Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Daddy Sean

When I was 23, I was wrapped up in many things, and all those things revolved around me. I dyed my hair blond. I painted my fingernails every two days and had spiked heels to match every dress I wore to work. I tanned and I did 300 sit-ups a day; I was focused on my job and my looks and my social life.

I sure as heck wasn’t adopting a toddler. And it boggles my mind that I know a 23-year-old who is doing just that tomorrow, and that that 23-year-old happens to be part of my extended family.

Two and a half years ago, the elder of my two stepdaughters gave birth to a little girl. Shelby was young and not married to the baby’s dad, but everything seemed to work out for a while; Shelby and the baby’s dad seemed happy together, and baby Isabelle thrived. But then things turned; the dad turned out to have some serious problems, and Shelby took Isabelle and moved back in with her mom.

We all rallied around the two of them, offering support as Isabelle’s dad continued to behave badly. One day, he let Shelby know he was moving away; he had lost his job and wanted to start over. Oh, and “starting over” would involve no longer being a dad. He wanted to sign away his parental rights.

My husband and I were conflicted; everyone in the family had grave concerns about the dad, to be sure. But signing away his rights? How would Isabelle feel one day when she realized her dad hadn't wanted her?

As things turned out, we’re hoping that knowledge will impact her less when she realizes that along with her biological dad’s disappearance came someone else who wanted her very much – Sean, the man who will be adopting her tomorrow morning.

When Sean and Shelby started dating, Kevin and I were slow to warm to him – not because we didn’t like him, but because there was a little girl involved, and we didn’t want to see Isabelle grow close to someone who would, like her biological dad, simply take off one day.

But we needn’t have worried; Sean and Shelby had been friends for years, and their relationship grew from that friendship and bore a foundation that her previous relationship hadn’t. And most importantly, Sean was an adult; he was going to school and working full-time in a good job with a bright future, and he spent his spare time volunteering with children with special needs.

As we let Sean into our hearts, Isabelle let him into hers. Although she was too young to remember her biological dad, she heard other kids call men “Daddy” and had begun calling others in the family by that name; it made us sad to see her confusion and to note that she had no one in her life with whom to associate a word she felt drawn to, but didn't understand.

But one day, after Sean and Shelby had become engaged, Isabelle came up with a new moniker all on her own, directed toward the man who had spent the better part of a year reading her stories and calming her tantrums and rocking her to sleep: “Daddy Sean.” And it stuck.

Sean and Shelby got married a few weeks ago; their ceremony was a simple one at the courthouse, designed to expedite the adoption process. The young woman who had once, like the 23-year-old me, cared primarily about looks and fashion and her social life shrugged off the notion of an opulent wedding.“It’s all about Isabelle now,” Shelby said as she signed the papers.

And tomorrow will be even more about Isabelle, and about her new dad; not “Daddy Sean” now, just “Daddy.” Somehow, on her own, she dropped the “Sean” over the last several weeks.

Tomorrow will take me back, I’m sure. When I was just a year or so older than Isabelle, I too had a “Daddy Sean” come into my life; the circumstances weren’t the same, but the outcome was much as I expect this one to be: positive all around.

My mom passed away and my sister, 20 years my senior, stepped in to help raise me. Although my dad lived with us as well, my sister’s husband, Jon, became a second father to me at roughly the same age Sean is now. Jon took me to Indian Princesses and to ride horses; later, he taught me to ski and gave me access to any book on his shelf, telling me, “They’re probably a little advanced for you, but I think you’ll do just fine.”

He fostered my interests in art and music as well as literature, and I credit him with instilling in me the confidence that enabled me to do what I wanted to do in my professional life; to this day, when something good happens at work, his response is, “I’m not the least bit surprised.”

Of all the wonderful adults in my life, he was my hands-down favorite, despite the fact that there was no biological tie between us. I envision the same for Sean and Isabelle, and the memories combine with dreams of the future that make me smile.

Sean posted this on his Facebook yesterday: “In 35 hours, Izzy and I get to have our special day.” He paired the post with a picture of tiny Isabelle holding a gift from her daddy-to-be. “Tonight I decided to surprise her with flowers to get her even more excited,” he noted in the caption.

It’s difficult to imagine that anyone will be more excited than Daddy Sean tomorrow, but it will also be a happy morning indeed for those of us who care about a certain blond toddler with an independent streak and a love of puppies, princesses, and anything that contains sugar.

I found this poem online, and it seems to suit the occasion:

“I didn’t give you the gift of life, but in my heart, I know
The love I feel is deep and real, as if it had been so.
For us to have found each other is like a dream come true;
No, I didn’t give you the gift of life, but life gave me the gift of you.”

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy Sean. And thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Thank goodness there are men like Sean and Jon who know that being a father is more than genes. I watched Jon with you, Kelli and Kevin and marveled at how he treated his forever children and sister-in-law. Your words make me think that Sean will also treat his forever daughter the same way.