Thought Catalog

To The Man Who Has Stepped In To Be A Dad

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Josh Willink

I’ve had five years (and nine months) to adjust to this parenthood thing. You’ve only been doing it for about six months. I can’t imagine what all of this has been like for you. I can’t put myself in your shoes. You don’t have children, which is so hard to believe because you’ve been a pro from day one. They loved you at first sight and the feeling was mutual.

In the past six months, you’ve nailed the Disney channel characters, with the exception of mistaking Sheriff Callie’s Toby (the cactus) for a pickle. (Understandable. It took me awhile to realize the skunks were cousins.) You know their schedule and I can’t think of a practice or recital that you’ve missed. You know which leggings go in which ballet bag. On our trip to Denver, you introduced them to the American Girl store and knew which outfits they would want for their dolls. (That was an expensive lesson you’ll be paying for throughout the next few years.)

I’ll never forget the moment I knew this was real life. You had known the girls for six days. It was a hot June evening. After dinner, we drove to Walmart (because it was closer than Target) and you loaded the cart with two car seats. You had done your research and already knew what you wanted. I watched you pretend the cart was in a NASCAR race, including sound effects, as the girls threw their heads back in laughter. This was now our life. We would be loved and adored by someone that wasn’t obligated but wanted to be here. When you picked me, you picked us.

They are three and five. They’ve inherited their mommy’s fierce independence, so sometimes you’re dealing with me x 3. (As you already know, by “sometimes”, I mean “always”).

You didn’t flinch when they sneeze in your face. You can get them to put lotion on after a bath, which is a feat all of its own. I’ve watched you coach their t-ball games and teach them how to catch a turtle in the lake – (and release it.) I’ve watched you help them make their first s’more. You build them snow forts and take them sledding. You give them more energy and love and sprinkle whip cream pancakes than two little girls could possibly know what to do with. You do all of this, with only six months of experience. You do all of this because you love me, but you love them even more.

I can’t begin to imagine what this is like for you – walking into our lives. These little girls and I are so protective of one another. You met them in the midst of a divorce. They are with their dad half of the time. Where is there room for you in the lives of two little girls who have two parents and two homes? You’re not trying to replace anyone. Sometimes they listen to you, sometimes they run to their mommy when they don’t get the answer they wanted from you. (They do the same to me. They know how to work the system.)

I want you to see your role from my perspective. You have been their T-ball coach and never missed a gymnastics class. On ballet class mornings, you go into work before the sun comes up to make sure you’re off in time. You know what they order at every restaurant and you cut up their food before they have a chance to ask. You have let me sleep in, but I’m woken up by giggles in the kitchen and the smell of sprinkle pancakes, made just the way they like. You’ve been up until 3 am Christmas morning to assemble the gifts. You ask them about their day and you’re never on your phone when they are home, ever. When they are home, they have your undivided. They know this and I know this.

Your role is to be exactly who you have been, from the day you met them. Thank you for holding my hand on the nights I miss them so badly I cry myself to sleep. Thank you for being patient when I’m upset about things that are not your fault. Thank you for taking a daily Zyrtec, allowing us to have our first indoor cat. Thank you for the nights you were the bucket holder from the stomach flu. Thank you for the countless surprises you’ve given us, like the 79 balloons you scattered throughout my apartment last Valentine’s Day and the stage you built them to sing their songs. I’m going to need you to hold my hand on the first day of kindergarten and for that long drive home from moving them into their college dorms. I’m going to need you when they have that first broken heart. I wish you could see the ‘before’ and ‘after’. I wish you could see you the way I do- the way we do.

So many things you did for them before they could even meet you. You did none of these things to impress me, we have been friends since high school. You’ve done all of these things for them. You’ve done all of this to remind them that they are loved and they matter. You tell them they’re the most beautiful girls in the world, and they believe it.

You are here because you want to be here and we know this. This is what makes the love and attention you give us so exceptional. TC mark

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