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To my daughters' stepdad: 'When you chose me, you chose all three of us'

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It’s hard to find the words to thank you. I’m in awe of you and yet I don’t think you understand it. How can I put into words how essential your role is in our world?

I have observed the way stepdads don’t get the credit they deserve. While I always admired the men who are willing to step in, I never truly understood it until you were here for us. I didn’t understand this kind of love until you arrived in our world and promised the girls and me that you were here to stay. You promised us you would love us through the good and the bad. You promised my girls that you’d love their mom forever. I heard you one night, whisper to them that although you love their mommy more than anything, you love them more.

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Sometimes I feel like “step” in front of dad somehow lessons the meaning of dad but how I wish it wouldn’t. You’re not trying to b­­­e their dad or replace anyone, you’re just here to love us. How lucky they are to have this person in their lives who shows them unconditional love and means it. For us, stepdad is the man who decorates for epic Halloween parties and let us get our first kitten, despite your allergies. Stepdad is the man who can build or fix anything for us and is the first to sign up to coach a team. Stepdad is the man who has never missed a Christmas program or an awards night, not once. They always ask you repeatedly if you’ll make it to these events, even though we all know you’ll be there- because you always do whatever it takes to make sure you are. You wouldn’t miss it. They start to smile before their name is called at an awards ceremony, because they know their stepdad will be whistling that deafening whistle. You’re the man who gets volunteered for far more than your share because you’re the one who goes above and beyond for those he loves.

When I tell you ‘thank you’ after a dinner out, it’s not just because you picked up the tab. It’s because you took us somewhere that wasn’t one of your top picks, but you knew they loved it. It’s because rather than ordering something you would’ve preferred, you ordered something you knew they would want to try. When I tell you ‘thank you’, I hope you realize it means thank you for being here. Thank you for all of this.

I especially appreciate you on those quiet nights when it’s just the two of us. Those are the nights I’m crabby and sad. You know how I can’t stand a quiet house. You know how much I miss them. You know every suggestion you offer will be met with resistance, but you still try. There are nights when you might be on the receiving end of my anger and frustration, over situations that are no fault of your own, but you still try.

Parenting is hard. I can’t imagine what it’s like to walk into it overnight. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not have much say in most things. I just wish you could see how incredible you are at it. I wish you could see how they proudly talk about all of the things you do with them to their friends. I wish you knew how much I admired you and respected you. I hope you understand that by me choosing you, it meant I chose you to help me raise these little people I love beyond comprehension. It meant I entrusted you with what is most important to me.

I see you and I love you. I see all you do for us day in and day out. When you chose me, you chose all three of us. Our family vacations revolve around American Girl doll stores and zoos, nothing you have any interest in, but you’re the first dad there when the doors open. You have missed opening day of hunting season to do whatever two little girls needed you to do.

It is your actions they quietly observe when you kiss me on the forehead or hold the door open for us. It is you who treats their mom like a queen and it is you whose same characteristics they will look for someday in a partner.

I know they always want to sit by me at dinner or join “team Mom” in any disagreement, but I wish you could see the way they talk about you when you aren’t there. I wish you saw that they ask where you are when I pick them up or how excited they are to tell you the latest about their school day. I know you’re not their dad, but you are someone that has earned our deepest respect. We know you weren’t there when they were born, but you’re here now because you chose to be. There’s something about being in our family now, by choice, which speaks volumes.

I didn’t know my story would have a sequel, and I can't imagine writing it with anyone else.

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