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At 24, I married a 46-year-old. I became the stepmom to 2 teens.

feet of couple getting married
The author became a stepmother to two teenage boys at 24.Nerida McMurray Photography/Getty Images
  • At 24 I married my husband who had a 16- and 18-year-old sons.

  • My husband had two previous divorces before marrying me, and his family was skeptical.

  • I had a son years later and my 20-year-old stepson napped with him on his chest.

At only 24, I walked down the aisle knowing I was not only gaining a husband, but two teenage stepsons as well. The age gap between me and my 16- and 18-year-old stepchildren seemed vast at the time.

I certainly couldn't consider a newly graduated high schooler and a new driver peers. They weren't buying a house or starting a family at any point in the near future, and I was in a completely different stage of life.

Navigating new family dynamics, especially with teens, led to more than a few awkward moments. There were more mundane instances where, when innocently walking down the hall, I found myself directly in front of an open bathroom door, and the socially ick situations where it was being determined in real time how to introduce me, and it landed on "And this is my . . . my, uh . . . my Hollie, yeah."

People had mixed feelings about us getting married

Where our circle of friends and family were concerned, we received reactions that were worlds apart. With two divorces under his belt already, his parents and brother were skeptical, but accepting for the most part.

His only sister had been close to his first wife for over two decades and pulled a few Regina George-style moves, while my stepson's mother was completely open and kind. She even framed pictures of my sons years later for the older boy's rooms.

Work colleagues of his were polite, cordial, and respectful, which was a big relief. The friend circle was a different story because, without many close female friends, there was backslapping and high-fiving when they learned I wasn't 30 yet, as well as a general diminishing of me as a true and equal partner.

My family and friends, with few exceptions, were blatantly opposed to the point of stopping communication with me and crying in wedding photos.

We got into a routine

Despite the variety of reactions, life settled into a bit of a routine. While I knew I would never replace my stepsons' mom or be a bonus mom, being useful to them was my strategy. I knew that teenage boys as a population could be persuaded into many things through food, so I started there.

Every other Thursday, I would make my bribery run for groceries — and not prepackaged, premade, microwave groceries. It was from-scratch breakfast and dinner all weekend with my Southern grandmothers' recipes. Those shared meals allowed the boys and I to begin knowing how we fit together as a family. We built a rapport that let me be a support person who also stayed out of their business and never gave unsolicited advice. We had hard boundaries that ended up building mutual respect.

A few holidays and weekends with my family developed our new roles even further. Even if they did not wholly accept the new marriage, my family and friends fully embraced my stepsons.

Once I became a mom myself, all the awkwardness with the boys fell away. The oldest walked into the hospital room, said, "He looks like me," and placed his newborn brother, 20 years his junior, on his chest, and they napped.

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