I spent the first five years of my life without a dad. It was just me, my grandma, and my Aunt Lee. My mom was young when she had me, and when I was 4 my grandma ended up adopting me. When I was 5, my mom met a wonderful man who would end up becoming my step-dad – no – just dad. He’s the only one I’ve ever known and the only one I’ll ever have. I’ve found my biological father, but because of my dad I just have no desire to reach out or ask questions. I’m happy with my family just the way it is.
My dad did not always have it easy. He had to try hard to break down this angry 5 year old’s resolve to hate him. I felt for a long time that he was taking my mom away from me, and then they got married and had my brother and sister and I felt like they were replacing me. I was very angry at them all as a child, but still, I wanted to be a part of their family so much. Sometimes I felt like an outsider in my own family and I definitely had some resentment towards my mom. She gave me away, got married, and had started her own family. What I didn’t know at the time was that when I was 6 and after they had gotten married, my mom asked to adopt me back from my grandma. She was wary of their new relationship and refused. Despite this, my relationship with my dad grew, and we bonded. He is one of my favorite people in the world. He always tried the hardest to include me, to make me feel welcome, to make me feel like there was no “step” in our relationship. He never introduced me as his step-daughter, but as his daughter. He listed my name among his kids without second thought.
I didn’t know about the failed re-adoption attempt when I was 6 until I was 12, and I promptly told my mom and dad that I wanted to come live with them. That wouldn’t happen until I was 17 though, after I graduated high school, because my grandma had moved us out of state when I was 12. I would spend the summers with my family and while we had typical ups and downs throughout the teenage years, my bond with my dad never faltered. He is the best person I know, and I’m so glad that Jaxson has him as a Guh-Guh and as a wonderful example of not just what kind of a man but what kind of a human to be, and one day, the kind of father to be.
Jaxson spent the first five years of his life without a dad, too. He has and always will have two loving, caring mothers. He has had his struggles since the divorce and subsequently my relationship with Brandon, but I have strived not to have him share the feelings of anger and being an outsider that I had as a child. Instead of one small family of just me and his Mama, instead now he just has a larger family consisting of two parts – him and Mama, and then him and Brandon and me. We’re adding to our family, not replacing anyone. We strive to be inclusive of him and to be there for him. I never want him to feel the way I felt.
When Brandon and I first got together, Jaxson had some confusion about the whole dad thing. I have never pushed him to call Brandon dad, I have never referenced him as dad, and anyone who does gets a stern talking to from Jaxson as he proudly exclaims, “I have two moms!” As Jaxson got older, he started asking questions though. He thought that all adult men were dads, so we had to explain that you have to have children to be a dad. He would ask sometimes if Brandon was his dad, prompting a modified “birds and bees for children of two moms” and no, it was not Brandon’s seeds that made Jaxson grow in Mama’s tummy. Jaxson loves Brandon’s mom and they have a really sweet and special connection, and he keeps telling her that Brandon and she will part of his family once we get married, not just yet, but we’re “practicing right now”. But he has never wavered that he does not have a dad – he doesn’t like them, he says, because he’s never had one – and Brandon will not be his dad.
In May, Jaxson’s pre-school hosted a Mother’s Day Tea for all of the moms and he was so happy both of his moms were there with him. Just prior to it, we were driving home from picking him up for the weekend and I had asked him to make sure he wanted both of us to come. He said of course! And then he asked me if Brandon could come too. I laughed and said no because he’s not a mom. I was surprised that Jaxson was sad, and he said, well what do we do for Brandon?
So I told him about Father’s Day, and that if Brandon and I have kids in the future, Brandon will be a dad so he can celebrate Father’s Day but for now, he won’t. Instead we’ll celebrate Guh-Guh and he and Mama can celebrate Papa. And in this small quiet voice from the backseat Jaxson says, “I want to do something for him on Father’s Day. It’s okay if Brandon’s my step-dad.” I almost burst into tears. It was so sincere, so sweet. He genuinely wanted to celebrate him! I had not pushed him to, I had not even suggested it, and here he was acknowledging that he was going to be okay with Brandon’s new place in our family. It was a small victory! I asked him two, three times to make sure that he was okay and he meant what he had said, and each time he said “Yes, mommy! Will that make Brandon happy?” I told him that “Yes, I think that will make Brandon very happy to hear that.” We planned our Father’s Day activities on the rest of the car ride home. Jaxson picked what he wanted to do and I told him I’d pay for it. 🙂
Brandon was very happy to hear that, indeed. And he’s excited for his first Father’s Day with Jaxson. He loves him very much and I have to admire the patience and understanding I see in him, that my dad once showed to me. I couldn’t have found a better man to be a dad to my child – and to our children one day in the future. There’s a saying I’ve seen before – Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a step-dad. And that’s the truth.