Since I’ve spent just under half of my life as a child of a single parent, I never thought I’d be able to pinpoint the exact day I finally got a Dad of my own. I grew up with my Mom, two brothers, and my (maternal) Grandma. I had a few male role models throughout my childhood — mostly family members like my Uncle, Grandpa, and my younger brother’s dad — but they came and went without trouble and I wasn’t too concerned with why they didn’t stick around. After all, they weren’t my father — they had their own lives and their own things to do… which didn’t include raising me.
My biological father was never a part of my life, and I never agonized much over that. I was pretty happy with my childhood and my Mom worked really hard to successfully wear the hypothetical “Mom” and “Dad” hats. I suppose that my biological father being absent from the get-go made it such that I couldn’t miss what I never had. Everything changed when I was eleven years old and my mom married a wonderful man. He adopted me twelve years ago, but only recently became my Dad.
In 1999 when my Dad, Mike, married my Mom, I think he could only be described as a very courageous man. I was eleven and my brothers were eight and fifteen. I can remember overhearing a family therapist that we visited telling my parents that this time, at the ages we were all at, was the worst possible time for Mike to make his appearance in our life. We were bratty and far from accepting this alien man into our lives. I can only speak for myself when I say that his entrance happening while I was on the cusp of becoming a teenager was a terrible time indeed. Yet he persevered and adopted my older brother and I, knowing that he was walking into a minefield. Looking back now I wonder if I may have confused courage for insanity. Regardless, I couldn’t be happier that he did.
All this turmoil, and we just waited like sitting ducks for Mike to get fed up and bail out — but he never did.
All of a sudden my “fatherless” brother and I went from being damaged goods to diamonds in the rough. It took me years to realize that Mike was in it for the long haul. Believe me, I seized every opportunity to test his patience and will — from the “you’re not my Dad, you can’t tell me what to do” phase all the way through the “I’m sixteen and you still can’t tell me what to do” phase. Having a father figure was fun! My Mom was tough and didn’t take any flack from us, and we learned all too quickly that Mike would fight back with us. We’d bicker and argue until my Mom would get home and put a stop to the madness. We’d divide and conquer to get what we wanted and then laugh about it when we knew we pulled the wool over their eyes. All this turmoil, and we just waited like sitting ducks for Mike to get fed up and bail out — but he never did.
Seeing my Dad with my niece and my daughter just made me wish that he came into my life a lot earlier than he did. Once it even made me wish that he “really were” my Dad. Biologically, I mean. It wasn’t until my son was born four months ago that I realized that Mike really IS my Dad. It isn’t about blood or the quantity of time we’ve spent together. It’s about so many other, more important things, like the love we have for each other. The bond that we share is just between us. It’s about the memories of him that I hold so close to my heart, like him teaching me how to drive when I was 16, and walking me down the aisle at my wedding.
Twelve years have passed since my Dad adopted me and I only started calling him Dad four months ago. He was right next to me when my son was born and I named my son after him because my dad, Mike, is the best thing that ever happened to me. Never in a million years did I think that my relationship with my Dad would be what it is today. The wonderful man who became my mother’s husband thirteen years ago, who became my legal parent twelve years ago, finally became my Dad four months ago. I will never find the words to thank him — not just for putting up with me all these years, but for loving me as much as he does, and for never EVER giving up on me. Because to me, that is what makes a step-father a real Dad.