Friday, June 17, 2011

A Father

Two years ago next month, I met a hot guy at a concert event where I felt a little too old and too worn to be socializing. Most everyone there was twenty-something, and I was only 32 but had lived enough life experience to feel at least 30 years older than that. I had three small children staying at my ex-husband's that weekend, and about 3 miles away, my father was in the hospital fighting for his life after a brain tumor surgery had almost destroyed him. I was there at the concert straight from the hospital, where I had held my father's hand and cried next to his bed. The concert was my escape and I just wanted to forget who I was and the life I was living at the moment.

When I struck up a conversation with the hot guy, and he explained to me his current situation of living overseas, I realized I had a connection with him, that neither of us had it easy and he, too, was wise beyond his years in a way that only experience can give you.

I asked how old he was, he answered "27" and I giggled to myself. He asked about my living situation and I approached the uncomfortable moment I always had when I met guys-but I could tell he could handle it, so I told him about my kids. All three of them. And he didn't run, which I already expected just in the short time of speaking with him, but he also asked their names and memorized them and asked me all about them. If you had told me at that moment that I was looking into the face of the man who would someday be the stepfather to those three kids, I would love to say that I would be surprised, but something inside of me that day just *knew*, although it would take me forever to admit that. He had such a kindness and gentleness to him, he made me feel safe, like I could tell him anything, on day 1.

Last week Mr. Wonderful took the kids and I to Mexico on a "Familymoon", and it was what turned out to be the epitome of everything this relationship has become. He carefully balanced his time between throwing the kids into the swimming pool, jumping waves with them, taking them out on kayaks, making sure each and every day that each child got individual attention. He also took the time to relax with me on the beach and made sure we had time alone. Everyone came home happy, connected, relaxed, and ready to move forward.

I was fully prepared, before I met Mr. Wonderful, to be a single mother for a very long time. I was worn thin by trying to survive, and I hoped every single day that someday my kids could forgive me for not being able to do it all, for any needs they had that might have to go unmet, for the exhaustion and the messy home and lack of money and free time. Even if I did meet someone, I didn't want to bring anyone new into their lives, and I was prepared to have a separate love life if need be.

It took me almost a year to introduce the kids to him, and so much angst and analyzing and therapy went into that decision. It was a huge gamble that I wasn't quite honestly sure would ever pay off.

So when I see him loving them the way he loves me-catering to their individual needs, thinking decisions through with such patience and love, putting himself second to them after a lifetime of only having to think of humbles me. I don't know that if I were in the same situation reversed that I would have what it takes to do the same. To give up any chance of having my own biological children in place of loving and sharing three with two other parents, and constantly being looked at and acknowledged by the outside world as "just the step-parent".

A few months ago, Mr. Wonderful visited an attorney to find out what rights he will have as a stepfather. In short, he will have virtually none. If anything were ever to happen to me, he has a very high possibility of losing the three children that he loves more than anything, and would be at the mercy of my ex husband. My 4 year old, who he will have known since she was in diapers and calls him T-Daddy, my middle daughter, who screeches with laughter and giggling everytime he is around, and my son, who idolizes his future stepfather. The thought of any of them losing that relationship makes me want to sob, and I have promised him I will take care of myself so that he never has to worry about that. It's enough to make someone want to start a movement for step-parent rights.

Because what I have learned that I don't know that I believed before, is that it is possible for a person to come into an established family and make it his own. I believe that Mr. Wonderful is a better father to his step-children than most men are to their biological kids.

I look at the path they were on before they met him, and compare it to the path they are on now, and I believe they will owe a future of success and happiness to him coming into their lives.

They will know what a happy and healthy marriage is supposed to look like. I see my 8 year old daughter watching us with awe. She never saw her father love her mother, or treat her mother with care and love. She will have the perfect model of a man to look for when it is her time.

All three will have his support, his ear, his understanding, his quiet, caring discipline, and his un-dying adoration. They are truly so lucky, as am I.

This year he will have his first real Father's Day, and I cannot say enough to him about the praise and adoration I have for a man who has brought so much happiness into the lives of my children, of OUR children, and no gift or card or sentence could ever do justice to the thanks I have in my heart for what he does for this family each and every moment of the day.

Happy Father's Day, "Mr. Wonderful". You deserve it more than anyone I know.