The two women sipping coffee are clearly friends; chatting about work and the kids’ school schedule, laughing about last week’s soccer game and sharing their plans for the weekend. So much so, you’d think these two women have been close friends for decades. They are friends, and “sister-wives,” as they jokingly call themselves, all because of one little boy.
That boy is Jackson Handcock. He’s a wide-eyed 11-year-old with a gentle spirit, and this year he started his first year at Southwest Middle School as a sixth grader. He loves music and history; he also loves his parents – all four of them.
Jackson was not quite a year old when his parents – Randee (Mason) and Tucker Handcock – agreed that while they were no longer right for each other, they treasured their son and for his sake, they would make their new lives as easy on him as possible. They split everything right down the middle – or as close to that as they could – and agreed to continue an environment of respect. So, years later when Tucker married Ashley on Sept. 3, 2011… and a week after that when Randee married Thad Mason on Sept. 10 (no, they didn’t plan it that way), Jackson was used to sharing his time between his parents’ two homes. It wasn’t quite as smooth for the adults.
“At first it was hard,” Randee admits. “There wasn’t any jealousy or anything, just things I missed.” Like when Ashley got Jackson’s school supplies. She had been out shopping for other things, and just picked them up because it was convenient. Not knowing, of course, that Randee and Jackson really enjoyed shopping for his school supplies together. It hurt… at first. Now, though, “I surrendered it to Ashley. She just does a better job,” Randee says with a laugh. “She keeps us all organized.”
Knowing each other’s strengths is a big part of what keeps this beautifully blended family humming along in harmony. Communication and respect are also key. But ultimately, it comes down to a shared orientation toward Jackson. “He’s the glue,” Ashley says of her stepson. “He’s just a great kid, [respectful and kind]. I can’t imagine how much harder this would be if he weren’t that kind of kid.” Randee agrees. “He doesn’t pit us against each other,” and Ashley finishes her sentence; “probably because he knows we communicate!” They both laugh.
Moments later Randee answers a call from Jackson, who is concerned about homework he forgot at school, and even as Jackson is chatting in her ear, she relays the homework issue to Ashley, who pulls up the teacher’s assignments on her phone. “She’s got it,” Randee tells her son and hands her phone to Ashley, who assures him catastrophe has been avoided and she will text him the necessary information. Randee gets back on the line, tells her son she loves him, and hangs up. The two women exchange knowing glances and a smile. This is life for the team of two families.
It isn’t easy keeping everyone connected, but technology has been a great asset. Ashley created a shared Google Calendar to help keep everybody on the same page, they text and email regularly, and keep Jackson in the loop with a phone of his own. Homework happens right after school every day and there are chores that have to be done. Of course there are differences; Jackson loves the four-wheeler at his Dad’s house, and he’s mastered a front flip on the trampoline at his Mom’s – but when asked if he has a favorite place, he gives a confused frown and shakes his head.
They’re truly one big happy family, in part because they have nurtured an environment of respect. “I would never say ‘I’m your mom and you listen to me,’ and I know they would never do that,” Randee says. In fact, as Ashley points out, if Jackson heard one parent speaking ill of another, it would hurt him. “Finding our spots was a challenge at first,” she admits, but “we wanted it to work.” They worked to find ways each parent contributed and found that they generally and genuinely liked each other. That made it even easier.
Randee and Ashley are the first to admit that things aren’t perfect, but it is important to all of them to keep things friendly and consistent for Jackson – and his little brother Talon who was born to Randee and Thad in August of 2010. “Talon is a part of everything,” Randee says, and Ashley agrees. He even spends the night with the Handcocks on occasion.
“Trying to mesh four people and two little ones…” Ashley acknowledges, leaving the challenge implied and commenting instead on the way they make it work. “We always have the end goal in mind.” Randee agrees. And while it was hard at first, when she saw how much Ashley and Thad (and each of their parents) loved Jackson, and Talon too, she realized how lucky they really are – all of them. “Jackson did that,” Ashley observes proudly of her stepson. Randee nods in agreement, with a smile, beaming.
Written by Jaclyn Lanae
Photos by Legacy
Randee had been attending Fountain Springs for a while and wanted to do an “Awkward Family Photo” for Christmas, so when Jackson decided he wanted to be baptized in the same church, both families were already familiar with it, and gladly came together to support him. They may have started going together for Jackson, but ultimately each found their own value in it. Now, though they don’t necessarily attend the same service, “We’re hearing the same message,” Ashley says, “and that’s what’s valuable.”