find a partner? Had I deprived my son of something so critical when I was trying to give him the world? Just because he was all I needed, that did not mean I was always going to be enough for him. I could love him as much as a thousand mothers combined, but I would never be his father.
So I started dating. I mean, I didn’t actually WANT to get married. I didn’t believe in that kind of thing. Marriage had become a joke in our day and age. Nobody took their vows seriously. Everyone got divorced. Happily ever after wasn’t real. And I was certainly no helpless Cinderella waiting for her prince to come and save her. I always hated Cinderella. I’m more of a Belle girl myself, but really, I love the villains. They’re much more interesting.
Anyway, I wasn’t a damsel in distress. I had worked my butt off for years to get to a great place in life. I was so proud of how far I’d come. I didn’t need anyone. I just kinda wanted to try to see if I could find someone I wanted, someone my son wanted. But I’d grown accustomed to the single life. I liked my space, my freedom, the ability to make any and all decisions without asking nobody. I’m kind of a control freak (okay, I’m a COMPLETE control freak) and the thought of relinquishing some of that control was not appealing.
And I was picky. So picky. I was impressed by nobody. No one came close to being worthy of entering the sacred bubble that I had created for me and my little Bubba. We’d gone that long and come that far on our own, we weren’t going to settle now. I couldn’t imagine finding someone I genuinely loved and wanted to be with for the REST.OF.MY.LIFE. That’s a long time! I couldn’t tolerate most people for more than a few hours. How the heck was I going to find someone for FOREVER?
And then…enter the unicorn.
I call my husband the unicorn because he’s like a mythical creature – a leprechaun, Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster. Men like him are the stuff of fairy tales and legends. I mean, look at this stud. He was 100% the entire package. I must have asked him, “Okay, what’s wrong with you?” about 1,000 times when we first started dating because he was too good to be true. Except he was. And I still haven’t figured out, 4 years later, what the heck is wrong with him. Well, except that he’s a Raiders fan. But everything else is SO GOOD that I can easily overlook such a fatal flaw (I kid, I kid…kinda).
I realized early on that maybe I was in a little bit of trouble here. That single life I was really digging wasn’t so great after all when compared to life with him. I didn’t want to get too comfortable but I also wanted to savor and enjoy every second of him. Because he was amazing. And if it was all a dream, cuz it sure as hell felt like one, I did not want to wake up.
He met my baby boy, the most important person in my universe. And it was perfect. Easy. Natural. Like the pieces of a puzzle clicking into place. It just fit. Yup, I was a goner. This man had me for life, whether he liked it or not. Without even realizing it, I went from eternal bachelorette to having a secret Pinterest board for the wedding I never even wanted. Tink and Mish were already picking out their bridesmaid dresses and writing their toasts. This was serious stuff.
That first summer we dated, we went to his cousin’s wedding. Everybody had heard about me, the infamous girl he was bringing. Cuz that’s not something my now-husband did. Like, ever. So, in my own way, I was his unicorn: the mythical woman who would somehow get him to settle down. His cousin, one of the twins (I can easily tell them apart now, but at the time I couldn’t, so I actually have no idea which one it was) pulled me aside and thanked me for making his cousin so happy. I remember his words exactly: “I don’t know what you did, but that man is in love. And he is a GOOD MAN. Don’t let him go.”
It was at that moment that I knew I was going to marry my husband. The Pinterest board was no longer a secret. I didn’t even deny to the cousin that I loved him, too (even though we hadn’t said it yet). I even tried to catch the wedding bouquet (which I didn’t) and allowed my very real disappointment to be seen. Because I was gonna take that cousin’s advice and hold on tight to my man. But to do that properly, to really hold on with both hands, there was something I had to let go of: my own heart. Right then, at that very moment, I set it in my husband’s hands. And I wasn’t even scared. I knew it was safe. I knew it had found its home.
After that, we were inseparable. Hubby was on the sidelines at football games and doing morning drop offs at school, picking up groceries on his way home from work and skipping the gym (a coveted pastime for him before) just to get to us sooner. Bubba asked if he could call him “dad.” And he said yes.
And then I really felt it, tasted it, held it in my hands: Family. I was always blessed with so much support and little Bubba and I were always surrounded by so much love. But this was different. This was something I never dared to imagine. Because I wasn’t sure I could ever have it, let alone give it to my son. But there it was. And it was better than any story I’d ever read or written. Because it was real. Because it was ours. And even then, I couldn’t believe it. I felt like those kids on YouTube after wisdom tooth surgery, looking around with glassy eyes and asking, “Is this real life?”
Let me make one thing clear: I did not marry my husband to be my son’s father. I married him because he completed me. He is my true partner in life. He is an amazing father, the kind I thought they didn’t make anymore. And that is one part of many of why I love him so completely. But there is so much more. He is cut from a different cloth, one that so few are lucky to be. I still can’t believe we found each other, even less so that he loves me back. I am a handful, y’all, real talk. But he makes me feel like I am the prize, like he’s the one who won the jackpot. He makes me a better person, a better mother. We are not just “we” anymore. We are “us.” We are a family. We are whole.
You wanna know something crazy? Now that I am one, or maybe just because I’m his, I freakin’ LOVE being a wife. I love saying “my husband.” Sometimes he’s my excuse (Oooh, sorry, I can’t. Hubby said no.) but most of the time, he’s my reason. And oh my God, do I love him. A love like nothing else. Yes, I love our children endlessly, but that love is inherent. My love for my husband is an active choice that I make every single day, not just to feel it, but to show it, to make sure HE feels it, trusts in it, knows it.
So to the man who changed my life and who changed ME, thank you. Thank you for giving me what I never knew I always wanted. Thank you for loving me in a way I never believed I really deserved. Thank you for loving my — no, OUR son as if he was always your own and for going through the long, expensive, difficult, painful process of giving him your name. Thank you for our daughter, that beautiful little girl who has your eyes and my nose (thank God, ha ha ha) and is the best of both of us – beautiful, brilliant, sassy and sweet. Thank you for making this Disney villain feel like the princess for once by giving us our own fairy tale.
I’d say you were a dream come true, but I never dared to dream this big.