An Open Letter To Single Mothers; From A “Former Step-Dad"
written by: Slice Lucas
At 28 years old, I was single, no kids of my own, and on the dating scene. That’s when I met Mary. We worked together...she had a beautiful smile and I was definitely attracted to her. We had a mutual friend at the time who helped in breaking the ice for us to arrange getting together. I was hesitant at first, Mary was 27 with 4 kids of her own...the oldest being 6, the youngest around 18 months...and I wasn’t sure I was ready for something like that. Needless to say, I kept an open mind, and took the chance on getting to know Mary. Almost instantly I felt a strong connection with her and quickly put aside that children would be a part of this relationship as well.
I was introduced to her youngest at first. She would bring him by my apartment and the three of us would hang out. I remember thinking how smart this little boy was for his young age. He seemed to respond well and tried things on his own, but didn’t really try to say much. I fell in love with him too! I remember meeting her oldest son next. He was in school and we picked him up one day. He was so talkative and interested in who I was. There was a Burger King close by his school that was being remodeled, as we drove by it that day, and many more to follow, he was fascinated with the reconstruction of it. He seemed really smart for his age and his interest in how things worked always impressed me. Eventually I would meet her middle two children, another son who was 4 and a daughter who was 2 ½ . Soon I found myself moved in and taking on a “parenting” role. I really jumped right in, head first and all! I always made it clear I wasn’t trying to replace or disrespect their dads (the oldest had a different father than the younger 3), but I would be here for them and their mom. I never asked to be called “dad” or even referred to as “step dad”... I left that open to them, they could call or refer to me however they felt comfortable. I remember the emotion I felt when her daughter, at 2-3 years old, referred to her dad by his first name and not “dad”. From that point on I wanted to be a positive “father figure” for her, someone she would eventually call “dad”. I even remember Mary trying to teach her youngest son to call me “dad”. I felt “honored” by that, but for the most part, they always called me by my first name, and I was okay with that. I bonded with them instantly! Before I knew it I was feeding kids, changing diapers, bathing kids, watching kid shows, taking them to school and day care/picking them up, spending time with them when their mom was working and going to school. I loved being goofy and silly with them, making them laugh. I really got to experience all the things a “dad” can. And surprisingly, I really liked it! I felt a love that I’ve never experienced before. It was fulfilling to me that I was partially responsible for their well being. I cherished our times together. I found myself “sounding like my dad” at times, having to be a disciplinarian, finding that balance between parent/friend. Parents aren’t perfect, it’s a trial and error crash course. But I did the best I could with what I had. I wanted to show them love. The same love they had no idea they were showing me. To me it wasn’t about money or material things, I wanted them to have a stable home, know what love is, and grow to be amazing people, under my watch. I was totally okay with the “dad life”, even if they weren’t mine biologically. The joy I felt from them was unexplainable. I found myself going to work, sharing stories of the shenanigans at our household and looking forward to going back home for more. I was so proud to be in their lives! I was with these kids more than their dads, and maybe that’s mostly by default, and I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to their biological fathers. My point is, we spent a lot of time together, all those little moments, those down times...bonding when we didn’t even know it. I enjoyed watching them grow and become involved in sports. I was looking forward to teaching the boys about football, basketball and baseball...maybe even coach them. And of course being the “dad” that boys feared when they got to close to “my daughter”!
Eventually Mary's and my differences outweighed the positives in our relationship and just like that, we were all broken apart from each other! Not only did I feel the effects of a break up...I felt like I lost “my kids”. I spent 5-6 years as a “parent/father figure” to them, I felt like we needed each other. I’m certain they taught me more than I taught them. They showed me what unconditional love is. I have so many memories of them, most, only a “parent” would understand.
I’ve always felt guilty about my part in the demise of my relationship with Mary, because I let her kids down. I was always there...then I was gone. I’m not sure they understand relationships and what happened, or how or why. I’ve always tried to empathize with the pain of a “parent” being absent since mine have always been married, still alive and together. I always told them I loved them and I’d be there.
Shortly after Mary and I called it good forever, she let me take “the kids” out for ice cream and for them and myself to hang out. That was over two years ago. Since then, through mutual acquaintances/social media... I’ve received a couple messages from them asking about me or to say “hi”...of course I’ve always responded. It’s tough though, I’ve never wanted to intrude on Mary, or their dads...but hope they understand the bond I had/have with these kids. They were special to me and taught me a lot!
Yesterday I was at a local baseball game with my family. I was standing in the concession line and I hear my name being called. I look over to my left and see the youngest three trying to get my attention. I immediately jump out of line, go give them a hug and feel overwhelmed they sought me out! I didn’t get much time with them, but I was so surprised how much they’ve grown and wish I would have had more time to catch up with them and their lives. You see, yesterday was Father’s Day and the timing, irony couldn’t have been more on point. It truly made my day! I guess it confirms for me, they still have a love for me that hasn’t faded. Of course my love for them hasn’t faded either. I don’t know if Mary knows we saw/talked to each other...but if she did, I thank her for allowing/understanding how important that split moment of time was for us. I got one final hug and we shared our “I love you’s”. I don’t know when I’ll see them again, but I’m certain our bond will never be broken. I just want them to know I’m sorry, I’ll always love them and of course... always be here/there for them!!
Single mothers, your relationships have a profound impact on your child/children. Make sure you’re being a positive role model and bringing the right men around them, you never know what they’re watching/absorbing!
Sincerely With Love,
A Former Step Dad
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
An Unbreakable Bond Between Children And Their Mothers Ex Boyfriend