Man Marries Son, Doesn’t Get Arrested (I hope)

April 6th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Divorce 'n' Custody  |  8 Comments

I both enjoy and kinda dread the process by which JP figures things out regarding his life as a child whose parents have divorced. I enjoy it because I enjoy being witness to his development emotionally and mentally, and because it’s often funny (ever see a kid try to figure how to take off his own t-shirt?–pure slapstick). I dread it because I know that his life so far has been one of some tumult and change and it saddens me to have to face it.

We’ve had a few discussions of late about what marriage is, what it means, and what his role will be in the wedding ceremony I’m having with Tomoko later this summer. I asked him a few days ago if he wanted to be my best man and he actually said no. Not that he was against the wedding or anything, he just didn’t want to do it. Apparently he’s entering his teenage years somewhat early.

That led to a longer and more broad ranging discussion about weddings and what they mean. Go ahead: give a simple, clear explanation of a wedding so that a four-year-old can understand it, and without dipping into any no-longer-if ever-true gender stereotypes (wanna be the guy to tell your kid marriage is when a man and a woman…?) It ain’t easy. Add in the concern that once I start talking about the wedding, we could be forced to discuss step-mothers, which would mean Tomoko potentially replacing his mother, which could leave to all kinds of upsets.

Basically I just told him that a wedding is a thing that people who love each other do to tell everyone they know that they’re in love, and they exchange rings when they do it. Don’t think that’s a good explanation? Maybe you could drop by and do a better job. Beers on me.

Anyway, JP seemed to accept that without too much comment. Then last night he brought the topic up again. No, he still didn’t want to be my best man (tough shit, kid–you’re doing it): instead, he thought it would be a great idea if we got married. Me and him.

“Not for real,” he said. “But just for playing!”

That, quite frankly, didn’t seem like such a bad idea. He could participate, feel like he’s doing something special, fun for the whole family.

So, this weekend I’m going to marry my little boy. We’re going to get toy rings, and bake a cake (Tomoko’s going to have to do that), and we’ll have a little ceremony at home.

“With presents!” JP said (I said no to that; kid’s trying to play me for a fool).

OK, analysts–anyone got a clue what this all means? I don’t entirely, other than he’s just trying to figure out what marriage means for him. How will he be affected by my new wife? Tomoko has been around for a good portion of his life. Does marrying me change her status? Does it change his? What about this new child, Ellie, who’s always around? What does this mean for Mommy? Why can’t she marry her partner?

You can just sit back and watch the thoughts cycling through his head one after the other. I’m rather impressed myself–no acting out, no weird emotional outbursts, just curiosity and his desire to get in on the expressions of love.

Can’t beat that.


  1. Perfect Dad says:

    April 6th, 2011at 9:07 am(#)

    I think it’s just fun. It’s something big that daddy is involved in, so even though he doesn’t understand it exactly, he knows it’s cool cuz dad is doing it.

    My middle kid was so proud to go to preschool for the first time because his big brother had already done it. I think it’s about the same for your kid. Very sweet my man!

    Now when your real wedding comes it’ll be old hat for him. He’ll be able to advise everyone, “Oh no, put that there, you stand here, she says this he does that.” It’ll be awesome.

  2. dadwagon says:

    April 6th, 2011at 9:32 am(#)

    Perfect Dad–I agree with you on most levels, and I’m definitely going to have fun with it. But I also do think there’s a divorce component to it. He’s judging the wedding in connection with its impact on his mother, I think. Could be wrong, but it’s the sense I’m getting, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either. His loyalty to his mother is admirable. What’s interesting to me is seeing his four-year-old mind work out the ties. –Theodore.

  3. john cave osborne says:

    April 6th, 2011at 10:04 am(#)

    @theodore— i agree w/ you. i married a single mom and my stepdaughter was about the same age as your son. @perfect dad is missing that component to your post entirely. at least, i think he is. b/c, like you, i suspect that this has a lot to do with his feelings of his mom and how she fits in to this entire process.

    to that end, i don’t think this is “just fun.” i think it’s psychological. and i think that by letting it play out, you’re one step ahead of where most would be with it.

    loved this post…

  4. dadwagon says:

    April 6th, 2011at 10:15 am(#)

    Appreciate it, John. BTW–was your step-daughter young? How did you approach explaining the wedding to her, or did her mother handle that?–Theodore.

  5. Emma says:

    April 6th, 2011at 12:38 pm(#)

    Your explanation to him about marriage (which seems very age appropriate, by the way) was how it’s what two people who love eachother do to show everyone their love. So maybe he wants to affirm your own love for him and his for you and the connection you two have. This is the first time I’ve read your writing so don’t know your backstory, and I didn’t pick up on the component about his mother, but since you’re marrying someone other than his mother maybe he worries about affirming his connection with you. Or could be he’s angling for cake and presents, as many four year olds are wont to do. :) Best wishes.

  6. john cave osborne says:

    April 6th, 2011at 1:10 pm(#)

    hi theodore,

    she was young. 4 when we got engaged. 5 when we got married. and Caroline and I both worked on explaining it to her. but one thing i did was to let her in on the engagement. to let her have an active part in it. i did it that way for the same reason you’re going to marry your son this weekend.

    IMO, to your son and my stepdaughter? my wedding and your upcoming wedding is the next phase of the divorce each child endured. as such, these weddings aren’t experienced as events to these young minds. they’re processes.

    and by having Alli propose to her mom with me, i wanted to give her as much ownership of that process as possible. (just like you’re doing the same w/ your son.) not so we could have “fun,” though, indeed, fun was what we had in proposing to her mom together. but so that she could continue to process what had happened and what was going to happen.

    warning: blended families are tough. but they are so worth it.

    not to jam a link down your throat, but here are two different links, both of which i put up on babble that ended up getting linked up at HuffPo’s divorce page. i think you’ll appreciate them given what you’re about to experience.

    DW continues to be among my fave sites, Theodore. keep up the good work, both here as well as one your book (which i can’t wait to read).

  7. dadwagon says:

    April 6th, 2011at 3:33 pm(#)

    Events, not processes. Very good. –Theodore.

  8. beta dad says:

    April 7th, 2011at 5:28 pm(#)

    Your pretend marriage is threatening my for real marriage. With cuteness.

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