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At 21 I never thought my life would be so full of joy and hardship. After a traumatic breakup in 2016, I had finally put my pieces back into order until four little words made my life forever more complicated. "I have a daughter."
He said it with such confidence that assuredly he meant mom was not in the picture. These four words he was so proud of. You could hear the love in his voice just thinking about her. I started to imagine this little girl. She had to look like him. His features were so strong, why would she not? Those beautiful blue-green eyes and the little dimple in his chin...this child had to be his little clone. Until he pulled up one of the only pictures he had of her. Her and her big brown eyes, her curly hair, full lips, and chubby cheeks. She looked just like her mom...who was also in the picture. So I had to ask, "when do you have her?"
He was thinking. The pause seemed to be eternal.
"I don't. I don't see her."
Total shock came over me. As a stepkid myself, this is the worst thing that he possibly could have said. This amazing and handsome guy and he was a deadbeat dad... I probably should have walked away...
Boy, was I stupid.
Child Support VS. a Good Dad
Eight hundred dollars a month and about $5,000 in arrears. Oh, did I mention she was only 18 months old? Man, did someone hit the jackpot.
You would think after the whole "I don't see her" statement I would have run away never to look back, but no, not me. I like broken things. Fixing them makes me feel accomplished. And yes, I knew this was all a horrible idea.
We went on out first date the week after we met. He drove me out to the desert and we put 100 rounds of lead into a cardboard box. On the way back I looked at him and said, "What would make a deadbeat dad run away scared?"
"I want to see your child support paperwork, and anything else you have about your daughter." In that moment, he unlocked his phone, opened it up to his ex wife's text feed, and handed it to me. I got to read it. All the arguing over child support, trying to get back together for their kid; dirty pictures and all. And when we got back to his house, he handed me three files labeled; divorce, child support, custody.
I will spare you the dirty details because there is way too much, but in my personal opinion, and more so now 18 months later as I am writing this, no one tried hard enough. I am not going to put this all on his ex because he was involved too and could have tried harder, and the icing on the cake: the court lost his petition to establish parenting time. Yay for the legal system.
So I did what any good girlfriend would do. I pushed him to ask to see his daughter even if her mom made it difficult. I helped prepare him for court. I gave up my time with him so he could go to dinner with his ex and his daughter. I put aside the feeling of jealousy that came with him spending quality time with his ex because that meant he got to be a part of his kid's life. I tried to help him see his daughter's side of it and how hard it was going to be to all of a sudden be away from her mom. The worst thing for everyone was the first night she spent with us. No one slept. She cried and cried for her mom. I remember like it was yesterday. He sat outside her door listening to this child who wanted nothing to do with him cry and cry. He looked at me, his eyes filling with tears.
"She hates me." He said it and he believed it. It took months to shake him of the feeling.
Biting Our Tongues
September was interesting, to say the least. For starters, we got engaged. Then came her birthday party. This amazing little girl who would change my life was turning two and we all worked really hard to make her party special... maybe a little too over the top.
It was a struggle trying to reason with my new fiancé's ex wife because everything had to be "perfect." Or at least her idea of perfect. We had to do this and that and the cupcakes absolutely had to be made from scratch with fresh buttercream frosting. I did my best to keep the peace during this stressful time and I tried to do what I thought was best. Including one little detail. The memory box. She had come up with this idea that everyone would write a letter to the baby and put it in a treasure box for the baby to open later in her life. She trusted us with this task. So I made it my own, including a little love not on the inside that said, "You are so loved. Love, Mom, Dad, and your whole family." Well, she was pretty pissed when she saw it and said it made it seem like they were still a couple...as if the matching shirts she got them didn't already scream "I still love him." Here is where the difficulty of keeping my mouth shut came in.
So with a new box decorated by her and to her standards, the party began, and it was eventful to say the least. Long story short: their families got into it and the building manager called the cops and broke the party up.
Now I am going to sound a little selfish. That was the best karma I could have asked for.
I like to think that, as a child of divorce, I am very open-minded to everyone's feelings in these situations, but let's be honest. If I were to ever find out my parents pulled crap like this, I would be pretty pissed at them.