My oldest daughter, Audrey, is turning four this month. I look back on the last four years and I am amazed at how much my life has changed. I was in college when she was born; now I am finishing up graduate school. I lost about 50 pounds, and I have gained about 10 pounds back. Most of my friends from then barely recognize me. Most importantly, I am now a husband and a father.
You see, I met my wife when she was 9 months pregnant with Audrey. I was a sophomore in college and we met when a group of our friends went to a corn maze. (We’re from the Midwest so this is what we do for fun.) Soon after Audrey was born, we started dating. I had no idea what I was doing.
Most of my friends thought that I was crazy to date a girl with a child. My parents definitely thought I had gone nuts. All I knew is that there was something special about her and that little baby.
After dating for about six months we began talking about marriage, and unsurprisingly, my wife’s mother, my now mother-in-law, sat me down to have “the talk.” I’m sure she said some very influential things but the only topic I remember talking about was Audrey. She told me she wanted a man to come into Audrey’s life that would never call Audrey a step-child, but call her his own.
That’s when it got real for me. I was going to be a dad. Yes, technically a step-dad, but since then I have realized there is little difference. I know my experience is different than many of yours. Many men come in as step-fathers and have to deal with the dynamic of being the third (or fourth) parent. Finding your place in that has to be difficult. However, how I feel about Audrey, how I treat her, what I call her (my daughter, my princess, or my Aud-ball) could never change even if her biological father came back into the picture.
A few weeks before getting married, a friend asked me the story of how I fell in love with my wife. I told the story and we both cried a little, but then she asked me for another story- the story of how I fell in love with Audrey. How do you explain falling in love with a child? How do you explain the feeling of going from a single guy to a father and husband in a year?
My story was simple. I told her of the time that Audrey and I spent together. I spoke about hugging her, and kissing her, and watching her sleep. Then I told her about my dreams for Audrey; I never realized until that point that I had dreams for her. I assure you there were tears when telling that.
In the end, we look much like any other family now. Most of our friends don’t know that Audrey is not my biological offspring. No one would ever tell me she is not my child because they would get promptly corrected. I’ve allowed myself to fall in love with this little girl. I’ve allowed myself to dream for her. I’ve claimed her, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.