Today is a special day. It’s Pookie’s ninth birthday. I’ve had the good fortune of being her step dad for nearly four years now. All told, I’ve known her for two thirds of her life.
And I’ve loved her every minute of it.
While Caroline was carrying the triplets, countless well intentioned people would say something along these lines: “Just wait til you have your own children.”
“I’m sure. I’ve got Alli, so I know what you mean.”
“Yeah, but just wait. You’ll see.”
The insinuation, of course, was that I didn’t know what they meant and that I wouldn’t until I had my own biological children. And I understand what those people meant. The best day of my life (aside from my wedding day) was the one when the wee threesome began their reign of planet Earth. But that said, I don’t love Alli any differently than I do A, B, or C, except, perhaps, for the fact that I love her like a parent loves his or her first child.
My point? The fact that she’s not “mine” has never made a difference. And it never will.
When I proposed to Lovie, it was important to me that Pookie be part of the process. So after I sought permission from Lovie’s mom (her dad is deceased), I sought the same thing from Pook. Here’s how it went down.
“Pookie, I got something very important I wanna talk to you about. So pick anywhere in the whole house where you want to have a serious chat.”
Oddly, she chose the very corner of her momma’s bedroom where we sat Indian style facing one another. Perhaps odder still, my hands were damp with anxiety.
“You know I love you, right?” I began.
“Yeeeessss,” she answered coyly.
“Did you know I love your mommy, too?”
“I thought you loved her!” She wore a grin that stretched from one ear to another.
“Well you’re right. In fact, I love your mommy so much that I wanna marry her.”
A look of genuine disappointment came across Pookie’s face. “But Mommy’s already married,” she said while looking down at the planks of the hardwood floor, her finger tracing an imaginary pattern.
Understandable confusion for sure. After all, Pookie was only four, and divorce is anything but black and white. A less prepared man might have been derailed by such confusion. But luckily, I had anticipated this stumbling block.
“Oh, honey, your mommy’s actually not married to your daddy any more. That’s why you live in this house,” I said, making a sweeping gesture with my arm. “Remember that book It’s Not Your Fault Koko Bear?”
Of course she did. She and her mom read it together all the time. I had even read it to her a time or two.
“Well, it’s just like Koko Bear’s Mommy and Daddy. They were all grumpy and grumbly when they lived together so they decided not to be married any more and moved into different homes. So, just like Koko Bear, you have two homes now.”
“Well, if you married Mommy, where would you live?”
“I’d move in with y’all.”
Pook’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Would Briggs come, too?”
Hmmm. The downside seemed to be that the prospect of living with my dog was more appealing than that of living with me. But the upside? I had a trump card. So I laid it down like Phil Ivey.
“He sure would, honey.”
Excitement turned to flat-out jubilation. “You better bring his food!”
“I will, honey. I will. So whaddya say?”
Pookie, thank you for letting me marry your mom. And thank you, also, for being such a wonderful daughter. I can’t believe you’re nine, already! You’re becoming such a big girl, and I want you to know how proud I am of you! Happy Birthday, sweetheart! I love you SO VERY MUCH!