“Oh he’s not mine”
I still remember the first time I said this to someone about Master J. It was Christmas Day, our first Christmas together and we had only been together a handful of months. Kelly was mostly recovered from the car accident by this point and Master J and I had formed a strong bond as I found my place in this family that I was joining. A family member of my step-mum who I hadn’t seen for a long time remarked upon Master J, saying that she didn’t know I had a child.
“Oh he’s not mine”
Kelly and I spoke about it afterwards, and she was not very happy with the way I’d responded, as much about the tone I used as the words themselves. I wasn’t expecting to be asked about this and I wish I were able to take that sentence back, to say the words that came to mind later about being part of an instant family or something equally witty, but instead I said the first stupid thing that popped into my idiot head and I’ve never stopped feeling guilty for saying it, even years later.
Kelly, Master J and I moved into a house together at the beginning of February the next year, both of our leases expired at around the same time and it was now that I started to learn what parenting really was. Suddenly my position in the family was cemented, I was not just visiting, this was my home and this was my family. Master J was about to turn 2, which I’m sure needs no explanation, and Kelly had convinced me to quit smoking. The combination of this new situation, with the stresses of work and dealing with nicotine withdrawal, I know I overstepped many times with discipline in these early days and I’d like to say I’ve learned. With a bit of communication about our styles, we managed to get onto the same page regarding discipline, even if we are on different paragraphs.
I come from a family situation that can best be described as “tangled”. I have 4 siblings, and none of us fully share parents. The details are messy and not worth getting into, but coming from this situation I’ve always had the mindset that genetic relationship does not tell a full story by itself, and that the saying of blood being thicker than water is garbage.
My father was a step father to my older brother, and I asked him for advice when Master J started to call me Daddy. He told me that the title I got from Master J didn’t matter, it was the role that I was filling whether it came with that label or not. This may have been different if Master J’s biological father was more of a part of his life, maybe I’d have taken more of a backseat with parenting, but he wasn’t and his involvement got to be less over time. I would be Master J’s primary male role model. It would be me who would teach him what a man is and the things a man needs to do and know, and it would be me who sometimes had to be harsh and use the dad voice to get a little boy to start listening.
I love Master J as if he were my own, in every way that matters to me he is my own. When people ask me now how many children I have, I confidently answer that I have 2 and I don’t feel that I need to explain any further.