Tommy Maloney’s bonus daughter is off to college, and he finally tells her the things he never said.
This week marks a shift in our household as my wife’s oldest heads off to college. As I looked back on the years from the first time I met Betsy to our relationship now, I felt the need to write an open letter to her. The role I play as her “bonus” dad is more of a silent partner—a parent but not a replacement for her dad. I attend her plays and concerts to show support—and because they’re good, too. Betsy and I have had our blowouts (including on Christmas) but my hope is that when we do argue she understands it is because I truly care. I didn’t have the brass balls to ever have the heart to heart, and now she’s away at school—not fully gone but not here either. This letter is dedicated to Betsy as well as all the bonus dads out there who are making a difference in the kids’ lives.
I cannot believe you are onto college already. You might not understand the cliché now until you are in a parenting situation but “time does fly by.” It does seem like only last winter we all met for the first time at the mall ice rink, and today you are a college student part of the class of 2019. WOW College. Your next four years will be an adventure on different levels while at the same time I will have my worry moments. You are not far from home, but I will worry because well I too am a parent and that is what we do.
As an adult and a bit of a rebel personally, I never really cared of what others thought of my crazy antics; that maybe someday I will share with you or me. I did care what you thought of me. Mostly I wanted to be a good husband to your mom as well as more of a mentor to you than a dad. You have a dad and I understand your relationship with him. Many moons ago I explained to you that I was not here to replace your dad. I just wanted to show you without really showing you that I was always here for you. Do you remember the day you asked me to teach you to drive you car because it was a stick shift car? Your mom could tell you that I was so honored that you asked me, and sure I failed to really teach you, but I never really thanked you. Thank you for letting me do that with you.
Your mom and I had a talk before we got married about me being a bit old fashioned and wanting to get your grandparents’ permission to propose. She said that I did not need to do that and well, your grandfather was on my side. He agreed that it was the right thing to do. I also felt that I NEEDED to get your permission as well. You are the older sister, and my hope was that you could see the respect I was showing you. Then as we got closer to the day I was going to propose at the ice rink where we all met, you helped with the plans. I am not sure if I ever truly won you over but I look back at that time feeling that you wanted best for your mom.
Today as I sit here writing this, there is a lot of reflection in my head both the good times and the bad times. Never did I want to come off as the evil “step” dad, but more of a mentor to you. Your age had a lot to do with how our relationship developed, because you were old enough and very smart, and you knew right from wrong. Never was there any mistrust. Our issues were more of me wanting to give you advice and you not liking how I presented it. I am sure those times felt as if I was TELLING you what to do, but I was merely trying to protect you. I will admit that maybe my way was not always talking to you but more talking at you. Again, that’s the parent in me.
Betsy, I won the kid lottery with you, because you never did give me any problems as the new man in your mom’s life. I am so grateful, because I am sure your friends have gone through the horror of guys demanding that it was their way or the high attitude. I never wanted to impose that power on you, because I wanted to earn your respect and trust. My hope was that I did not come across that way to you ever. Divorce sucks as you know, and you do not need some jerk trying to tell you what to do 24/7. Again I was very lucky that we really never had any real problems like on reality TV. We had disagreements, and that usually led to your mom sending me to a time out. I want to simply say thank you for having a great attitude about the family dynamics.
Betsy, I never told you that I loved you and could not tell you why those words never came out of my mouth. I believe it was my own insecurity of possibly feeling rejection again, but I can’t pinpoint it. So I’m saying it now. I love you and I look forward to watching you grow from a college freshman to a med school student to an independent adult. I am so proud of you and just so very sorry that I could never really sit down and tell you all of these things. I know these are just words, but I do want you to see how I have cared about you. You go girl, class of 2019.