I remember when I first started having feelings for my now husband. The stronger the feelings got, the more I fought them. After a rough divorce a couple of years prior, I was done with this whole love thing. I was perfectly content with my personal romance with cynicism, and I wasn’t going to allow anyone to get in the way of that.
But Philip was different. He wasn’t just different from any man I had ever dated, he was different from any man I had ever known. He was selfless, and patient, and never once did he pity me. No matter how weak or pathetic or defeated I felt at that stage in my life, he saw my strength and my light, and I wanted so badly to see myself in the same way that he saw me.
I kept pushing him away, and giving him reason after reason not to be with me. From the very beginning, I aired all my trash, all my flaws, all my drama – I put it right in front of him, sure that he would run. But he stayed. And he embraced the hard stuff, the really, really sad stuff, the complicated and the exhausting – he embraced it all.
After a while, when I was secure in my feelings for him, I introduced him to my children. We never showed any affection in front of them, not even holding hands or hugging. In my kids’ eyes, Philip was just another friend of mine.
A few weeks after he met the kids, I had a particularly hard night. I was sick, and my 3 year-old woke up in the middle of the night throwing up all over the carpet, which, of course, woke my 5 year-old up, who screamed and cried in exhaustion. We were a mess, all three of us. It was one of those single-mom moments where I thought I would go insane. I looked insane, probably smelled insane, and my head was pounding from all the screaming. I was trying to calm my children and clean up my daughter and the carpet, and I thought, “Why would any man sign up for this?”
I called Philip and woke him up. “Come over. Come over right now. You say you want me, you say you want my life with everything that comes along with it, then come over.” He was at my apartment within 20 minutes. The kids were still screaming, and I was on all fours on the floor, scrubbing the carpet. I expected a look of shock or disgust, maybe even anger that I had woken him up in the middle of the night for this. But instead, without missing a beat, he got down on that floor, grabbed the rag out of my hand, sent me to bed, and cleaned up my daughter’s vomit. Then he tucked my children in and got them to sleep. And then he tucked me in, kissed my forehead, and said, “Yes, I want this. I want every part of it. All three of you.”
It’s been years since that night, and Philip is still quick to clean up the vomit, to stay up late talking my pre-teen through a rough day, to take my daughter’s phone calls at work when she needs help with a math problem, and to love them unconditionally as if they were his own.
This man, this wonderful man had the nerve to come along and interrupt my bitterness. I am forever grateful to him for that. And so are my children.
(Read Philip’s advice on step parenting here.)