By Malkie Gordon Hirsch
The first time it happened, we brushed it off because of Rosie’s age.
Because of her inability to realize at 4 years old that maybe it wasn’t the best question to ask the guy I had recently started dating as we sat at a restaurant in Cedarhurst during the summer of 2021.
She was being her usual Rosie self and didn’t really understand where Jeremy came from (Toronto via St. Louis via JWed dating app) but she welcomed the change in our lives because now, in addition to me being the consistent naysayer single parent who was just trying to survive day by day, she and her brothers had the potential opportunity to ask this Jeremy guy if she could get a new toy/stay up late/have a play date and get driven there and back.
At this point of the summer, it was just Gavi and Rosie at home.
We had been dating for around 6 weeks at that time, but as it is in second-time-around relationships, we had covered a lot of ground in little time and I felt it important to involve the kids in some of our outings to see how they’d respond to him and vice versa, because as any parent who’s been divorced or widowed with children knows, it’s that it’s no longer just about them; Dating the second time around is more of a family affair.
In fact, kids can be the reason that a relationship can thrive or unfortunately not get off the ground at all. Knowing what I already knew about past relationships that I’ve observed that suffered because of this made me eager to have us date as a family.
Because I knew it was our collective comforts that had to be accounted for and as much as I wanted to find someone to share my life with, I wasn’t willing to compromise my children’s happiness for my own.
I could tell Rosie was thinking of how to formulate something on her mind, but I truly wasn’t prepared for the cringe worthiness when she turned to Jeremy and blurted out “Can you be my daddy?”
That can’t be unsaid now, can it.
Pardon me while I attempt to melt into the floor.
I remember even Gavi giggling awkwardly because although he was only 7, he knew that that wasn’t an ok question to ask.
I quickly responded, “Rosie, you’re funny. Would you like that?”
She then proceeded with the next hard-hitting question, “Did you get me French fries?”
And just like that, the topic of men applying for the role of “Daddy” was dropped, albeit temporarily.
Since Jeremy’s come onto the scene and into our lives, we’ve referred to him as “Jer /Jeremy” in addition to the nicknames he’s been given from his own children and grandchildren, “Dad,” “Saba,” and “Basa” from the grandchild whose speech is still pretty spotty.
For me, who’s always been referred to as “mommy,” I don’t see an issue with Jeremy being the wearer of many names.
I personally have 3 last names currently (let’s keep it this way, Hashem, please and thank you) and I’m going through somewhat of an identity crisis when someone asks me for my name.
Something fairly easy for most people to respond to has become somewhat of a challenge for me. Because of the history that went into every stage of myself as a Gordon, as a Hirsch, and now as a Magence.
I’m each one of those and individually, I’m a collective sum of those parts and they’ve all been essential to the person I am today. So, I take liberties to change it up once in a while.
I answer in my way, always with a fun new twist (Malkie Gordon Hirsch Magence, take your pick or choose the easiest to pronounce!) but then I wonder what it would be like to essentially be parenting children who refer to you by your first name.
It came up last week as Jeremy sent me an article by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who wrote fondly on his personal experience as a child who lost his father at a young age and the close relationship that developed between him and his stepfather, whom he called “Abba.”
I get particularly emotional when I read stories that any one of my kids could write in the future. These stories belong to many different people throughout history.
Different names, different families, different stories, and different circumstances, but the feelings (especially the positive ones) fill me with a hope that that’s the story my kids will tell to their children and grandchildren in the future, years from now.
I see Rosie toying with calling Jeremy a more affectionate name, something that (should) connote a term of endearment.
Something I didn’t know I was missing until you came along and now, I want it more than ever.
So, she asks him if she can call him by a name that he’s overjoyed to be called by his own children and now by mine.
And I want this to be something organic and decided among the children.
I don’t know if they’ll all decide to refer to him as the person he is to them today and, please G-d, for many years to come: their second father, the one who raised them into adulthood, nurtures them, sacrifices the time in his life where he could’ve decided to start taking it easy, rather than bringing up 5 more children, after raising his own biological ones.
But instead, he chose to become a member of our family and spend the next many years attending sporting events after school, doing Sunday carpools, and all the other responsibilities and joys that come with parenting.
Does raising children earn you a different title? Do the kids in question feel like their late father is being replaced somehow if they decide to call him their father? I guess it’s more of a personal choice, but I definitely see my younger kids referring to Jeremy as their father in the future.
Regardless of what they call him, I know how much they love and appreciate him and how thankful they are for him every day. As their mom, I take some comfort in the knowledge that although my children lost their father, they don’t need to grow up without a father figure.
The Gemara says that when prophecy was taken away, it was redistributed to the cognitively impaired and to young children. Maybe little Rosie knew something before any of us did. Maybe it was a spiritual sense she had before that fateful question innocently spoken aloud during the summer of 2021.
Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.