I should start a letter like this with “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry you have different last names, and I’m sorry that your lives are an intermingling of arrivals and departures. Being married twice was never my plan, but if I had to do it all over again in order to get the three of you, I would. If there’s anything I love most about the two men I married, it’s their love for their children. Too many blended families tell the stories of what went wrong, and while that will most certainly be a private conversation we will have, I want you to know what went right.
Both of the stories begin in my living room.
Sophie and Jude:
Mommy spent her early college days being a church volunteer with teenagers where Daddy volunteered, too. On the first day, I was sitting in a big circle with lots of teenagers playing a game, and Daddy thought that Mommy was one of the teenagers. You know how you always tell me that, without my makeup I look like a teenager in the morning? (And bless you children for giving me those extra 15-20 years.) Daddy didn’t know Mommy was a volunteer, and he thought he wasn’t supposed to think I was pretty because I was too young for him. Imagine his relief when I was introduced, to find out that he was not drawn to something that might put him in jail. I saw Daddy, and I noticed how tall, handsome and funny he was.
When Mommy left that night, Daddy watched her get in her car as a big Texas thunderstorm rolled in. Daddy’s big red truck was parked right next to my car. Daddy bent way down from his 6’6″ height to my car window, and asked if I wanted to get coffee. When I told him all the coffee shops would be closed, he fumbled for words. So Mommy said, “I have a coffee maker. Why don’t you come to my place and we’ll have coffee there instead.” (Sophie, you shouldn’t invite a guy into your apartment at night when you’ve only known him an hour.) When we got home, our conversation went something like this:
Mommy: “Here, let me start a pot of coffee.”
Daddy: “Oh, I don’t like coffee.”
Mommy: “Well, do you like hot chocolate? Tea?” … (Daddy loves hot chocolate.)
Daddy: Sure, that sounds great!
Daddy just wanted to spend time with me. This is something important, boys. If you want to spend time with a girl, just say so. I realized that moment standing in my kitchen that Daddy was only interested in knowing me. While the thunderstorm roared outside, Daddy drank hot chocolate, and I drank tea, and we talked in my living room until 1 a.m.
When I went to work the next day at Barnes and Noble, he asked me to Ol South Pancake House on my lunch break, which ended up being twice as long as it was supposed to be because we talked and talked (and I got in trouble when I clocked back in). We did college things: concerts, formals, drives back and forth to each others’ schools. Daddy proposed to me in my living room, in the place that we spent so much time getting to know each other.
After the “how things went wrong” part (the part that we will talk about when you are older), I was a single mom. Aunt Caity told me that I should try online dating. So I did. For one month. It was horrible. But it seems like my life is always full of redemptions because within that free trial month’s subscription, I met your Papa.
How I met your Papa, and how you met your Papa are completely intertwined. From the moment Papa came into my life, he treasured you, too.
Papa invited me to coffee, too. We met on a Saturday morning at Chez Elle when you were with Daddy. Papa and I talked for a long time, too. I remember him sitting at a table outside under an umbrella in the sun and thinking how magnetically different and slightly eccentric he seemed, with his tattooed arms and his black classic Wayfarers. Papa told me about being married before in Florida, and I told him about you two… and our story. When he asked me to meet him again, I explained that I didn’t have enough money for a babysitter, but that he was welcome to have a home-date at my house after I put you two to bed. (Again Sophie, you shouldn’t invite a guy into your house at night when you’ve only known him an hour.)
In the weeks after we met, when you were visiting Daddy, Papa brought food, he fixed things that had been broken for years, he shoveled 10 inches of snow after knowing me for a few weeks.
I told Papa that I didn’t want to waste time dating, or introducing you two to someone who would leave your lives, and he assured me that he was deeply serious about us… me and the two of you. He felt so safe and so strong. He and I started working with a counselor right away, talking about our pasts and learning how we were going to intertwine our lives together. If there is anything I want you to know about how Papa and I met, it’s that we started off on the right foot, arranged a solid foundation, and we asked for help right away.
Papa also proposed to me in my living room, in the place that we spent so much time getting to know each other, on Easter – the day of new beginnings. He made up an Easter egg hunt in our house, and you two helped me find my ring. Because Papa’s really best in the world at being a father. He was inviting all three of us to start new together.
Little David, even though you are only 7 months old, and even though your Daddy will probably forever be known as Papa, I want you to know that your birth was one of the most healing days of my life. Papa caught you. He was there for me when I realized you were coming out of my tummy much faster than I expected. He showed me that he was able to handle whatever comes his way.
Your Dads are so remarkably different. The “living room starts” are where most similarities stop. One is silly and slapstick, the other is serious and a little dark. One is an Old South Texas boy, the other is a beach-born free spirit. One is analytical, the other is creative. One very tall, the other not.
What happens in the quiet of our living rooms, though, the little conversations make the incremental differences in whether we end up in one life or another. The people we invite into our quiet space, those are the ones we make a story with.
I know that right now, most of the families that you know have a Mommy and a Daddy that live together, but over the years, that will change. Some of those friends will tell you, “My Mom and Dad are getting a divorce.” You were so tiny when it happened to you. But you will be able to offer them your legacy of what went right. Someday, the thing that causes your heartache will show your friends they’re not alone. And neither are you. Your Fathers make sure of that.
To read more from our “How I Met Your Father” series, click here.