A few mornings ago, I woke up, startled by the fact that my fiancé wasn't by my side. I looked at my clock and saw that I'd slept through my alarm-- until 10:00 a.m. Yikes! I knew that my daughter must have slept late, too, which meant she'd be hours late for school. I rushed into her room and saw her bed completely empty. I called my fiancé in a panic and asked what was going on. "You don't remember at all, do you?" he chuckled, "You turned off your alarm in your sleep and mumbled that the baby didn't need to go to school, and that we were all just going to spend the whole day cuddling. I figured I'd let you sleep in."
"But you stayed up working until four in the morning!" I protested. But he'd already hung up the phone, on his way to work-- going in on just a couple of hours of sleep, when I'd just selfishly soaked up almost twelve hours worth. This kind of thing is an everyday part of life for my fiancé, who has gotten up to soothe a nightmare-plagued kiddo as many times as I have (if not more). He's quick to wipe my daughter's snotty nose or to clean up a puddle of kid-puke as if it's second nature, and he's so placid during tantrums that the Buddha himself would be impressed. If I'm having a hard day and simply don't want to be around the child I adore so much, my fiancé takes over, runs me a bubble bath, hands me a book, and gives me the evening off from motherhood. He is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, a perfect dad.
The real kicker here is that the man I'd nominate as best dad in the universe didn't have to be a dad. He made that choice voluntarily, last year. My daughter's biological father abandoned her when she was two, so, for some time, my little family just consisted of my daughter and myself. I'd gotten used to the idea of being an in-this-on-my-own single mom, and my daughter had gotten used to the idea that she no longer had a father. Then, just a few months after I started dating the charming fellow who is now my fiancé, my daughter looked up at him and said, "I used to have a daddy, but he went away. I really, really want you to be my daddy and to have a whole family. Will you be my daddy?"
It was a proposal that must have taken iron will to decline, as my chubby-cheeked toddler batted her eyelashes at him. But he carefully explained, "I can't be your daddy right now. I won't be your daddy until I'm one hundred percent sure that I'll be able to love you and take care of you for the rest of my life. I'll let you know when it's time for that."
After several more months of careful consideration-- and of trying out this beautiful experiment of being a family-- my fiancé let me know he was ready to be my daughter's father. And he accepted that role with more grace, strength, and unconditional love than I have ever seen any father show. He kisses boo-boos, wakes up early to take her to school, and spends hours swinging her on the swing-set. He taught her to swim, how to play video games, and how to make puns. I see her smiling in new ways, so she'll look more like her daddy, and choosing her clothes so she'll match him each and every day. When asked, she isn't too hesitant to tell me that Daddy is her favorite person in the world.
It takes a very strong, special kind of person to be able to love a child as deeply and completely as my fiancé loves our daughter. It takes an even more special kind of person to be able to love a child who he didn't create, and has no natural obligation to care for. My beloved fiancé has made my family complete and has made my daughter's life more joyful, and I look forward to next year, when we'll be married and can legally finalize the adoption process. I couldn't ask for a more precious gift, and that's why I'd nominate my partner as the world's best dad-- who didn't have to be.
Do you have a dad or husband who chose fatherhood and deserves a shout-out for it? Leave your comments below!
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer and Shine Parenting Guru. When she's not busy keeping up with her wonderfully eccentric four-year-old daughter, she writes about a diverse array of topics including health, pets, parenting, and activism.