Dear “Stand In,”
Five years ago today, my husband took our daughter to a Daddy-Daughter dance. The next morning, he walked out of our house and never returned.
Tonight, I watch as my new husband gets ready to take my daughter to their first Daddy-Daughter dance. To say that it is emotional, would be the understatement of the century.
You see, I’d be lying if I said that this night means more to me than all the years that you took her. And by you, I mean her “stand-in” dad. You are my best friend’s husband who came forward when I was a single mother to ensure that my daughter had some semblance of a father in her life.
You took her to the dance every year. You would show up wearing a suit and carrying flowers. First, you would let her choose any restaurant she wanted, insisting that money was no object on her special night. You would listen to her incessant chatter, and make her feel as though what she had to say was the best thing in the world. Then, you’d drive her to the dance, and hold her coat and shoes while she ran around the gym with her friends. On occasion, she’d glance your way just to see that you were there.
She always knew that you’d be there.
When you would bring her home, you would always thank her for inviting you. You made her feel important and valued. This contradicted everything that her biological father had burned into her soul when he left us. I can’t thank you enough for all the ways you helped us both by stepping up and playing the strong male role in her life.
Tonight, when I was painting her nails for the dance, I asked her if she was excited that her “own” dad was taking her this year. She looked up at me for a minute and said, “Maybe we should invite ‘stand-in dad,’ too … he really liked taking me, you know?” Then, tears began to fall for you, just like they had every year. You may not be her “real” dad, but on those nights, you were a dad to her in all the real ways.
When her biological father wasn’t up for the challenge, you were. You helped her when I couldn’t, and you taught her how a man should treat her. You made it so that she never sought out attention in all the wrong ways. You kept her heart open, and her spirits up. You prepared her to love another dad in spite of all the hurt that her first one caused her.
And, you also taught me. You taught me what I should look for in the next man that I would choose to love her. I walked away from so many men simply because they couldn’t reach the high bar that you had set.
She now does have a dad that loves her, and wants to be the father that she deserves. Thank you for making that role so easy for him. I know what you did, and I will never forget it. There aren’t enough “thank you’s” in the world for the role you played in her life.
My daughter went years without a father, but thankfully, she always had you.