Four years ago, I had no children. Today is my daughter’s eighth birthday.
Today is my daughter’s eighth birthday.
I still can’t quite believe it when I see those words on the page. It’s still surreal to me that I have gone from no family and no inclination to having one in my 20’s to being a father.
Even that word conjures up a little bit of imposter syndrome, even though I know it makes sense. Step-father, autocorrects my brain. But that word is broken, too. That step- has got so many connotations. It’s Cinderella, it’s drunks, it’s inability, fearfulness, distance. None of which describes my relationship with my kids. We’ve come to redefine step-parenthood together, to move it away from those net negatives to something that carries all sorts of positives.
So, understanding the perceived detractors, what’s in the plus column?
It puts you on equal footing with your children. Not in that you’re peers — you can’t be, and it would be dangerous to have that dynamic in the relationship. But you share important things in common that I don’t know if you’d get otherwise. They are learning to person, how to be your child. You are learning to parent, and in my case, I feel like I’m young enough that I, too, am still learning how to person. They are learning who you are. You are learning who they are, and have no preconceived notions about it. They and you are both straining, every second, to earn each others’ love – unconditionality has never been a defining feature in your relationship. And parent and children have to develop, together, a unique vocabulary around the relationship, creating new words and phrases to describe how you relate, how you interact, what your roles and jobs are.
It is a constant act of creation.
And in perhaps the greatest expression of Love Make Share I could imagine, today is my daughter’s eighth birthday. As she grows and gets older, as I see her mature and form relationships and be a friend and find her feet as a leader, I see her sharing so much of herself with the world around her. This little person that she’s been busily trying to make (and, as she reminds me frequently these days, she “likes things that are interesting” and is “mostly like a grown-up now”) is sharing so much of herself with the people around her. It makes me proud to think that I’ve had some hand in what she’s becoming, that she seems to be expressing desires to make herself better, to see her strive to make more of herself all the time.
I’m so fortunate to have been accepted by my family. They are a constant gift, constant partners in this act of creation.
Today is my daughter’s eighth birthday, and I love her.
Happy birthday, Little Fish. And thank you for all you’ve taught me. I look forward to everything we’ll continue to create together.
Paddle your own canoe, folks.