I always felt weird calling my husband “Bill” when I talked about him to his boys. It felt so formal. I didn’t feel comfortable referring to him as “Dad” though, either, like they did, because I wasn’t “Mom.” To them anyways. They already had a Mom, and I have always been perfectly happy being “Step-mom” or “Dad’s wife” to them (although they usually just call me Erika). I like that more than “Step-mom” anyways; Step-mom just has such an awful stigma to it. Thanks a lot, Disney movies, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for making us all wicked! (Even though some of us are really nice!)
I realize I am the only one in my modern family who probably gives any thought to what we call each other. But I did for a long time, (probably from all the step-family parenting books I read back when I was dating Bill which TOLD me I should think about it,) and so I settled into referring to him as “your dad” to the boys. Not Dad, not Bill, but your dad.
Hey guys, where’s your dad?
Or – Yeah, you better ask your dad about that.
But then Hank the Tank came along.
Suddenly, I was Mom. Hank’s mom. And Bill was no longer their dad, he was suddenly just Dad. No more possessive pronouns in our house. And I had no idea how much that one little grammatical change would mean to me.
Being able to refer to my husband as Daddy is one of the biggest privileges I have had the honor of experiencing in our marriage. It’s a whole new level of awesome – being this much of a team. He is that much more my best friend now. Of course, hearing that wonderful man, and our amazing little boy, call me Mama is music to my ears and an honor as well. I wasn’t sure I would ever get to be anyone’s mama, so now I am savoring it!
This Father’s Day will be a special one. Last June, we were still in the post-partum tailspin and I don’t even remember processing the fact that Bill was now suddenly Daddy again, or how this time, I was in on the deal. I am not even sure that I remembered to get him a card. But the past 13 months have been life-changing for me. And since I have had some time to think about things other than when the baby needs fed next, or if I will ever get any sleep ever again, the true significance of this upgrade to our relationship is sinking in.
My first Father’s Day with Bill was an odd one, because I hadn’t even met his boys yet at that point. He was still sizing me up, making sure what we had was built for the long haul; that I was good enough for his remarkable children. But I already loved that man fiercely, so I felt like I needed to celebrate his fatherhood somehow. I bought him a funny card and what I thought was the most perfect gift – a set of Star Wars pancake molds and a batter bottle so he could make the world’s most awesome pancakes for them. And in doing so – I thought maybe he would be even a little bit more perfect in their eyes. They were obsessed with everything Star Wars, so I figured it would be a slam dunk.
My dad makes us Darth Vader pancakes. Can your dad do that?
It worked. He sent me a text with a picture of the most adorable Yoda-shaped pancake that Father’s Day morning, so my heart swelled for him. He was proud of his culinary masterpiece and told me about how cool the boys thought it was! (In hindsight, I probably could have skipped the batter bottle though, as I later discovered that it had been re-purposed into a bath toy.)
“Please tell me this doesn’t go back and forth between bath water and pancake batter, does it?” I asked him when I saw it sitting on his bathtub ledge a few weeks later. He said no. I think I believed him.
Giving Bill Father’s Day cards in the years that followed – once I had actually gotten to know his boys – still seemed important but always felt more like a back pat, like I was simply telling him good job at being a good daddy to his own kids. I couldn’t thank him for what he was doing like a mom would – appreciating his help raising kids together – because they weren’t my kids. It wasn’t my place to thank him.
It is also hard to find an appropriate Father’s Day card, I later found, when you are married to a dad but you are not the mother of his children. (Apparently Hallmark needs a card writer who is a step-mom! I may have to look into that for a side gig!) I have spent hours scanning over cards in the ‘To My Husband’ area of the aisle, reading the messages and putting them all back, frustrated.
Dear Hubby, Thanks for not messing up our kids too much! Haha. . .nope.
To the Father of Our Children. . .no again.
To My Loving Husband on Father’s Day. . .Ok this sounds promising, until I read the four flowing cursive stanzas inside about (yet again), being the father of our precious children.
Happy Father’s Day, Good job raising those kids of yours! Love, Your wife, (Even though she’s not their mom).
Said no card, ever.
So, once I finally give up on the ‘To My Husband’ department and enter the generic ‘Dad’ card aisle, I have these remaining options: Dad the Super-hero, Dad the amazing golfer, or Dad-champion of burping/farting/drinking beer/changing the TV channel in the La-Z-Boy. You know, the classy Father’s Day cards.
That said – by the grace of God, this year is different. I DO have a new appreciation for him, because we are finally in this together. We are equal parts Hank’s parents. I can finally grab one of those Father’s Day cards that reads like Mom high-fiving Dad. Because I am finally Mom, and he is (still) Dad. But not just his kids’ dad. He is our kid’s dad now, too. Just Dad. And I finally do get to say thanks (with all my heart!) and not just good job. I owe him the moon and the stars, for giving me the gift of our son. He is kind to him, patient with him, funny, loving, sensitive, and strong – everything a Daddy needs to be. Hank is completely enamored with his Daddy. And I am so grateful for this simple fact: Along with all the joys that come with my new shared role as a parent with my husband, I get to call him Daddy now, too.