If you ignore the second dad and count the rabbit as a child, our family is nuclear. My daughter lives with her mom and step-dad, who brought a charming eight-year-old son from his own previous marriage that stays with them half-time. So they have a voraciously hungry rabbit, my beautiful little girl and a half a boy: 2.5 kids.
When we split, my ex and I decided that we would put our daughter’s interests above our own in all the decisions we make. The result is that I make every effort to meet her on her turf, and so avoid confusing distinctions between her world and Daddy’s world. That means I spend my time with her in her home, at her school, in the parks and pools in her neighbourhood—a half-hour drive from my own.
In practice, it often means hand-offs in my ex’s kitchen or back porch, sometimes to “Papa,” my ex’s new husband and my daughter’s surrogate dad when it’s not a Daddy day. We even traveled together to South America. A bit weird to some people, but it works well enough for us.
When considering the topic of this post—what does my family look like?—I felt compelled to look back, to see where I came from.
When I was fourteen, my parents split up, and a year later I left the cavernous, now-empty family home presided over by my mom. I moved in with my dad and, within a few months, the two of us started Life 2.0 with my new step-mom.
In truth, since becoming a dad myself, I haven’t devoted much time considering those tentative days spent meeting my new step-brother, my new giant of a dog, and exploring my new neighbourhood. But I realized this morning that my daughter now has her own step-brother. Her own third parent.
And as I reflect on the bitterness and conflict that plagued—still plagues—that severed original family, I feel some comfort that I’ve somehow dodged the worst of those mistakes with my own little girl.
I spent the first year of my daughter’s life as her primary caregiver, for which I am enormously grateful. The bond we established in that time has grown as she has and so we remain very close, even though we no longer are able to see one another daily.
Not even three yet, it will take time for her to fully understand the dynamics of her “non-traditional” family. But if we do it right, in the end, the details won’t matter. Family is who loves her, no matter the list of titles.