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I Already Have a Daughter: Who Do You Think Let Me Marry My Wife?

By John Cave Osborne |

The little girl who let me marry my wife holds her triplet siblings in December of 2007.

In August of 2006, I married my beautiful Caroline. Together, alongside her 5-year-old daughter, we entered the complicated world of blended families. But in February of 2007, we learned that our world would become more complicated still, thanks to some shocking news: My wife was pregnant with triplets.

There were many different types of concerns throughout Caroline’s pregnancy. Some were logistical — we’d need a bigger house and car. Others were physical — Caroline has a very small frame, and she was 38 at the time. And many were emotional. A series of serious complications made for nine months of pretty constant anxiety, but perhaps our biggest worry was for Alli.

How would she fare during yet another transition? She had already endured a tremendous amount of change in her short life — her parents’ divorce, moving from her very first home to the one she shared with her mom, accepting me in theory during the engagement, and then accepting me in actuality after the marriage. And in a few short months, Alli would go from being the center of the universe to the oldest of four in the blink of an eye. So much change would be hard on anyone, let alone a 5-year-old girl.

While Caroline was carrying the triplets, many well-meaning people would tell me, “Just wait until you have your own children,” the insinuation being that there’d be a difference between the way I felt about them and the way I felt about Alli. Though I never let it show, those remarks always upset me. If only they knew how much I loved Alli, not to mention how worried I was about the transition she’d soon face. Because if they did, surely, they wouldn’t have asked a question that only increased my concern that Alli would feel like she was second fiddle after the babies were born.

“Sure, but don’t forget, I already have a child,” I’d answer.

“Just wait,” they’d reply knowingly.

Which is what I did. Wait, that is. And, as I knew it would, time proved these people wrong. I love Alli every bit as much as I love my “own” children. After all, she’s one of them. My oldest one at that. If you prick Alli’s finger, I’m convinced you’ll find my DNA.

My love for Alli developed while I was courting Caroline. In fact, by the time we were engaged, I already viewed her as my own child, so much so that I wanted her to be a part of the most important thing I would ever do — propose to Caroline. So after I sought permission from Caroline’s mom (her dad is deceased), I sought the same thing from her daughter. And I’ll never forget how it went down.

“Alli, I’ve got something very important I want to talk to you about. So pick somewhere — anywhere in the whole house — where you want to have a serious chat.”

Oddly, she chose the very corner of her mama’s bedroom.  As we sat there Indian style facing one another, I noticed my hands were damp with anxiety.

Deep breath.

“You know I love you, right?” I began.

“Yeeeessss,” she answered coyly.

“Did you know I love your mommy, too?”

“I thought you loved her!” she answered with a grin that stretched from one ear to the other.

“Well you’re right. In fact, I love your mommy so much that I wanna marry her.”

A look of genuine disappointment crept across Alli’s face. “But Mommy’s already married,” she said while looking down at the planks of the hardwood floor, her finger tracing an imaginary pattern.

Understandable confusion for sure. After all, Alli was only four at that time, and divorce is anything but black and white. Luckily, I had anticipated this stumbling block.

“Oh, honey, your mommy and daddy aren’t actually married any more. That’s why you live in this house,” I said, making a sweeping gesture with my arm. “Remember that book It’s Not Your Fault Koko Bear?”

Of course she did. Caroline read it to her all the time. I had even read it to her a time or two.

“Well, it’s just like Koko Bear’s Mommy and Daddy. They were all grumpy and grumbly when they lived together so they decided not to be married any more and moved into different homes. So, just like Koko Bear, you have two homes now.”

“Well, if you married Mommy, where would you live?”

“I’d move in here with y’all.”

Alli’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Would Briggs (my dog) come, too?”

Hmmm. The downside seemed to be that the prospect of living with my dog was more appealing than that of living with me. But the upside? I had a trump card — one which I would proudly lay down.

“He sure would, honey.”

Excitement turned to flat-out jubilation. “You better bring his food!”

“I will, Alli. I will.”

Our blended family would spring from that conversation, a family that would soon welcome three little babies — babies who Caroline and I feared would threaten Alli’s very identity. But we were wrong.

Alli has delighted in her role of big sister — whether it’s helping the triplets get dressed, or coloring alongside them at the small wooden table, or perhaps just carrying on a simple conversation in her best baby voice. Each time I see the four of them interact, it’s as if they’re one in my mind, all of them falling under the same exact same category — that of “my children.”

And though none of them has any more claim on my heart than the rest, if one ever were to, it just might be the little girl who was nice enough to let me marry her mommy.

John Cave Osborne’s personal blog.
John Cave Osborne’s book website.

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About John Cave Osborne


John Cave Osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as Babble, TLC, YahooShine, and the Huffington Post. John went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months after marrying a single mom, then quickly conceived triplets. Since then, they have added one more to the mix, a little boy they named Grand Finale. Read bio and latest posts → Read John's latest posts →

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22 thoughts on “I Already Have a Daughter: Who Do You Think Let Me Marry My Wife?

