By saying “I’m not her father”, I was giving myself permission to not be responsible for her whenever I didn’t want to.
My girlfriend Jessica asked me if she could use a picture of me for Family Day while we were grubbing on dinner one weekend at her house. N, her daughter, was bouncing between eating at the dining room table and running around the kitchen.
Jessica said she would add my picture in with the rest of the family. It was Family Day at her daughter’s daycare, and she wanted me to be represented. I had been in N’s life since she was one, and now she is approaching three, so it was a fair question.
I laughed and said NO.
Now before you call me a terrible person, just know, I was joking. My sense of humor has terrible timing. If you still want to judge me, go ahead; I won’t blame you.
It used to bother me when friends and/or family would ask me how “my” daughter is doing. I would swiftly say, “I’m not her father.” I didn’t like being named a parent. In my mind, this beautiful little girl already has a dad. I’m just her mother’s boyfriend. Secondly, by saying I’m not a father, I was holding onto the idea that the only person I have to take care of is me.
By accepting the title of “father,” I was saying I am responsible for another person’s life. I wasn’t ready for that responsibility. I enjoyed being “mommy’s friend.” The guy who would come over to play with toys, watch a thirty episode marathon of Teen Titans Go, and hang out at the park. I enjoyed it when the three of us went on vacation. We’d explore different beaches, go on hikes, or even pet (or attempt to pet 😬) baby sharks at the Philadelphia aquarium.
But by saying, “I’m not her father,” I was giving myself permission not to be responsible for her whenever I didn’t want to. I didn’t realize it, but I was being selfish.
I am not her biological father. However, I am an ever-present male figure in her life. She knows me as a person who’s been in her life as long as she can remember.
At her age, she may not understand what a dad is or is supposed to be. Whether I like it or not, a lot of the behaviors she has right now, she learned from watching me. I have a responsibility to her to be a good, selfless example of a man. That may not make me a dad. But, according to the dictionary, it does make me a father figure.
For that reason, when someone asks me about my daughter, I will stop being annoyed. I will no longer lash out by saying, “I’m not her father.” I will never name myself as her parent as I want that to be her decision if, one day, she chooses to do so.
But I will never stop caring for her like a daughter.
I stopped joking around and told my girlfriend, Jessica, of course, she can use my picture. I’ve said N is apart of my family because she is.
As we were finishing our food, N brought me the picture of us that she would take to daycare. Sheesh, we looked good 😁!
I like being apart of her picture.