Men and women who step up and take care of another person’s children are truly amazing. They’re one of the wonders of the world, if you ask me.
They give children someone to love and hold on to when another parent can’t do the same. They help raise, discipline, reward, and adore children who are not their own. It’s wonderful. It’s beautiful.
But here’s the thing — if you’re going to step up and parent a child that’s not your own, step up and parent a child who’s not your own.
* * * * *
Jack and I haven’t been seeing eye to eye on certain parenting techniques lately. Now, Holden has two parents. He has me, his mother, who’s been there since day one. And then he has Nate, his father, who was there since day one and then suddenly ripped away when Holden was six months old.
But Holden also has a third parent, the way I see it. Jack has also been there from day one, first as a friend helping out, then as a roommate helping out, then as a best friend helping to raise. He views Holden as his own son. None of this is to discredit Nate as a father — he is, and always will be, Holden’s father and he’s a damn good one, even from where he is. But Jack is now a forever part of Holden’s life as well.
So when he does things like he did the other night, well, it upsets me.
* * * * *
Jack and I share a room. We’re not together — as you all know, I fully plan on waiting for Nate — but our house is too small and it just made sense. Our room is also the smallest in the house, so we share a bed. Holden woke up in the middle of the night and came into our room, into our bed, as he sometimes does. But something was different about this night.
Holden was upset about something. I don’t know if he was having a bad dream or didn’t feel good, but he was very whiney and moany and groany. He laid there next to us just moaning. Whenever I asked him what was wrong he would croak out, “I need you” without even opening his eyes. I comforted him the best I could, made sure he was asleep, and went out into the living room since I was then pretty awake.
Not long after, I heard him whining again. Then crying. Then I heard the door to our bedroom open, Holden go into his room, cry, then back into our room. Jack yelled at him to stop whining.
This is what bothered me. The child was obviously distraught. I get that it’s the middle of the night, but no matter how tired or cranky you are, your child comes first. No matter what. There was a reason Holden was whining and crying, whether we understood it or not.
But Jack, being half asleep, decided he wanted to choose not to deal with Holden right then. Which you simply cannot do.
* * * * *
You can’t pick and choose when you want to be a parent. Even if you’re not a parent.
Jack has literally no responsibility to Holden. Holden is not biologically his. Holden is not legally his. Holden is not his, period.
But he is at the same time. Because Jack decided, at his own free will that he wanted to be a parent to Holden. And once you decide that, there’s no turning back. It’s all or nothing.
If you’re a stepparent or a caregiver or a guardian, you don’t get to pick which moments you’re a parent just because the child isn’t yours. The child is yours — yours to love and care for until the day you die, because the day you decided to step up, you made a silent vow to do so forever, for better or for worse. You can’t turn your back when there’s a hard moment.
That’s not what parenting is.
* * * * *
Parenting is the good and the bad. The pretty and the ugly. The early nights and the late nights.
It’s not turning your back when things get tough. It’s changing the once-peed in diapers and the poop running up the back diapers.
It’s everything, and it’s worth it. If you choose it.