WHEN YOUR DAD IS NOT YOUR FATHER

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My dad and I have a special relationship. We share a similar sense of humour and love for French films. When we're out, it's clear that we're close and have many, many inside jokes. The one thing that's not obvious is that we're not even related. Genetically, I probably have as much in common with him as I do with Elvis Presley. But none of that matters, because that man, whom I call "papa", taught me that family is not about blood. It's about love. And that's why I'm actually proud to say that my dad is not my (biological) father.

if you've read my Mother's Day post about my mother, you know that my biological father left my mom a few months after I was born. She was left with an infant, in a foreign country, speaking a totally different language, with no job and no money...

I still had contact with my biological father throughout my childhood and early teenage years, until he decided to cut our ties when I was about 14. But the reason I'm writing this post today is not to throw shade at my biological father. As an adult, I understand that not everyone is meant to have children, and that's fine. I hold no grudge against him, because I chose to let go of that part of my life and focus on the positive, for my own sake. I also refuse to let that story define me, and I refuse to be the girl who was rejected by her father. Instead, I chose to be the girl who has a great relationship with her dad. And I feel so lucky and grateful that this man I consider my dad gave me that opportunity.

So for Father's Day, I decided to make my dad the star of the day and share our story. I think it's a great opportunity to show that fatherhood is not just about genetics, and I wanted to bring attention to all the amazing men (and women) who start relationships with partners who already have children and chose to become a parental figure for those children from a previous union, just like my dad did.

When I met my dad, I was a little over 2 years old. I don't even remember it, all I know  is what him and my mom told me. Apparently, I really didn't like him at first. For most of my very short life, I had been alone with my mom, and I did not appreciate a newcomer. At the time, I mostly spoke Hungarian, even though we lived in a French-speaking place, and he obviously didn't. When my mom would go to university, he would babysit me and I would just ignore him most of the time. I guess you could say I was a little shit.

But he didn't give up, and he actually used my pride and strong character to make his way in. Once we were at a restaurant and his attempts at conversation were going unnoticed. So he told me, pointing at the salt shaker "I bet you don't even know what that is in French". Obviously I had to talk to him then, if only to show him he was wrong. I don't remember how it happened next, but in my first memories of him, I was already calling him "papa" and he was nothing less to me.

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Every year for my birthday, he would get me flowers. Every Sunday, he would make his spaghetti sauce to Frank Sinatra songs, filling the house with that delicious smell. He always brought me to ballet classes, until I decided that I was bored because we weren't performing the whole Nutcracker choreography quickly enough. Then, he brought me to piano lessons, and sat there for an hour every week, listening to what must have sounded like a dying whale, until I became good enough to start performing. Then he came to concerts and shows. He also came to every school event and was  involved in the parent's committee, for a child who didn't even bear his last name.

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When my mom was busy at night, he would order pizza for the both of us, because my mom didn't like it. It was our special ritual. He taught me how to swim, building "Olympic" courses in our pool with pool noodles. In the winter, he would carry me around in a sleigh, going on long walks. He transmitted me his passion for learning by playing pretend university with me when my mom attended her classes. Every time we went on a trip somewhere and I was tired of walking, he carried me, either in his arms or on his shoulders. He also taught me how to read before I started school, getting me tons of books and being proud of me when I started putting letters together.

He would play with me, wether because he wanted to, or because he was ambushed in bed at 7am by an energetic child and a huge golden retriever, relentlessly attacked with pillows - I had no mercy. We would watch Disney movies together and he would learn the songs, changing the words to piss me off... And man, did it work! He would make fun of me when I was angry for silly reasons, which got me even angrier. But in the end, he thought me that it's OK to make fun of yourself and others, when it's done with kindness and love. And that a well-placed joke can lighten up the mood, even in the most tense situations.

By doing this for years, my dad showed me that you can always be there for the people you love, and that labels don't matter. But the most important thing he showed me by always being there is that small things done with consistency always win over even the flashiest occasional displays of affection.

I'm proud of the woman my dad raised me to be, and I'm incredibly grateful that he gave me the opportunity to know what it feels like to grow up with a father that's there every step of the way. I hope that some day, I will have a family with a man who can be as great of a father to our kids as my dad was to me.

Happy Father's day to all the fathers out there, including mine, who's obviously the strongest ;)

I love you dad,

Jenny

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