Being a father is by far the most rewarding job I have ever had. One could say I chose to be a father before I was chosen to be one.
My name is Mike Clennon and I’m a 30-year old father of two beautiful boys. First is Emmett, my going-on-six-year-old gentle giant. Then there is Ezekiel, my one-year-old pit bull, full of energy and grit.
Around three and a half years ago I met the most beautiful, smart, caring woman in the world. That woman is now my fiancé. We met online (as most people do these days), and as our conversations progressed we finally set a date to meet in person. One weeknight after work we met up to have a drink in downtown Toronto. She was everything I thought she would be, and more. While we were on our inaugural date, the conversation flowed effortlessly. I could tell she was holding something back though, and after about half an hour of feeling me out, she came out and said,
“I need to tell you something.”
Now, seeing that we met online, this made alarm bells go off in my head. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the possibility of my dream girl being anything but what she had presented herself to be. She went on to say, “I have a two-year old son.”
I would be lying if I said it didn’t catch me off guard, but I was relieved that I wasn’t sitting at a bar with an online predator. Without giving it much thought, my response was something along the lines of: “Wow, that’s ok -- I love kids, to me that’s just more to love.” Truthfully, I was at a point in my life where I didn’t feel that dating a woman with kids was a deal-breaker. Many of my friends had or were starting to have children.
Over the next couple of months, we continued to date and then the day came when I finally got a chance to meet the #1 man in her life. She cooked us up a nice dinner and while she was preparing the food, Emmett and I got a chance to hang out and shoot a few hoops on his Fisher Price net. He was apprehensive at first and protective of his mom. I could tell he did not know who I was or why I was there, but being only two years old he was not able to put his thoughts into words. I found it cute how attached he was to his mom, and I could tell they had a very close bond. As time passed, my visits with Emmett became more frequent and more regular as our relationship grew.
One of hardest parts of dating and eventually living with a woman with a child was figuring out boundaries. From day one, I said to myself that if I am going to be in this boy’s life, I am going to treat him the same way I would treat my biological child. I promised myself I would love, spoil, and discipline him the same way I would my own son. I still knew in the back of my head that I needed to be mindful to not overstep any boundaries.
My relationship with Emmett has grown enormously. He is and will always be my son. That he was only two years old when we met may have played a part in how our naturally our relationship has grown. We have kind of grown up together. I’ve been there for graduation, the first day of school, first haircut, family vacations and other important milestones. We have evolved together, him growing up and me growing into “Dad.”
Initially, Emmett called me “Mike” and I told my fiancé that I would never expect or require anything different. Then came the day that Emmett asked if he could call me “daddy.”
Emmett was four years old. That moment was definitely was one of the proudest in my life. This little boy felt that I was worthy of calling me his dad. On his own, he decided that I deserved that title. He still calls his biological father dad, and he loves and appreciates us both. My goal was and will never be to replace his father, who is still in his life, but to give him everything my father gave me growing up. He has two dads who love him, and he loves that about his family.
My experience as a “step father” has been transformative. My partner has made the experience such an easy transition from boyfriend to fiancé to father. I think it is important that there be open communication in situations where families are blending or when dating a partner with kids from previous relationships. Dialogue around boundaries and expectations are key to building a solid foundation for the future.
We added a second son into the mix a year ago and this was another milestone in my life.
I watched my child come into the world. Seeing Emmett and Ezekiel together makes me feel proud and grateful for my beautiful family. Although it is so amazing to look at my son and see a reflection of me in him, I’ve never considered him more of a son than Emmett. They are both my boys, and I will always live to give them the world.
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