By Molly Govus
At the age of 8, I had comfortably spent all of my life by my mother’s side. With an absent father, it is easy to say that my mum was, and still is, my dearest and closest friend. We spent every day together, close and entwined between the walls of our ground floor flat. It was just my mum and I, our own little bubble of a world where no one could touch us.
I vividly remember the moment that I met Julian.
With a belly full of apprehension, I walked into our kitchen to welcome this unknown man into my life. My world, as I knew it, evolved to create space for a man that would soon bring something to my mum’s life. Often still, I regret not realising sooner. That something is what I now understand to be a thing called safety. At 8 years old and after seeing the destruction following my father’s absence, cautious would be the perfect word to describe my reaction to Julian’s arrival into my life.
Even at 8 years old, I recognised my mum’s strength the same way as I do at 19. When I look at my mum, I see the embodiment of everything that has made me what I am. Within me, I see her. I see what she has fought for, what she has spoken up for and what she has sacrificed for me. What if he hurts her? What if she loves him more than me? Will she spend less time with me? Did I look after her enough? All of these thoughts plagued me for months whilst I slowly let the stranger, that I now call my dad, into my small world.
I used to share a bed with my mum up until Julian arrived. I was far too old to be sharing a bed with her, but the safety I felt being physically near her was indescribable. I can imagine how Julian must have felt coming into a relationship with a daughter who held onto her mother like a guide rope – I applaud him to this day for his strength and resilience. Not many men would sleep in a Groovy-Chick themed bedroom for the first few months of a relationship. The day my mum told me that I should probably start sleeping in my own bed was the day my heart broke. The two initial emotions were sadness and pure anger. Maybe even rage, if I wanted to take it a step further. He’s taking her away from me was the very first thing I thought. I look back now, and I wish I could just look myself in the eyes and say ‘trust him, it will all be okay’. Unfortunately, at that point in time, no amount of reassurance from my Mum could help me from thinking otherwise.
I never really understood what a proper dad was. With my biological dad not being around, I had always assumed a father/daughter relationship would be cuddles and the ‘carry-me-on-your-shoulders’ kind of love. As Julian’s presence became more constant, I went from resenting his presence to yearning for a father figure. I remember struggling to understand why Julian wouldn’t want to be emotional with me, why he wouldn’t offer hugs or empathetic words of support. It wasn’t until I was 13/14 or so that I really grasped the fact that sometimes people just aren’t emotional and struggle emotionally with others – I know now that this in no way makes him a bad father, but at the time, I thought he hated me. There were many years where Julian and I remained on different pages but most of this can be explained by teenage hormones (I like to think). Imagine being in his shoes, arriving into a new relationship and being introduced to a teenage girl on the brink of puberty and being thrown into the depths of fatherhood. He took on the responsibility bravely, and I have never been more grateful for the patience he gave me whilst I adjusted to him being in my life.
Without Julian, I’m not entirely sure where I’d be today. I look back and I don’t even have to try and find evidence for all the things he has done for me and my mum. It’s all in front of me and around me: the roof over my head, the food I eat, the extremely detailed budget on my laptop, the Saturday cycling sessions down to Old Leigh and most importantly, the smile on my mum’s face. It’s all him. After two years of visiting our flat every weekend, we moved to our town in 2010. My first family home has been made with so much love and happiness. He searched for the best schools, the best locations – all to give me the best start. I love him the most because of what he’s given my mum. After such a hard relationship with my biological father, he gives her, and me, the security and safety that we both needed. With Julian around, I never feel scared or afraid. There is no longer a need for me to sleep in my mum’s bed because I know he is there. I know my world was meant to change for him to be in my life; blood and relation makes no difference to me.
Last year marked 10 years of Julian being in my life. Over half my existence, I have had a man who loves me and cares for me in his own unique way. I have had a man give me and my mum safety and unconditional love. Words will never quite be able to describe how lucky I am to have met him and how proud I am to call him my father. Biology makes no difference to who you choose to be within your family – within 2 years, Julian had been more of a dad to me than my biological father has been in 19. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have him, and I hope he knows that.