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BY Hyla Molander
By Hyla Molander

Dana and I clink our tequila-filled shot glasses, as our combined

six children—2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 12—all sprint across the hardwood
floors of her home.

Tatiana, 8, shouts, “Get em!” and then, like a vulture in flight,

she swoops her locks of matted medusa hair down upon a
squirming pile of elbows and stinky feet.

Voices squeal: “Get off . . . Mommy . . . Stoooppp . . . You

farted on me!”

Finally, the kids tumble aside, one by one, and Jason, 12,
reveals his sweaty, red face. “You wanna help me here?”

Poor Jason.

Dana says, “Looks like you’ve got it handled, bud.”

I laugh, raising my glass. “Here’s to being together.”

Dana tilts her head back, swigs the Patron, and then eagerly
sucks the juice from her lime wedge. “Wish we could do it more

Dana is Jason’s mom. I am Jason’s step-mom.

And, yes, I really am drinking tequila with my husband’s ex-wife.

On a good night, Dana and I might even grab the guitar and
microphone from Jason’s Rock Band game. We belt out “Eye of
the Tiger” while the wee-ones bang on the drums, jump on the
bed, and dance in front of the TV.

Tatiana often says, “We have four kids, but really six if you
count them all.”

The family dynamics are very confusing to her teachers at the

beginning of the school year, but Tatiana loves Dana’s other
children as if they were her siblings.

Having grown up with divorced parents, the idea of former

spouses having jam sessions with current spouses seemed
insane. Why would anyone ever want to subject themselves to

My rule had been to veer on the other side of the road, far away
from men who’d been married before. I was widowed. Entirely
different situation. There was no chance that my late husband
would call in the middle of the night to scream at me about
child support.

I did, however, want to end up with a man who would be a

loving daddy to my two and three-year old daughters. But how
would I know about his parenting skills if he didn’t have

Eventually, I opened up to dating men with kids. Men with kids

meant men with wicked ex-wives.


A week after I met Evan, he invited me to the baseball field to

watch Jason’s game. Wanting to make a good impression, I spent
extra time pulling my daughters’ hair in pigtails, and putting
their olive-toned bodies in matching hot-pink sundresses.
I held the girls’ hands and walked towards the concession stand.
Then, out of nowhere, something came towards me.

It was her. It was the ex-wife.

I wanted to flee.

But she came at me, with certainty, her arms open wide. “Hyla,

What do I do? She’s hugging me.

Dana’s one-year-old daughter began climbing on the bleachers

with my girls. They were instant friends.

Later that evening, my mom and I spoke on the phone. “You’re

going to have a play-date with Evan’s ex-wife?” she asked.
“Don’t you think this is a bit strange?”


At first, it was strange to go to the park with Dana and her kids.
And it took a couple of years of soccer games, school plays,
birthday parties, and swim meets before I could trust that the
“wicked ex-wife” wasn’t wicked at all. Dana was loving and
supportive, always willing to help out with my daughters. She
wanted Evan to be happy, so that Jason could be happy.

Dana says, “What more could we ask for? Jason has four
nurturing parents.”

Divorce is tough. I’m certainly not claiming that it’s easy to get
to the place where you’re doing tequila shots with your spouse’s
ex, nor am I suggesting that it’s necessary to get as close as I
have with Dana.

What I do know, though, is that all of our children benefit when

they see that their parents play well with others.

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