I wasn’t ready to be a mom.
New Life. Who dis?
13 years ago I was clawing my way back from the lowest point in my life and trying to figure out who “Kelly” was. My identity had always been a supporting character in someone else’s life. Whether it was as a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a best friend or an enabler, my storyline was never fully developed. I wasn’t ignored or in the background and my name was high on the credits reel, but no one really knew me. Because I didn’t know myself.
When Kelly Met Tate.
On the third day of 2005, I met Tate. We formed a friendship and he quickly found a role in MY movie. The quirky best friend that the audience is rooting for (in the beginning). We learned a lot about each other in that short time…the good, bad and downright loathsome. I also saw that his love for his son was the pinnacle and that everyone else came a distant second. You could see his heart swell when he talked about Tucker’s accomplishments in school, sports and life. In his mind and his heart, there was no room left. It was Tate and Tucker against the world.
On Valentine’s Day 2005, Tate and I had our first date. The next day, Tucker turned 8. I had never been out with a “dad” before, but from the very beginning I knew they were a packaged deal. I remember sitting at dinner that first night and talking about the future. Not necessarily “ours” but in general what we wanted in life and how we saw it playing out. Based on conversations as his ‘best friend’, I knew Tate never wanted to get married again and definitely not have anymore children. He could not imagine loving anyone as much as he loved Tucker. So that first night, I was very clear. I did NOT want to date someone for the rest of my life, and I absolutely saw myself getting married. But as for kids…I was still undecided.
Maybe that honest conversation is why it took another year and a half for the best friends to realize they were starring in a Romantic Comedy and the ending was already written. But I don’t think so. We just weren’t ready. He was still finding himself after his divorce and the “Year of Kelly-2005” had just begun.
Over the next year, I had the privilege of getting to know the coolest, smartest, wittiest boy. Without the pressure of trying to impress him as “dad’s girlfriend” (again, still in the role of best friend) we bonded as Kelly and Tucker. He would come to the office with Tate, and I promise, unless he and I were running around the halls scaring each other loudly (mostly me), you would never know he was there. That kid could entertain himself for HOURS! Coloring, reading, writing. Not a peep!
Watching Tate be Superdad, even with Tucker living an hour away, was why I fell in love with T.N.T. Tate would drop everything to be at his baseball games, soccer games, back to school nights, parent teacher conferences. And Tucker beamed with admiration and respect for his dad. Clearly Tate was doing something right!
Dumb and Dumber.
Once the Rom-Com credits rolled and Tate and I realized that we were done being dumb, life began. The reality of dating a father set-in. We were not a spontaneous young couple who could drop everything and hit the open road. Weekends were planned. Soccer and baseball games scheduled. I wish I could say I was a perfect understanding girlfriend. I wasn’t. Many weekends I was left disappointed, because I was dateless. Selfish.
In October 2008, I became a stepmom to that amazing, talented blonde little boy. Dating a dad was NOTHING compared to being married to one!
Being a stepmom is by far the hardest job I have ever had. I said that before I had Radley, and I say it today. But Tucker made it as easy as I was going to get. Lucky isn’t even the word.
For someone like myself who has an opinion on most everything, who is the youngest child of 3 girls yelling to be heard, and who is by nature Type B-Z (whichever avoids the game to avoid losing) it was hard being a silent partner in this whole parenting thing. Tucker’s mom and Tate had it all figured out before I came along. But Tucker was growing up. And I had something to say. Can you imagine for Tate, someone who HATES conflict, how well this went in our house?
Tucker’s mom, Kara, is the complete opposite of me. She is sweet, mild-mannered and quiet. Literally the thesaurus words for what I am not. I NEVER tried to replace her, nor wanted to. She carried Tucker for over 9 months, delivered a 10 lb 11 oz giant AND the epidural wore off. After having Radley, that last part meant so much more to me. She is a ROCKSTAR!
Before Tate and I got married, Kara married Rusty and 9 months before Radley was born, they had Jameson. Tucker’s life changed drastically in a few short years, but he welcomed each moment as only he would…a smile, a hug and a fist pump when he found out he had a little sister.
There should be studies conducted and books written on how to raise a child of divorce with Tucker as the subject. He is not perfect and has traveled the rocky road, but he is Tuck. He doesn’t try to be anyone else, and THAT is what all parents should pray for.
Most parents feel their oldest child is the trial run. The do’s and don’ts of parenting. I’ll figure it out with the first and do better on the second. Not with Tuck. If Radley has even half the heart that her big brother does, we are doing ok.
Simply the Best.
Today Tucker is 21. Wow! I wasn’t there on that day when the jaws of life were brought in and Kara became a SAINT birthing a baby bigger than most 6 month olds. I didn’t spend sleepless nights in college with a schoolbook in one arm and a newborn in the other. I sure didn’t graduate with honors like Tate and Kara (and I had no excuse). But I have loved that little boy since I was ‘dad’s friend’ and he was a chunky little monkey throwing the winning pitch of the big game without breaking a sweat.
Tucker has grown into a kind, respectful, talented young man and there is still an entourage surrounding him. He has always had the biggest cheering section, and I am honored be a part of that village.
Happy Birthday, Tucker Kees Nations!