By Malkie Gordon Hirsch
Sometime between the day that I left for Israel and the moment I sat at the Shabbos table two weeks later, Rosie started to call Jeremy her daddy. When it happened in real time, it shook me out of my jet-lagged stupor and I looked around at the players present at the table.
No one seemed surprised, and suddenly it felt like I had been away for far longer than I had been.
There have been some “daddy” practice runs in the past, as early as the first date I took my kids on—that’s how we dated, at least.
It was the summer of 2021, and after a couple months of dinners or coffee, we started dating as a family.
Rosie was approaching the age of four and didn’t realize that she might be coming on too strong when she asked him, as we waited for our chicken fingers and fries, if he was her new daddy.
There was a pause, an awkward laugh, and my quick getaway to check on the status of the food, but Jeremy was ever the considerate one by simply asking her if that’s what she wanted.
I guess that’s the difference (among many other things) between boys and girls—or at least between my boys and Rosie.
She’s the baby in the family, and, as a girl, she’s always been more emotionally self-aware, more inquisitive, and also more curious about fathers in general.
I wonder if the early fascination on fathers had to do with losing hers as a baby, because as she grew and would attend playdates, she knew that our family dynamic was different than her friends’ families and would come home asking about what happened and when she’d have a daddy again.
At that time, all I could do was be honest.
I certainly couldn’t predict someone taking the place of her biological father the way Jeremy has. I don’t know how someone develops the type of love that he has for my children, since I’m pretty sure I held my breath for the first couple of months after they got home from summer camp.
I’d wait for that first tantrum and assume I’d be subsequently ghosted after that.
But it never happened and while I do know that my kids are who they are and are relatively reasonable, with the occasional side of, well, unreasonable, I guess we must’ve presented ourselves in a way that made us seem like a fun rest-of-life scenario.
I didn’t realize how hard it was for Jeremy to be referred to by his name when he was doing all of the things that fathers do for their children.
Early morning wakeups, (and re-wakeups), late-night carpools, homework help, doctor appointments galore, and more, he’s taken it all on.
In a short time, he’s become the children’s greatest advocate and the occasional substitute hockey coach for the four boys I birthed within eight years. That makes for a sporting event roughly every other night of the week. And I assure you, while they’re all passionate about their athleticism, it’s not riveting national-level stuff. Yet he stands there for hours on end, watching it and cheering for them.
He attends PTA and is a master application-filler-outer. From his post in the basement, I hear his printer working overtime and I go back to making dinner.
He’s a lawyer who loves order, while I break out in hives when expected to take stuff out of shopping bags and put them in closets.
On hangers, no less.
You can say we’re opposites, but somehow it works.
He’s continued hosting the minyan in our house that was running for years before he arrived on the Barnard scene, incorporating a weekly Pirkei Avos shiur and chaburah with shalosh seudos to boot.
We completed the sefer Torah in Moshe’s memory a few months ago, and I’m well-aware that certain parts of moving into a home that was formerly occupied by a much-loved member of our family, our friends, and community must be really difficult, but it didn’t stop him, and for that, I’m forever grateful.
Things in life have settled in many ways, and although each of the kids got to that place of calm and acceptance at different times, I know the same will apply as we tackle the newest project of rightfully renaming Jeremy.
To some, he’ll be “Daddy.”
Truth be told, he’s daddy to them all, but I have to understand and empathize with the older boys who were raised by their biological father for as much time as he had here. He’s their tatty and always will be. No one can or will take his place.
I can appreciate how hard it must be to remind themselves of what they lost whenever they call Jeremy by a more endearing term.
But nonetheless, it’s a title he deserves.
For them, it’s about what they lost. But for my little ones, it’s a chance to celebrate what they’ve gained: a father, mentor, a role model. He stands for what holding onto hope looks like.
To me, it’s a perfect example of the opportunity to approach an issue in various ways.
Observing how Rosie addresses Jeremy lately with such love because of her official daddy knighthood has taught me some lessons on life. It’s made me realize that the time we think we have and the things we want to say but don’t know how to aren’t guaranteed.
It’s what I think about as I watch her call out to her daddy way more often than she calls out to anyone else. She does it with such joy, and I hear her telling her friends, too. She’s so happy to finally have something she’s wanted for so long.
It might be temporary, and thrilling because of the newness of it all, but I’ll stand back and enjoy watching her finally have someone to call “Daddy.”
Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.