My parents divorced when was 16 years old. It wasn’t the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination. I was old enough to know the hell my parents put each other through and I had a drivers license, a car and things I wanted to be doing, so I came and went as I pleased for the last few years of high school. My father had been caught cheating on my mother and he decided to stay with his mistress, and to this day they’re still together. My mother, however, was left alone and heartbroken as one might assume. My sister and I were well into our teenage years but our 3 brothers were just babies at the time and my mother was left to raise them on her own.
Throughout the rest of my time in high school I was like any other kid. I drove too fast, I partied, I made poor decisions, and I mostly used my mothers house as a closet and nothing else because I was too busy being awesome (my words, no one elses). It wasn’t until I moved home from technical college that I realized what had been happening since the divorce. My mother had grown to believe that she needed a man in her life and it didn’t appear to matter who he was or what his personality might be, she just needed companionship. This left my sister and my brothers to watch as my mother would have meaningless flings, long relationships with abusive men, and one night stands. I was clueless while away at school because, again, I was out doing my own thing at the time and had lost touch with the reality of what was happening at home.
My stepdaughter was 15 months the day that we met and she changed my life. I’ll never forget the look of judgement on her face when we were introduced, even more so than my future father in-law. It didn’t take her long to warm up to me coming around and eventually we started to really enjoy each others company. Nicole and I had been dating for about 6 months when I stopped in one day to say hello to my favorite girls when I first heard the name I cherish more than any title I hold today. Unprovoked, she called me daddy as if it was the most natural thing in the world. With widened eyes my in-laws waited to see what my reaction would be, I mean come on, that’s the kind of thing that tears a gaping black hole into a relationship these days. I smiled and let it roll on as if it never bothered me, when in reality I felt this wave of heat wash over my body and I knew things were either going to get really bad, or they would get really good, and it all rest on the question I needed to answer. Why should I stay?
My life before her was a whirlwind of terrible decisions and with a side of stupidity and a lack of direction. I had a terrible relationship with my father, I had none of the qualities of a good father that I could pin point, and I was scared shitless. So how was I supposed to be a father figure to this little girl? It seems today that most guys, at this point, would turn tail and run without looking back. With no real responsibility to bare I guess at this point I could have left just the same and what would it hurt? Why should I stay? The thought certainly crossed my mind, but every time it did I would see the position my mother had found herself in and I couldn’t run away and be the shining example of everything I had learned to hate about relationships. Her father wasn’t involved and didn’t seem to care about creating a relationship with her, which was a pain I knew very well. So the question of, why I should stay?, became how can I possibly leave?
I can’t really tell you whether or not my past experiences shaped my transformation, although I suppose its likely. If you look at the decisions I had made my entire adult life until that point all signs would point to sprinting fast and far from this situation, but I didn’t. In fact, I embraced everything about being her daddy almost immediately and I have no regrets. I wish there were more examples of men stepping up to the plate when they are put in similar positions but there is a gap between why should I stay and how could I leave, a leap of faith if you will, that most boys today can’t cross. Although the bridge is right in from of them, they can’t bring themselves to cross over and grow up into the shoes of a father. Everyday I hear some kind of story that is so similar to mine at the beginning, and so vastly different at the end and the break down always seems to be at that moment when they don’t look in the hearts to find an answer to the question of why they should stay.
If you’ve come across this story I hope its because your’e looking for the answer to that question. If so, my advice to you is to stay. You don’t know me, I don’t know you. Every situation has its own unique twists and turns but none of that matters. You can’t possibly see the amazing future that’s waiting for you in the heart of that child. It opens your world to amazing new possibilities and if you’re anything like me you’ll grow up fast and it wont be long before you can’t remember why you ever wanted to leave.