Being pregnant and having my daughter was the happiest time of my life. I had a loving support system, and my baby and I were safe and healthy. But, these times were also the hardest and saddest of my life. My daughter’s biological father (more like sperm donor) and I were young and dumb, and our relationship had never really been healthy. I found out I was pregnant two weeks after leaving him, and even though I didn’t want to be with him, I was hoping we’d be able to co-parent. Wrong. He only wanted to see her when it was convenient for him, which was about 30 minutes to an hour a week. Not to mention he had treated me like crap throughout my pregnancy and was doing the same after her birth. Only this time, it was my daughter who was being mistreated. She’s not a toy that you can love while you’re playing with her, and then throw to the side when you’re done. She’s a child, a GIRL, who needs her dad.
I had to put my foot down. So, there I was—a single mom at 21.
The “happy parent” moments of my daughter’s early months I shared with family and friends. My “tribe” as I like to call them, helped me out a lot with caring for her. But even though we had all these amazing people in our lives, I was broken. I was hurting. Not for me, not because I was having to raise my daughter single, but because she didn’t have a dad. I was certain she’d never know him, at least not in her childhood. My parents were together, lived together, and raised me together, so I wanted the same for her. I adored my dad and he loved me, the right way, the way a dad is supposed to. I was scared my daughter would never know that love.
And then there was you.
After knowing you for so many years, I never would have thought that we’d end up together. Three months away from six years, with a wild, nurturing, 6-year-old little girl who loves you like the moon loves the sun.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting us to last this long. I didn’t expect we would love you like this. I didn’t expect you to open your arms and heart the way you did—and do—for our daughter. I was nervous. The first time she called you “Dada” it made me cringe. I know it sounds terrible to say, but it did. Because I didn’t know how you’d respond or feel about it. I didn’t know what to say or do. But you just went with it. I remember asking you if it was OK, and you told me yes and called me crazy (clearly, not much has changed). We would see people you know out in public and they’d ask you about her, and you’d tell them that she was yours. Not caring what they’d think or if they knew it wasn’t true. But she IS yours. Yours to wrestle with until both of you are too out of breath to move. Yours to teach to play the guitar. Yours to teach to get back up and try again. You teach her that it’s OK to be rough, but when it’s enough, it’s enough. You show her discipline, which is where I’m often lacking. You show (and tell) her how a man is supposed to treat her in the future.
You give her a love I can’t give her. A love that you didn’t have to give her, but you chose to. You chose to step up when he stepped down, but there’s nothing “step” about you.
You saw her first steps. You heard her first words. You helped play tooth fairy when she lost her first tooth. You know that weird sound she makes to get herself to sleep, and you know exactly how she likes her cheeseburgers. You are hers and she is yours. And you’re all she knows.
So, when people ask if you’re her step dad, or refer to you as such, I correct them. Yes, I correct them. Because you aren’t her step dad. You aren’t “step” to her, or to me, or to anyone else who knows you. No, not step . . . just Daddy.