Starting Our Relationship
“John and I started dating in May of 2012. John worked in the oilfield industry at the time and his work shift would be eight days at work, 4 days off. He lost an entire day just traveling to and from Midland, Texas. So, he really only got 3 days off to be with his family. He brought two kids to the relationship, Katelynn and John. I brought one child to the relationship, his name is Moose. John and Kelly (the kids’ mother) didn’t have the greatest relationship when I joined the picture. They were awaiting court to modify the custody arrangement, which is never pretty.
John wanted more time with the kids. Unfortunately, if it wasn’t in the court papers, we were not given any extra time. It was a nightmare; if it wasn’t allotted time to his days off, we had better not dare ask to see the kids because we would be told, ‘It’s not your time!’ The sad thing is, John’s family would get to see the kids. She would take them over to visit and John wouldn’t find out until it was posted on social media, or unless the kids told us. She had everyone at her mercy, because if they made Kelly mad, no one was going to see the kids! She strived to control everything.
Dealing With A Toxic Co-Parent
It seemed as if she was trying to sabotage our relationship and control what we could and couldn’t do with our own personal lives. She would call the police and file a report if the children were not home by 6 p.m. sharp. I remember one night specifically, John and I wanted to go on a date to go dancing. So we arranged for his mother to watch Katelynn and John for a few hours, and Kelly found out we were going on a date and called the police to inform them we left the kids with their grandmother and she didn’t agree with it. I hadn’t ever been a part of such a toxic situation.
All John ever wanted was to spent more time with the kids. To see a grown man breakdown and cry because he missed his children was heartbreaking. After a few months of the constant stress and drama, I sat John down and I told him, ‘I don’t know if I can take any more of this stress, it is probably best we go our separate ways if things don’t change with Kelly.’ We both cried, because it was not what either one of us wanted. I loved John and the kids, but my hair was falling out due to the stress; I just couldn’t take it anymore! I just kept reminding myself to hang in there and have faith and pray to God that things will change for the better.
John missed out on numerous school functions and special moments because she wouldn’t inform us of anything going on. My heart hurt for him and the kids. It definitely caused more tension between us. It was so frustrating I had to plan everything around John’s days off, vacations, holiday celebrations, and even our wedding because we couldn’t risk being told, ‘It’s not your weekend.’ We wanted to be sure they could be a part of our special day. This made me a very angry person! It made me angry towards Kelly, it made me have so much hatred towards her.
I couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t allow their children to have more time with their other parent? The relationship I have with Moose’s father has always been good regardless of any court orders; we don’t follow them. If he wants him, he takes him for however long, no questions asked. I just couldn’t wrap my head around why she couldn’t be like that? Kelly had gotten a boyfriend (Bobby) and things started to calm down for a change. John and Kelly were able to talk on the phone if they needed to, but there was still tension at school functions or when we went to pick up/drop off the kids.
After Kelly’s father unexpectedly passed away in August of 2017, Kelly really struggled to recover from the heartache. Things took a turn for the worse – she was without a job, her boyfriend didn’t have a steady income. Before they knew it, their electricity had been disconnected and they were sleeping in the living room by the fireplace to keep warm at night. The days were numbered on when they would be evicted with no where to go. John reached out to Kelly and told her we would continue to pay her child support, but let the kids come stay with us so they would have a warm place to lay their head at night and food in their tummies.
We immediately contacted our attorney and arranged for them to prepare paperwork, allowing the kids to be placed with us. All Kelly needed to do was sign the documents. The day she was scheduled to go sign them, we were so nervous! All I can remember thinking, ‘What if she doesn’t show up?’ We were unsure if she would sign the documents or if we were going to need to go to court and fight for placement. The day Kelly went to sign the papers was a bittersweet day. Time stood still when we got a phone call from Kelly, I could hear her crying to John. She told him, ‘Please, tell the kids I love them!!’ It crushed me, but it was then I looked at her as a different person. As a mother, I gained so much respect for her! I couldn’t imagine being in her situation. My heart hurt for her; she did the most selfless thing any mother could do – she did what she felt was best for her kids. This was the turning point for us. It made me realize Kelly is a good mother.
