Monday, June 18, 2012

Who's your Daddy?

For the last 6 years, Father's Day has had a lot more meaning for me than it once did.  Well, not just for me, but for my daughter, too.  Here's why:

Picture a young mother with an infant daughter.  No money to buy anything, so she spends days planning & making a little homemade gift for her husband on his very first Father's Day.  It's not much, but a lot of heart was put into it.  When the day came for her to give it to him, the reaction was indifference.  The next year, same thing.  And again the next year.  This is what Father's Day was like for the first 3 years of my daughter's life.  It's not like that anymore and not b/c her biological father suddenly transformed into a caring human being.  It's different b/c her real Daddy came along.

I had foolishly hoped that my child would be blessed w/ two parents who loved & cared for her above all else.  I didn't expect perfection, but I did expect effort.  You only truly fail when you don't try.  And her biological dad failed miserably.  Not just after we divorced, but also while we were married.  I recall her 1st birthday party when her bio-dad spent most of the time outside smoking cigarettes & chatting w/ his buddies.  Or her 2nd birthday when he spent a huge chunk of time in our bedroom smoking weed w/ his friends.  By her 3rd birthday, I decided to have the party somewhere other than our house so that he would be forced to participate.  So we had it at a local pizza place, where he spent the majority of the time in the arcade area.  When I asked him to take pictures of his daughter opening her gifts, he was annoyed at the imposition.  These were not isolated incidents; just moments that will always stand out in my mind.

And then there was Justin.  I introduced him to Trinity when we were just friends.  She warmed up to him instantly, which made the transition very easy when we decided to start dating.  That summer was rough, as I was in the midst of my divorce & my daughter was only having sporadic visits w/ her bio-dad.  At one point, he "opted out" & didn't see her for over 3 months.  It was during that time when Trinity first called Justin "Daddy".  He was dancing around to a Beatles song, hamming it up for my toddler's enjoyment, when she shouted "dance, Daddy, dance!"  He just sort of froze, happy to be called Daddy, but unsure whether to encourage it or not.  So I sat my precocious little girl down & explained that if she was comfortable calling Justin "Daddy" it was okay, but it was also okay to call him by his name.  The choice was hers.  He has been Daddy ever since.

Through his own actions, Trinity's bio-dad has a very minimal role in her life.  I tried to force him to be involved; calling & yelling at him when he'd miss a visit & giving him overnight visits even when he wasn't living in the greatest places.  Eventually I realized that I wasn't helping her by pushing her bio-dad into a fatherly role, so I decided to step back & let him make the effort.  I even told him that it was up to him to be a part of her life & that I wasn't going to waste my energy anymore.  This is why she only sees him for 8 hours every other Sunday, despite telling him several times that he could see her more if he would just call ahead & let me know.  He's captain minimally sufficient.  He puts out only as much energy as it required to maintain the title of father.  Too lazy to be a good dad, but too stubborn to let her go completely.

I'm not sharing this to disparage my ex-husband.  I'm sharing it to illustrate how a man with no biological ties to a child can be considered a real Daddy.

Justin is Daddy b/c he gives her a kiss goodnight, every night, and is the first person she sees nearly every morning when she wakes up.  

Justin is Daddy b/c his first thought when making any decisions is about Trinity.  Whether it's making weekend plans or decided to stay at a job, she is at the center of it all.

Justin is Daddy b/c he goes above & beyond to make sure her childhood memories are good ones.  He puts special thought into her holidays & birthdays, helping plan & prepare for them all.  

Justin is Daddy b/c when he says he's going to do something, he does it.  The thought of letting his daughter down is unacceptable to him.  

Justin is Daddy b/c he saves every little gift she makes him; from construction paper cards to drawings to hand-made ornaments.  Each one is a treasure that he wouldn't let go for all the money in the world.

Justin is Daddy b/c even if it makes him public enemy #1 for awhile, he will play the role of tough Daddy when it's needed.  And when I'm the one doling out the discipline, he backs me up without fail.

Justin is Daddy b/c he didn't get to hear her heartbeat for the first time or feel her kick when she was in utero or watch her take her first breath.  But he loves her just as much as he would if he had been there for all those milestones.  He came into her life when she was at a very difficult age, but never wavered in his dedication to be the best Daddy he could be.  It hasn't always been easy.  In fact, more often than not, it's extremely difficult.  He has to be the man who does all the hard work, give her all his love & attention, to support her financially & emotionally, but always share her w/ someone else whose only claim to parenthood is a shared chromosome.  

Because of all of these things, the last 6 Father's Days have stood above the rest.  Our homemade gifts are loved and appreciated.  More than that, Trinity & I have a reason to celebrate b/c we have been blessed to have Justin in our lives.  For Trinity he's a Daddy who will love her through everything, who will give up anything, and who will always be there when she needs him.  For me he's the answer to my prayers, the missing piece to my puzzle.  He showed up when I least expected and changed the lives of me & my child.  No matter how hard it can be at times, he's still here.  Father, husband, soulmate, and best friend.  Men like him are the reason people celebrate Father's day.  Not to buy gifts out of obligation or to balance out the fact that Mother's day is the month before.  It's to take time to appreciate and adore the real men out there who take care of their families.  To shower them with love & construction paper cards.




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