I met my daughter's father when she was nine months old. He was the photographer for my grandmother's 80th birthday; little did I know, it would be our last images together. She was ill and went into the hospital that night; she passed three months later.
Although it was sad losing her, I found solace in knowing we commemorated her life that day. I have him to thank for that.
Since then, he's photographed every important event of my daughter's life: her first birthday, the second, and soon her seventh. He's recorded her first words, her first day of school, and many play dates in the park. I couldn't count the number of times he's picked up his phone for a quick picture, not wanting to miss any of those precious moments.
When he's not behind the camera, he's packing her lunch, putting her hair into a ponytail (as best he could), and helping her with her homework. My heart swells, seeing the bond between them grow tighter.
Dating as a single mom can be scary. There's always that fear that a potential partner won't get it, but he did. He made space for her.
There was no blueprint or script for him to become a father; he stepped into the role like it was made just for him. He didn't wait for me to permit him either. Like any new parent, he jumped in feet first and learned through trial and error. Looking back, we were just two young people trying to navigate adulthood, yet, love prevailed.
We became a family of three, beautifully orchestrated as if it were divine.
Some may say that I'm lucky to have found a man that loved me and accepted my child as his own. While others will ask how? I think it has less to do with luck and more to do with inner growth, and not allowing myself to get wrapped up in any man who didn't understand my value.
I required a man that was patient with me, someone who could understand my role as a mother; he got that. Fortunately, there were men in my life who stepped in to be father figures when I needed one. I knew I didn't need luck because it has been done for me.
Biology is the least of what makes someone a parent.
Today, without question, he proudly shows up as her father. He takes pride in letting everyone know his daughter is six going on 16. Sometimes, I pinch myself when I look at the two of them. Not only did she get a father, but I also got a partner. Truthfully, I didn't want to raise her alone. I am a self-sufficient person but understood my child could benefit from having two parents, and so she is. In the bigger picture, all she'll know is love. When we marry next year, she'll be our flower girl. And if she ever gets married, he'll be the one to walk her down the aisle. I hope that she'll find someone as compassionate and caring as he is to love her.
To the biological fathers who have not yet figured out where they fit it, come on in the door's open. We need you - a part of this tribe - to raise the next generation. There's always room for reconciliation if you're willing and ready to do the work.
A father, by any other name, is still a father.
For those who have assumed this special position, thank you for stepping up when others could not. Your presence is invaluable.
Featured image courtesy of Ayana Iman/Instagram