By Tommy Maloney
In 2008 I found myself getting divorced after a 6 year marriage. I was well aware of the problems my former wife and I were having. Even the couples therapist was shocked that we were ending the marriage. She was “shocked?”
My first priority was to my son and staying connected with him: since now we would not be in the same household. I learned to be a stay at home dad when the only training was “on the job” training. He and I had such a special bond. The divorce ruined me emotionally.
After the divorce the last thing on my mind was dating. All I wanted to do was cry, feel sorry for myself and figure out what red wine goes best with well, red wine. During this period of time my job was as a contracted software trainer. Essentially that meant I was on the road and only came back every other weekend from the road to see my son.
When my mom remarried, I was not expecting that my “bonus” dad would teach me lessons that I would need later in life. Before I go any further you might be asking what a bonus dad is? A bonus dad or mom is the same as a “step” parent but I have never been comfortable with the label of step. The word step in my mind created a negative image. Bonus just sounds friendlier. Don’t you agree?
My bonus dad moved in with us when I was around 17. He did not lay down the “it’s my way or the highway” rule. That was a huge parenting lesson that I would eventually use. He was very respectful and kind. He never raised his voice to me (or my mom). Just more lessons I would need in my own “tool box.”
My second wife (and current, can I say last as well?) and I met at a meeting that I was invited to. The organization was all about how to promote positive fatherhood in our state of Colorado. Many of the people in that room were running non-profit organizations. In my case, I was just trying to build my speaking business and promoting my first book. This was where I met my future wife. As I stated previously, I was really not looking to date.
My relationship with my son was very important to me. If I was to date then it could mean time being taken away from my son and I did not want that to happen. Let me get very real here about me and dating. I have never been very good at it because of simply being rejected. When I thought of dating I did not want to date anyone who had kids. Plus this might sound a bit of an oxymoron but if I was to get back into the dating pool: I wanted to go younger. Well, there are no such things as coincidences in my opinion.
The future wife and I ended up at the same conference. This was very cool because I was starting to live my dream as a paid speaker. During the time of the conference, I was not what you call a true man of “faith.” The two of us kept bumping into each other and as I joke today; she was “stalking” me (in a fun flirting way, not a creepy way). Maybe God was “pushing” me towards her?
A month after that event she sent me an email asking if I would like to have coffee and talking about divorce and parenting. I was very honored because I knew my presentation at the conference went over like a lead balloon. Our chat lasted for three hours. The time could of gone even longer but she needed to pick up her daughters.
In 2012 we got married and yes to each other. As I have mentioned, I had skills unbeknownst to me that I would end up needing as I became a bonus dad.
- I know this is very controversial for many of you but it really helped our family become a successful blended family. My wife and I agreed that if the kids did not get along then we were not going to move on with the relationship. The first time the kids met we did it a neutral location: outdoor ice skating rink. If they did not like each other than no stress. In our case they did very much enjoy their future siblingness ( I know not a real word but go with it).
- As my bonus dad did by setting the tone, I did not set the rules my first day of moving in with the ladies. I let it organically grow. My wife has two daughters and as of this writing they are 21 and 16. The older one and I get along (more on that) and the 16 year old and I get along very well. The ladies and I created our own bonds. I was very much aware that I had to earn their respect not demand it. Again I learned from my own personal experiences with my bonus dad.
- I very much took an interest in the girls lives. When they were younger they both competed in gymnastics and soccer. I attend as many events I could.
- Have “The” talk. Not that “talk” but the one I am telling you is still not going to be comfortable. The older one needed a ride to church one night. She and I are very much a like in the sense of not liking serious conversations. However, I needed to be a big boy and let her know that I had zero intention of replacing her dad. The talk is about more of being a supporter. All I wanted to talk to her about was my commitment to her and her sister as best I can. Ya, that went over as well as, that balloon thing. I do feel that even if she did not straight up tell me, she understood my love for our family.
- Create individual moments. My son and I have our own things that we do together but so do the girls and I. One example was when I would pick up the younger one, she and I would stop once a week to get ice cream. The older one well: I asked to get her permission when it came time to ask her mom to marry me. We went for coffee and I showed her the ring. We both cried that day.
Overall is our household perfect because of the things we have done to become a family? Hell no. Heck, hash tag hell no. However, I truly believe that many of the skills I learned from my bonus dad have helped create our blended family. My son has always come first and back in 2012 he was right there next to me at the wedding.
For you and your family my hope is that reading this blog will help you become a successful family. The true bottom line is that it is all about the kids and their needs.
Terry Gaspard’s new book “The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around” was published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be ordered here.
TEDx Talk: https://youtu.be/azG2K47iz4Q
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thetommymaloney