When I left my ex-husband many years ago to take my children to
a happier place and a safer life, my sister said to me, "Are you
sure you want to do this? Nobody will ever love you again because
of all that you've got going on."
Photo by Jason Geil/Chicago Parent
Rich Wood and Jennifer Wheeler with their kids
(standing) Noah, Nicholas, Nathan and Abbi Wood and (seated)
Wheeler, Tripp and Tate Morrison.
And while I couldn't quite believe that she had actually said
those words to me, I knew perfectly well what she meant. What I've
"got going on" are three sons with special needs and I knew that
there was a very good chance that nobody would ever love all of
Well, guess what? I met someone and this someone does love all
of us, in exactly the ways we've always wanted to be loved. He
loves my steadfast nature and my fierce fight for right, and he
loves my sons and their challenges and victories. I love my life
but, as complicated and difficult as it can be, I do not know if I
would have signed up for it had I been given all of the information
in advance. But the man I love knows all, sees all, hears all, and
he has volunteered anyway-freely, willingly, forever.
We are getting married and moving into his house, a house he
already shares with his four children. If you do the math, we will
have seven children altogether. People call us the "Brady Bunch,
plus one," although with six boys and one girl, we have thrown off
Mike and Carol's gender curve just a bit.
We have one thing the Bradys never had-kids with special
Before our families met, I was terrified that things might not
go well and I would lose the love of my life forever. How could we
blend his four children who are academic high-achievers,
athletically gifted and socially set, with my three children who
have challenges at school, could care less about sports and need
extra help to socialize?
All I needed to do was trust the children. They knew all they
needed to know-that all kids love to be loved and all kids love to
play. My kids can't get enough of my fiance's children. They admire
them and marvel at their video game skills. And my sons' new
siblings also like Pop-Tarts and hot dogs, so it's all good as far
as they are concerned. My fiance's children have taught me the most
valuable lesson of all: Just give kids the information and they
will know what to do with it. Answer their questions, tell them the
truth and they will demonstrate compassion and understanding in
So when we told them we were getting married (there was
cheering) and that we would all be living together as a family and
the kids just marched happily onward, I was a little surprised. My
panic was for nothing. Special needs was a non-issue. There was
nothing wrong with finding love again or becoming a family. The
kids already knew that. Now I'm not saying there won't be any need
for therapy down the road (been there, done that), but I trust my
new family. I trust the children. We will all take care of one
Now if only we had an Alice to do all of our laundry …
Jennifer Wheeler Wood is a Plainfield mom of seven and a frequent contributor.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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