I have loved my Junior Tribe Members since before they were conceived. I have been their mother all of their lives. I have worked to provide a stable base and safe haven for them, particularly during times of transition–and our family has had periods of significant shifts. Their sense of security came first for me…and so getting “out there” was not a priority for years for me.
Same for him. I got to know him first when he called me wondering about how to help his JTM’s after their mother’s death. He worried about them, and wanted to do right by them.
I started a strong friendship with J literally the day I came home from dropping my youngest JTM off at college out west–right at the time I had time for a relationship.I didn’t know then it would turn into love, but it did. A beautiful love that was strong and stable and was something we thought could make our kids’ lives better.
We worked to be attuned to how each JTM was doing, and what that child needed to be able to move forward with a parent getting married (more about figuring out how to step parent in another post). When it came to JTM’s, we had a few guidelines when planning the wedding:
- We got engaged with each child having input to the biological parent about they felt about engagement/wedding. After each child felt OK about it, the step parent asked the child for their blessing. For many families this could not be a part of it because of a variety of circumstances–we received the support and blessing of each child. That rocks–and that is a gift we don’t lightly.
- We invited each child to be a part of the planning as fit that child. However, it wasn’t their wedding, and so we didn’t expect significant involvement in planning…they have their lives. We didn’t want them to resent us “force feeding” the wedding on them. They made some suggestions, but mostly were just kids doing their own thing up until the day before.
- We gave them choice where possible. They decided together what they would wear. Each JTM picked out the color of shirt of their choice, and bow ties and suspenders were optional as they chose. One wanted to wear runners the day of the wedding instead of dress shoes–will it matter in 6 months if sneakers show on the picture? NO. Will it matter if he remembers the day as one where he wasn’t forced to do something he didn’t want? YES.
- We wanted the wedding to be a blast for the JTM’s. They aren’t stuffy or fancy…they are loose and casual and fun. We have JTM’s whose native habitat is the gym. We had a basketball/volleyball/Dutch Blitz/running-around-the-gym wedding–instead of a dance, we went to the gym. It was a terrific fun for them. They played “rock, paper scissors” in the middle of the ceremony to determine which ones would sign the marriage license. The food was simple, hearty fare that they would enjoy and be able to tank up on, as young adults tend to want to do. No fussing. Gym shorts and high tops were an essential part of the evening.
- Each JTM invited several friends to this affair. Each was able to have their own table of friends and cousins...they were comfortable and had a blast during the wedding with their peeps.
They also had choices when it came to the vows.
As parents and step parents, we promised more than they did.
The parents bear the responsibilitySome of them are of adult age, but when it comes to parent/child relationships, the parent always takes on the heavier load to make the relationship work. I went online and got some help, read samples and read comments from kids about what they liked at a ceremony.
JTM’s. I want you to know that I dearly love your father. As you have so graciously shared your dad with me, so will I share the love I feel for him with all of you.
Together, we will learn much more about each other. I promise to be fair and to be honest, to be available for you as I am for your dad, and, over time, to earn your love, respect and deep friendship. I don’t want to replace your mom, but to make a place in your hearts that is for me alone. I will value my life with all of you. On this day when I marry your Dad, we become a family, together, with you, and I promise to love and support you as my own.
JTM’s, do you promise to respect this marriage, and support the creation of this new family?
Carolyn’s JTM’s, are you willing to create space in your lives for a developing relationship with J, and J’s JTM’s are you willing to create space in your lives for a relationship with Carolyn? One that is respectful and honest, taking time to get to know each other, and letting them know how they can best relate to you? And there are going to now be many brothers in this family—you will be two families that will be also becoming one family. Will you work to be a cooperative member of this “becoming-one-family”?
… Do you promise to let them love you and care for you as well?