When I was 14 I met what would have been my first serious boyfriend. Things were always rocky, I attributed it to our ages and the fact that neither of us had any idea what we were doing — no matter how much we tried to convince the world we did. We were reckless and careless and low and behold I got pregnant with what is now the greatest blessing that has ever walked the face of the earth.
Our young love couldn't weather the storm. I outgrew him and the dynamic we had. Things grew uglier by the minute and I, who was the rock for us all, finally crumbled. I decided that I would officially become a single parent. It was the most terrifying decision I have ever made. I worried for my daughter; I worried about the possibility that later in life she may feel resentment because I was the one who destroyed her single family unit. I worried that I'd never find a partner who would accept me — my body that had been changed and worn to give life, the marks and the proof that I couldn't hide that I was a mother. I gave life to a new being, but I worried that I would be criticized because that life would not have come from my new partner. I worried that I couldn't find someone who accepts that they come a little further from first on my list of priorities, that I couldn't leave on a whim or take trips alone without extensive planning. I worried that no one could love my baby girl like I do.
But then he did.
He didn't have to. This man did not have to appear and carry this immense weight. He didn't have to love her. Hell, he didn't have to love me. He didn't have to understand, he didn't have to take the time to learn about how I discipline my child. He didn't have to take on the responsibility of becoming a role model to a tiny being without the nine months of pregnancy to prepare himself. He didn't have to read obnoxious children's stories on the couch or watch Disney movies. He didn't have to learn how to properly install a car seat in his sports car, he didn't have to get her gummy candy on the way home that she would inevitably stick to the seats of his car — and he definitely didn't have to laugh that one off.
He didn't have to let me sleep in a little longer, he didn't have to get her in the morning and pull her into bed with us for extra snuggles. He didn't have to sit in the chair while she gave him every toy she owns to look at. He didn't have to leap from the couch to go get chicken nuggets because she asked him to (Trust me, 40 chicken nuggets was overkill.) He didn't have to dance with her in the living room to his favorite songs. He didn't have to listen to her stories that are half English and half whatever language she's made up that day. He didn't have to come to appointments or carry her up the stairs. He didn't have to give her a kiss and a hug every time he leaves even though he tries to convince her that "boys are gross." He didn't have to tell her goodnight. He didn't have to, but he does. He didn't have to accept the responsibility without the title. He didn't have to bring her into his world by choice.
He didn't have to love her, but thank God he does.