I arrived first at the birthday party with Teddy. As he streaked off into a conga line of shrieking children, I entered the kitchen and was introduced around to friends and family. A half hour later during the clown performance, Pete and Taylor arrived. We stood together and chatted and ate off of each other’s plates throughout the two hour affair, operating as a unified behavioral SWAT team when Teddy had too much sugar and started melting down.
As the social currents circulated various adults into our orbit, we had a series of awkward conversations with people who were genuinely confused about who, exactly was Pete’s partner and who, exactly was Teddy’s mother. This was a first for all of us—and I can’t say that I enjoyed the ambiguity about my mother status. I can’t imagine that Taylor appreciated the ambiguity about which woman was on “active” status with Pete. And yet, there we were, Teddy’s family. The people we spoke with were flabbergasted. They had no blueprint for how to behave in a social circumstance that included the whole blended family on friendly terms.
At the party’s end, we all packed Teddy into my car together and laughed about my short straw: being the parent who takes the sugar beast home. Teddy was having every kind of problem imaginable in that moment, all attributed to overstimulation and overindulgence. We all knew the drill.
When the sugar beast was finally asleep and I was sweating the day through me on my treadmill, I took a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come. The capacity to feel genuinely happy and at peace in the company of my ex-husband and his new partner, and to collaboratively tend our son, was a real triumph.
Sitting just below the still waters of this celebration were the deep waters of my grief. I could feel the years of sadness and exhaustion from having done my part these three years alone. My fierce commitment to staying positive, to finding my way forward in relationship with this awkward constellation had given me so much, but it had also cost me.
This, I know, is what love asks of us. To do more than we believe we are capable of doing. And then show up to do some more. Day after day after day. I know that Pete and Taylor have done their own deep work to get us this far. Each of us in our own way sacrificing hopes, dreams and egos to contribute to the greater good of our son and our family.
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