This piece was originally published on The Good Men Project and has been reprinted with permission.
I was a single parent during my daughter’s preschool years from ages 3 to 5. It was a period of transition for us. We moved from the west coast to the midwest, contracted to build our first house, and learned to live with the new dynamic of single dad and his little girl.
I can remember tucking her in, reading bedtime stories and kissing her goodnight, only to wake the next morning to find a head of curly blonde hair on the pillow next to me. She would sneak in ninja-like in the middle of the night to crawl in bed with Daddy.
During that time, I was so focused on being a father that I didn’t give much thought to having a partner. I had learned to be content being single, was thrilled being a dad and totally absorbed in our daily routine. As these things tend to happen, I found THE guy when I wasn’t looking. He wasn’t looking for a partner either, and certainly not for an instant family, so naturally we fell for each other.
He knew I had a daughter from the beginning, but he didn’t meet her until he and I started to get close. I was very careful who I allowed in my child’s life. When they did meet, he was introduced as Daddy’s “friend.” She actually called him “Friend” for the first year or so. I knew he had potential because of how much they adored each other right away. Still, he didn’t spend the night until she asked if he wanted to come for a sleepover.
When we met, I had my own home and he had his. We were each established, stable, and content with our lives. Neither of us wanted a “let’s live together” relationship, and I wasn’t about to move someone in and let my daughter get attached to them unless I thought it was forever. We agreed that if we were to live together, it would only be if we decided to get married and commit our lives to each other. This was around the time that Canada legalized same-sex marriage. We married in a park in Vancouver with our adorable little flower girl at our side.
Still, for the first few years together, she was MY daughter. While he was a fully committed and involved stepparent, all major decisions about her were mine to make. Even after she began calling him Pops, I had her long-term happiness and stability to think about. In my will, she would go and live with my mother if anything happened to me. At the time, she had known Grandma all her life, but Pops for only a couple of years. We knew that eventually it would be better for her to stay with him, but there were no set guidelines for when that would be.
After several years as a family, Pops asked to adopt her and officially be her parent. Coincidentally, the court date was set for the same day as our wedding anniversary. I remember him looking at me and saying, “You realize this means you’ll have to start letting me make decisions for her too, right?” He’d tell you I still struggle with that.
We are 12 years into Pops being in our daughter’s life, more than twice as long she was alive before they met. We are completely and legally a family. He has all the same rights and responsibilities of a father as I do, but if I’m being completely honest, I will always think of her as my daughter. The time spent when it was just the two of us left a permanent and particular mark on my heart. I can never fully let go of that.
Now our family is even bigger. Pops and I jointly adopted a son last year. Even though I look back at my time as a single parent with warm memories of special times spent with Daddy’s little girl, I can’t imagine how I could have made it through the last 12 years without her Pops. I would certainly not have a son if not for him. His strength, compassion, and commitment have been lifesavers for me and our daughter in so many ways.
That’s the funny thing about the human heart. No matter how full of love it is, there is always room for more. “Me and my daughter” became “us and our daughter.” Then it became “our family” forever.
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