I spent a big portion of my adult years involved with kids in some manner. As a coach, a teacher, a tutor, an uncle, a friend, and as a 'step-dad'. Hell, for the biggest part of my teenage years, I wanted to go to college and become an elementary school teacher. So, you would think the idea of being a father wouldn't have been so terrifying. I even had a little practice.
As long term relationships go, there were times when kids were involved. The hardest part about being the 'step-parent', is when the relationship fails. Inevitably, regardless of best intentions, you lose contact with the children that you helped raise and got close to. That was the case for me several times, except one.
Even though we lost contact for a few years, I was eventually able to reconnect with a young lady I had spent several years raising. Even then, she had chosen to call me 'dad', and we were inseparable. Leaving that relationship was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Still, in the end, it all worked out. We were able to reconnect and now talk practically every day. She still calls me dad, and regardless of DNA, she is my 'kid'. I put the quotes there because she is now nineteen and turning into a remarkable young woman. But, she will always be my kiddo.
So, again, I had practice.
Truthfully, I had given up on becoming a biological father even though it had always been one of my biggest dreams. I was that guy whose friends were constantly telling him what a great dad he would be. When I worked with kids at the preschool, or as a coach or tutor, parents would always tell me I needed to have one of 'my own'. But, I refused to do so unless I was in the right place and with the right person. When I turned thirty-five and that still hadn't happened, I came to find peace with it. I convinced myself that it just wasn't meant to be.
Six years later, things would change.
My partner and I were discussing the idea of having a kid. Forty-one and thinking of having a baby... what was I thinking, right? But it felt right, and we made the decision to become parents. Not long after, I got the news that our child was on its way with a due date in late 2016. I went through the normal gamut of emotions, but they didn't hit me anywhere near as hard as I thought thy would. I was excited, thrilled, nervous. I started questioning whether or not everyone had been right. Would I actually be a good father?
Part of me was afraid of getting too excited and then something happening. There is always that slight chance, right? I had waited so long, even given up, and suddenly one of the things I had wanted most in my life was coming to fruition.
But I was not yet frantic.
That did not happen until the ultrasound that revealed our baby's gender.
I would be lying if I said there wasn't a part of me hoping for a boy. It's ridiculous, I know. But I knew boys, I understood their brains, their biology. I knew what I went through so I knew what to expect. But the ultrasound technician turned and spoke the three most terrifying words I had ever heard.
"She's a girl."
My heart stopped and my life flashed before my eyes. Sounds cliche', but I swear that forty-two years of life raced through my mind in the next five minutes. I went silent and hung my head as I contemplated what had just been said. Suddenly I went from feeling moderately prepared for parenthood to questioning every decision I had ever made.
After that appointment, it all hit me like a tsunami. The fear, the anxiety, and the tears.
But I was also filled with a joy I had never known. I knew what so many of my female friends had been through in their lives. I understood that too many men don't properly respect the female gender. I acknowledged that so many young girls were raised to place importance on the wrong things. I spent the next many months talking to friends, especially dads who had daughters. I vowed to be better at being a parent than I had ever been at anything else.
Late in 2016, my little girl came into the world. Impatient like her father, she showed up six weeks early at a tiny 4 pounds 15 ounces. As a result, the first 13 days of her life were spent in the NICU. Then, finally, she came home and the greatest adventure of my life, already well underway, became even more grand.
I want to tell you that life for the last nearly four years was perfect and easy. But I can't. We have seen, and are still facing, our share of challenges. That's just life. Still, there is no greater blessing than time with my munchkin. She is turning out way too much like me. It shows in her attitude, her love for adventure, her desire to learn, and her ability to laugh her way through most things.Now that she is a little more independent, the adventures we go on are getting a little bigger.
I know I am three years behind on telling my tales of being a daddy, but I hope to share some of those stories with you along the way as well. Mostly, I want to give you a glimpse of what makes me the happiest, of my greatest muse and my reason for being.
So, join me for the best adventure I could ever go on... The Dad Life.
And, if you'd like, share some of your favorite parenting stories with me!