Specific to Our Story

We weren’t programmed to love each other. Yet we do.

We weren’t programmed to love each other.  Yet we do. 

I can only imagine.

The pure joy.

Of seeing a child that you created, born.

I can only imagine.

The pure joy.

Of hearing a child you created, call you daddy.

I can only imagine those things.  Because at the age of thirty-two, I have never experienced either.

And the truth is, I may never experience either.

And that’s ok.

For all the amazingness that I can only imagine would come with being a dad, I can say this:  I think being a step dad is even more rewarding.

We weren’t programmed to love each other.  Yet we do. 

I fell madly in love with Michelle in High School.  We were together for a year before she broke my heart.  Eight years after that, we were reunited.

As we spoke early on, Michelle told me in no uncertain terms that I would need to love her daughter as much as I loved Michelle, if not more, if it were ever to work between us.

That mission was easily accomplished.

I can vividly remember that beautiful, sunny day that I first met her daughter.  I was so nervous as I waited for them to arrive to my condo.  I knew that after eight years apart Michelle and I were going to make it work this time around.  I knew that I would be meeting a little girl that I would be spending the rest of my life with.

What if she didn’t like me?

My anxiety was sky high.  I felt like I was going to throw up. 

And then, they arrived.


I loved her instantly.  Just as I knew that I would.

Michelle and I waited until the time was right, and we eventually told her that Mommy and Johnny weren’t just friends, we were dating. 

The story of my life does not simply consist of one love story.  No, it consists of two.

My wife.  And my step daughter.

Throughout the years the relationship between my step daughter and I has grown to levels that even I, a man who has always wanted to adopt a child as opposed to having one biologically, could never have imagined.

We have been through the best of times together, and we have been through the worst of times together.

We have laughed together.  We have cried together.  We have grown together.

Together, we started a new life with Michelle.

Together, we enjoyed the happiness of a new family born.

Together, we saw our love, Michelle, fall sick to cancer.

Together, we saw her die. 

And, yes, together – some way, somehow – we picked ourselves up.  We dusted ourselves off.  And, full of grief and fear, and through the loss of our everything, we moved forward.

The laughs we have shared, the tears we have shed, the hugs we have had. 

The pure love and raw emotion behind so many of our experiences so powerful, that even the most articulate of words cannot do them any justice.

There is a special feeling that comes with taking care of a child you did not create.

We weren’t programmed to love each other.  Yet we do.

There is a special feeling that comes with loving a child you did not create.

We weren’t programmed to love each other.  Yet we do. 

In her I see a child that I love with all of my heart.  With all of my soul.  My pride.  My joy.  The apple of my eye. 

She is ‘step’, only in name.  Never in my heart.

In me, I hope – and I believe – that she sees a man who has always, and will always love her, and her mother.  A man who has always treated them well.  A man who has always put them first. 

A man who has absolutely no obligation to her, but simply loves her for who she is.  An amazing little girl that brightens his each and every day.

A man who she can love as a dad, even if the word ‘step’ will always be there.

My step daughter doesn’t call me dad, or daddy.  She has a biological father who she uses those words for.

No, she calls me Johnny.  Or John Polo from Volo.  Or yes, sometimes she is brutally honest with me and tells it like it is.  Sometimes she calls me Butthead.

She was Michelle’s everything.  Her pride.  Her joy.  Her love.  Her life.  Her everything.

Loving her.  Raising her.  Being there for her:  These are the greatest honors of my life.

I am not a biological parent.  I am a step parent.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 © Copyright 2017 John Polo








3 thoughts on “We weren’t programmed to love each other. Yet we do.

  1. John,

    Being a stepparent takes a special person. I was asked by my then stepson why did he have two moms but only one dad, I told him god figured he could use a spare. In no way was I ever a spare to him I was primary, front and center for all the highs and lows. I would never trade him for the world and yes he’s still my Pooh Bear and I love him to the moon and back and to infinity not matter how old he gets (he’s 24) At the age of 15 he asked me to adopt him. I could not have beamed with more joy and felt more humble on that day. You see being a stepparent is a choice, we choose to love them, we picked them no matter what. We want them as our son or daughter. So honestly the only “steps” are in the staircase otherwise it’s a DIY family just add love.

  2. beautiful story of Emma and you! beautiful unique relationship.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with your readers. 🙂

    I too am widowed and I blogged for many years afterwards advocating for those of us who lost were not legally married to our partners. My Greg died in 2010 in a car accident on his way to work. He died in March 2010 and we were to be married in May 2010. The journey after the loss of our soul mate is hard and i can not say that it gets better but with time it gets different. grief becomes different (in a good way). You and Emma will both find your paths. God bless yall.

  3. In Sweden step children and parents are called bonus children or bonus parents. I think that is a much more fitting description.

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