The most romantic thing my husband has ever said to me happened when we were dating: “Now that I’ve gotten to know your kids,” he told me, “I’ve changed my mind about having any more.”
But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly offended at first.
He was talking about my 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Sitting there in a quiet, swanky restaurant, I glared at him and wondered if I should leave. But when he saw my face and said, “Before you get upset, please let me explain.”
Thankfully, I listened.
“I always thought that I wanted biological children,” he explained that night. “But when I fell in love with you, I also fell in love with your kids. It doesn’t matter anymore that they aren’t genetically mine, because in all the ways that are important, they are my kids. So, if we want to eventually have another child, then it will be because we want another child. And if not, then that’s OK because I already have two wonderful kids.”
Several months later on our wedding day, my son and daughter stood next to me, while all three of us stood before him and said “I Do.” Shortly after my new husband slipped a ring on my finger, he hung a necklace around my daughter’s neck engraved with the words: “The Day I Became Your Dad.”
But it was only hours later that the questions started coming — or should I say, one question that he’s had to keep dodging over and over again: “So now that you’re married, are you going to have a child of your own?”
I can’t even tell you how many times my husband’s been asked that one.
“It’s offensive,” he tells me, “that I do everything that a biological dad would do, yet somehow I don’t get the recognition of actually being their dad.” Which is especially ironic, considering my children’s biological father abandoned them, and he is the only real dad that they’ve ever known.
When I was a single mother, I was sure that I would never find anyone who would love my children the way that I do, and I figured that even if I found someone who loved us all, I would remain the primary parent. But then I met my husband, and everything changed.
When my son has a nightmare, my husband and I sometimes trample each other in the hallway trying to get to his room and calm his screams. And when my daughter was learning to ride a bike, it was my husband who was cheering louder than I was.
A few months ago, when both of my children were sick, and the medical bills soared, it was my husband who reminded me that money didn’t matter as long as the kids were OK — before he left to spend the night sleeping next to our child’s hospital bed.
And when the teacher sends home a Common Core math assignment, it’s my husband who takes the time to make sure that our kids are going to do well in school, because in all honesty, I have completely given up on Common Core math.
At no point did my husband ever point out that none of this concerned him because my children weren’t his, and at no point did I feel like my kids were missing out on having a real dad because they don’t share the same DNA.
He is their dad, in every way that counts — and in ways that matter more than genetics. So whether you realize it or not, when you ask him if he’s going to have “children of his own,” you’re offending him. You’re disregarding how much he does for our kids every single day, and how much he loves them. And most of all, you’re implying that even though he’s parenting two children, it doesn’t really count.
I’m sure that you don’t mean it, and you’re probably just asking in the same friendly conversational manner that leads most people to ask newlyweds “what’s next?” But I want to speak up for my husband and let you know that your question — as innocent as it may be — stings.
Because even though my husband is technically my children’s “step parent,” he has done just that. He has stepped up to parent children who need him. Children who now love him, wholeheartedly, and whom he chooses day in and day out to raise. At no point has he taken a step back just because our kids do not share the same DNA as him.
My husband and I may one day add another child to our family, but even if we don’t, he’s already a father in every sense of the word. So I’d like to kindly ask you to stop assuming that reproducing DNA is the only way to have children.
My husband — and countless other amazing step parents out there — proved himself worthy of the name “Dad” the moment he took my kids in as his own. And for that, he deserves some respect; not another round of nosy questions. Becoming a parent is an exciting time, please don’t ruin it for the parents who have arrived a bit later.
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