Once the tables turned and we had custody of the kids, every piece of me wanted to do her the same way she did us. I wanted her to hurt like we did, I wanted her to see how it felt to not be included – but we didn’t. We couldn’t do it! We didn’t want her to hurt like she had hurt us – she was already hurting from losing her children. We also didn’t want the kids to suffer anymore than they already had. Their worlds were turned upside down all in just a matter of months. They lost their grandfather, their home, their friends, and most of all, seeing their mom every day.
Transitioning to a new life, new schools, new rules and three full-time kids wasn’t easy. It was a transition for the entire family. John wasn’t used to being a full-time father. Moose wasn’t use to having full-time sibling’s, and I wasn’t used to caring for 3 children full-time. Despite the new stresses in the home, my heart was full. We finally were excited to give the kids a new life and opportunities to try new things. Moose had always been the star athlete in the house. When they used to come over, they would be bothered they couldn’t be involved in anything. Now, both Katelynn and John were finally going to get their chance to try to find their passion.
It was a struggle the first year, because the kids missed their mom. It caused a void between myself and the kids. It was difficult for the kids to understand. Kelly was lost, and the kids didn’t understand why their mom would make promises and not keep them. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do to fill this void. There were still numerous days I found myself being resentful towards Kelly, because she wouldn’t show up to the functions as she would promise. When she did show up, it was awkward and uncomfortable – you could feel the tension. I just wanted things to be different! I wanted things to be how they are when Moose’s father comes around.
Learning To Parent Together
With Moose’s father, we all sit together, we go out to eat together, and we can all just get along! One day, before the school year started in 2019, I told myself, ‘Enough is enough. It has been seven hard years, it’s time to let go of the past!’ It’s time to make something happen with the relationship with Kelly. I swallowed my pride and sent her a long text message, letting her know I was tired – I couldn’t do it anymore! I told Kelly I don’t want it to be awkward when we both attend school functions, it’s too stressful on the kids. I told her she and Bobby could come sit with us and be part of ‘our crew.’
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if she was even going to respond to me. The moment she wrote me back and agreed to a fresh start was a huge relief off my shoulders! We started with baby steps and we attended the homecoming game together. When the kids saw us sitting together, you would have thought they had seen a ghost. They couldn’t believe things were finally changing. As each game came and went, she would sit with us and we would catch up on how things were going at school. Before you know it, the ‘mother-son dance’ was around the corner and we double-dated with our sons. We had an absolute blast dancing the night away!
Co-parenting together has been a wonderful blessing. Now we are able to communicate with one another, and there is no trying to pin one parent against another to get their way. If there are any issues or concerns with the children, I know I can pick up the phone and give her a call. Kelly has even extended the offer of including my son when they go places. She considers him part of her crew. We are also friends on social media. Holidays aren’t an issue for us. We can gladly rearrange our celebration so everyone can celebrate those special occasions. We have the kids every day, and she wants to spend time with them, whether it be a holiday or just because, and she deserves every opportunity!
One day I was on TikTok and I saw this new trend of blended families coming together and I thought to myself, ‘How neat would this be to do this with Kelly and the kids??’ Kelly had sent me a message later that day with the same video, and told me we should do it. After John’s basketball game we decided to do it since we were all there. We filmed it, and posted it to TikTok. Our hope was to reach just one family! If anyone with a blended family could see that after several years we can put it all behind us, so can they! We wanted to give someone hope that their situation can change for the better, just like ours. We honestly had no idea it would get over 4 million views after the first week. Maybe we gave someone faith. If we did, then it made it that much more worth sharing!
My advice to anyone with a blended family is sometimes you have to swallow your pride and let go of the past, regardless of how ugly it was. Any relationship can be fixed with a little effort. Don’t give up trying to mend the relationship, because at the end of the day, it’s not the children’s fault – they are the ones who just get caught in the middle. As I reflect back on the past eight years of my life, I would never guess we would have the relationship we have today with Kelly and Bobby. Looking back, my only regret is not mending our relationship sooner! I have gained a friend and I will forever be grateful for the relationship we now have. Not only have a gained a friend, I gained a bigger family! We will always be blended and blessed.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Natalie Steele of Whitehouse, TX. You can follow their journey on Facebook and TikTok. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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