This post is part of our ongoing series “Dad Tales.” Stories, triumphs, tantrums, tips, and real life experiences from dad’s point of view. Today’s guest author is Jerrod, stepdad of a 7-year-old.
A Dad By Any Other Name
I’m almost halfway through my CDC endorsed life expectancy and it’s a virtual guarantee that no child will ever purposely call me “dad”. To the little girl who lives in my home and whom I help raise every single day, I will be known simply as “Jerrod”. And yet, I’m still every bit her father.
It’s been a little more than three years since I met the love of my life, and she told me about the love of her life: her four year old daughter. It wasn’t long after that I was introduced to this little person, with her brightly colored outfit, comically large feet, squeaky little voice and her mother’s bright blue eyes. Initially, I was just a big dumb plaything, doing all the silly faces and voices that kids love and serving as a makeshift jungle gym.
But later on, I began to notice a gradual shift. Her mother looked to me for support or advice about certain matters. I started having opinions on what the kiddo should or shouldn’t be exposed to. This was most likely the time when my mind shifted from her being “my girlfriend’s daughter” to “our daughter”.
Many of my friends were curious about the arrangement, what it was like to commit to helping raise another man’s biological daughter because he wouldn’t. I never gave the same answer twice because it wasn’t that simple.
It wasn’t like some gavel-striking decision point for me, it was just the natural evolution of our relationship. There were no spoken promises or ultimatums, just the fact that two adults loved each other and I was going to have a little head start on being a parent.
So yes, I skipped over the sleepless nights, tummy time, messy diapers and numerous “her first _______”. I jumped right into learning to read, her early intro to sarcasm (I know, that’ll haunt me later), heaps of laughter and discovering this little chick throws a football on a frozen rope! I’m now neck deep in this project to raise a spirited, self-reliant and educated young woman. One who will go out into the world and embrace life, unconcerned about society’s expectations of her, as she can set her own.
Sure, there are tough moments. All new parents, regardless of what age you start with a child, remember when it dawned on them going to a Tuesday night movie is now a big deal. Or reconsidering that last glass of wine or beer, sparing yourself a Saturday morning hangover death sentence as a plucky child shakes you awake for a trip to the park.
As it stands, our soon-to-be second grader minds when I tell her to do things around the house. There isn’t much back talk or the dreaded “you’re not my dad, you can’t tell me what to do!”. I don’t know that it will always be like this, for parenting is a wildly unpredictable experiment at times. But I do know that I owe this little girl my patience, love and as much wisdom as I can muster from my thirty-something years on this planet.
Coupled with that, I’ve learned that being a father isn’t just about how or what I do help raise the little one, it also means being a good husband or partner. It’s equally important to show her how much I love and support the person she treasures most: her mother. So we take care of the basics, and really strive to provide a home full of love and encouragement, knowing that it’s often lacking beyond our walls.
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