There's this guy I know that, every time he hears the word 'parent' in the same sentence with my name, he snorts in derision.

In the past, I've heard aspersions on my ability to parent, based on things like my income, my education level, my hobbies, and my ability (or lack thereof) to drive.

This is all, I suppose, fair enough. I am not a biological parent; should I die tonight in my sleep, I will do so without having passed my particular genes along to a new generation. If people out there want to believe that loving children, caring for children, sharing your life constantly with children, supporting children, putting your own wants and needs and desires secondary to those of the children you live with, always, is still in some way inadequate to qualify one for the term parent -- if, in fact, these folks insist that the only way one gets to be parent is through gene donation -- then, fine, I'm not a parent. Not a REAL one.

But last night, my seven year old step daughter came into the bedroom I share with her mother and said, apologetically, that she'd just thrown up, and she had tried really hard, but she hadn't quite been able to make it to the bathroom. And my wife needs her sleep, as she gets up at 5:30 every morning so she can take the kids to school before she takes herself to work. (I generally get up with her, but after they're all off I get to go back to bed.)

So I got up.

Now, let me tell you, I was expecting maybe a little pool of throw up, somewhere near the toilet. I was rather astonished and appalled to find our entire hallway leading to the bathroom splattered and splashed with reddish-maroon puke, much of it pressed into the linoleum in little SuperAdorableKid-shaped footprints. That hallway looked like fifteen 7 year olds had spent an afternoon beating on a pinata full of vomit in it. It looked like an entire 2nd grade class had a puke-balloon fight in it.

So I sighed, and cleaned it up, and cleaned up my 'daughter', and changed the sheets and blankets on her bed, and got her a drink of water, and kissed her on the forehead, and put her back to sleep.

I may not be a real parent. But I swear to God, after nights like last night, and days like today where I washed all the soiled laundry from the vomit festival last night, I really feel like one.

Also, if I'm not a real parent, could an actual Real Parent out there somewhere give me a rebate on the several thousand bucks I've spent on these kids that are not really mine over the past couple of years? I'd really appreciate that.


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