Sitting at my daughter’s basketball game this morning it hit me how sad it is that her dad isn’t there coaching her team, or watching her. It hit me that my dad wasn’t there watching either. I looked around at the other moms, sitting to the left or right of her husband, cheering on her Little alongside him.
I looked at the coach, a dad to one of the girls on the team, and watched him passionately correct his daughter’s basketballing (it’s a word) errors. I saw him jump in glee when his daughter shot and scored. I saw him do the exact same jump when my daughter did something correctly. And it hit me- my Little doesn’t have her daddy at her game, but she does have other men who are investing in her. She has a coach who is teaching her the game. She has two uncles who continuously invest in her- even quizzing her on her Aztec knowledge for her upcoming Social Studies test (that I knew nothing about, but read about in her birthday card to her uncle). She has a Pa-Paw who hugs her until we’re sure her rib cage will snap, because he loves her that much. She has men in her corner, even if her daddy can’t be there every day to support her and cheer her on.
Being a dad is a giant responsibility. And it’s something that many take too lightly. Then there are the rare ones who take it seriously. They go beyond what is expected or what is “normal”. There are those rare cases when someone shows up to love on your kid when he doesn’t have to because the Littles aren’t his.
Recently I realized how invested my ex WAS in the kids’ lives. He helped raise my kids through many pivotal years. He spent many Firsts with them and with me. First days of school. First time riding a bike without training wheels. First time in the principal’s office (Anderson!), and first grounding. First pet. First camping experience. First time shooting a BB gun. First time fishing. He was there for all these things, and that’s an experience that I can’t change for them, for him, or for me. And I wouldn’t want to.
The thing that I struggle with is that as easily as he left me, he left them. So when I hear of someone sticking around longer for a child that isn’t his- for the sake of that child, it not only makes me a wee bit jealous, but it makes me long for that relationship for my kids. Because I know they’re worth it. They didn’t choose my ex. I did. They didn’t choose the divorce. He did. And they didn’t ask for a dad who is a trillion miles away, he chose that.
So my heart goes out to those who stick around. To those who support a child that isn’t yours. My hat goes off to those who love a kid as your own, even if she isn’t. My heart bursts with love and with jealousy. Because the reality is, I didn’t give that to my kids. I didn’t necessarily choose wisely when it came to a lifelong dad to my kids, albeit unknowingly. And for that, I am forever regretful and sad.