  1. Manjari says:

    Another beautiful post, John. Sounds like you have a very happy family!

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @Manjari—I’m on a little stepfamily run of late. I think it’s b/c it’s the holidays and I’m just super thankful, and it all started w/ Alli. Thanks for your kind words!

  2. ALittleShort says:

    As a stepchild myself, I just have to say, great post John. My stepdad and I have this kind of relationship. My mom has 3 kids (I have two brothers, an older and a younger) and I know he sees us all three as his kids as well. Because they married later in life I have no half siblings, but I have a step sister and a step brother whom me and my brothers see a handful of times in the year at best. And we have never all lived under one roof before, so its harder to see them as “close family” but more like “extended family”. But all around, a lovely story, and thanks again.

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @ALitteShort—thank you! Every stepfamily is a little different, obviously. The one I grew up in, I never knew any different. So all four of my half-siblings are like real siblings to me. But if I had grown up in one like yours, I bet I’d feel the same way as you.

      As I told Majari, I’m on a little stepfamily run right now. In part b/c it’s the holidays and I’m just so thankful. And, in part, b/c my last two were well received. I think it’s b/c like so much of Babble’s wonderful content, the story told from a stepfather’s perspective is both personal and universal at once.

      I appreciate you reading, not to mention taking time to comment!

  3. TC says:

    I’ll agree, great post!

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      Thank you, TC! Thanks for reading.

  4. Danielle says:

    I wish my stepdad had been like you. :)

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @Danielle—That’s so sweet to say. Thank you!
      @Bec—They DO get a bad rap. Bad stepfamily experiences are like bad marriage experiences. They do happen. But I firmly believe if you totally understand what you’ve committed to in both cases, there is a far great likelihood for success. I love the story about your mom and stepdad going out to dinner for the proposal! But I loved to hear even more that you’re close w/ your bio dad. Alli is too, and I think that’s so important. Thank you so much for your comments!

  5. Bec says:

    I love your stepfamily posts, John. I have a stepdad, and since my baby brother showed up (surprise!) 6 years into their marriage I have never had cause to believe he loves any of us differently at all. We are all his. And, spectacularly, we are all my original dad’s kids, too. (The divorce was amicable, and his own dad called him just before the youngest arrived to say that “he will be their brother, so he too will be your son.”)

    Stepfamilies get a bad rap; no one would deny they come with their own set of challenges, but there’s a lot of great blended families out there.

  6. Bec says:

    Oh, and you might appreciate this one: I still (more than 20 years later) clearly recall how excited we were the night he and my mom went out to dinner, all of us at home knowing he’d surprise my mom with a proposal that night. We were thrilled, and there was no way the babysitter was getting us to bed before they got home that night.

  7. feefifoto says:

    Oh, my heart is swelling with the charm of this story. You have one lucky and wonderful family.

    1. John Cave Osborne says:

      @feefifoto—I am lucky. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment. Happy holidays!

  8. Manjari says:

    I just want to add – beautiful picture too!

  9. laura says:

    Adorable story and picture! thanks for sharing!

  10. Meredith Carroll says:

    Beautiful, John. Really and truly.

  11. Robin Aronson says:

    What a moment! You better bring his food…..Wonderful.

  12. Linda, the original one says:

    That was lovely, John.

  13. Dana Rousmaniere says:

    Such a great post. Made me get all teary-eyed.

  14. Paige McKerral says:

    My dad married my mom when I was four. I say my dad because neither of us ever thought of him as my step-dad. They had my sister when I was six. Even when they divorced when I was 11, he remained my dad. He took me out to dinner once a week, every week, until I went to college. His name was on my wedding invitation.

    But, I will say that the nagging fear that he loves my sister more, that he’s just being a nice guy has never, ever left me. I’m 34 years old, and part of me is still terrified that he doesn’t really love me. I know it’s irrational, but it’s there.

    It doesn’t sound like you really need advice, but just in case, she might need reassurance her whole life.

  15. tracey manzi says:

    What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. A similar thing happened to me when I got married to my husband. Before he proposed, he asked his five year old daughter for permission to marry me. To his delight, she exclaimed “yes, yes, yes!” Priceless.

  16. Dawn says:

    I have two stepkids myself, who were 5 and 3 when we got married, and I feel the same way. I love them with all my heart, just like I do the other 4 we have…2 by birth and 2 through adoption. We always told them when they were younger, “Half, step, whole doesn’t matter. You’re all sisters and brother and you’re ALL our kids!” You’re a good dad. :)

  17. Julann says:

    Great story. Brings back a lot of my own memories. I got remarried nine years ago when my daughter was 9. My husband proposed to me one afternoon while my daughter was with her bio dad. When she came home later that evening, my husband asked her to sit on the couch; he got on bended knee in front of her, and asked her if she would make him the happiest and proudest man in the world by accepting him into our family. She saw the tiny ring box in his hand and already had her left hand waving out in front of her, screaming “Yes! Yes!”. He opened the box and placed a tiny 14 carat gold diamond (chip) ring on her left ring-finger. It’s a moment in our lives I will forever cherish.

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