I was wary of you at first. I was pretty sure we’d scare you off. And part of me wanted to—single parenthood had made my list of requirements pretty tough.

But you won me over with a, “Bring him, too.”

And you won him over with backyard games and Matchbox cars.

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To the daddy who made the choice:

You didn’t claim your title like most. Maybe you didn’t hear the words, “It’s a boy!” Maybe you never swaddled our child as a newborn. But I can promise you you’re more than a “step” or a “bonus.” You’re tied to that child by something that’s much stronger than blood.

To the daddy we love:

Isn’t it funny that we ever thought it mattered? How our family came together? I can’t believe I ever dwelled on the messiness of our story. It gave us character. It made us better. Our child is loved, and THAT is all that matters.

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All dads should be celebrated, but I’m convinced the type of dad you are—is something special.

It takes a strong man to be where you are. It’s a gift. It’s hard. I know. It’s a lot.

You never ever had to be.

And that’s what makes me extra thankful that you’re ours.

This article originally appeared on Whitney Ballard

Whitney Ballard

Whitney Ballard is a writer and mom advocate from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, where she writes about motherhood, marriage, mental health, and more. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holing a Master’s degree; she writes about that journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens. When she’s not writing while on her porch swing or cheering/yelling at the ballpark, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.