It was 12:32 AM. I was over at Mike and Meryn’s house having fun late into the night, talking about cosmetic surgeries, overly disturbing movies that never should have been made, and the oddities that sometimes are our kids.

It’s an almost weekly ritual.

What’s not a weekly ritual is my phone ringing at such a late hour. When that happens, you can almost bank on something being wrong, somewhere. This night was no different. My pocket started buzzing and before I even pulled it out, I somehow knew that it was Noah’s mom and that something was wrong with our little guy.

Sure enough, Andrea’s name blared across the caller ID, and I immediately bolted from the room to see what was wrong.

Noah had been suffering from a nasty chest cold, and had been fighting off the virus for nearly two weeks. Things seemed to be getting better. At least until I got the phone call. The first words out of Andrea’s mouth were “we’re taking Noah to the emergency room.”

In my head I started thinking about my little boy on the brink of death. My adrenaline started racing. I started strapping on my shoes before she could even tell me what was wrong.

He had been coughing and couldn’t stop and then his nose started bleeding. Unable to contain it, they had already left their house and were headed to the hospital.

I left Mike and Meryn in a cloud of dust, and went triple the speed limit to the hospital which was only 18 minutes away though it seemed more like an hour.

I burst through the doors like a soccer mom on steroids, and I said “my little boy is already here! Where is he?!”

The front desk lady pointed me into a check-in room just around the corner, and when I walked in, this is what I saw.

That’s Chappy. Noah’s step-dad. Holding my kid.

He was holding Noah on his lap while the nurse took his vitals. Noah looked like he’d been through quite the ordeal, and lay flattened and depleted of energy against Chappy’s chest.

He was… resting.

He was… okay.

And, he was… getting the comfort he needed.

Not from me. Not from his mom. But from Chappy. His stepdad.

The dad in me wanted to scoop him up and take over from there. The protector in me wanted to keep him close to me where not even vicious little micro-intruders could get to him. The comforter in me wanted Noah to feel my cheek against the back of his neck so that he knew everything would be okay.

But everything was already okay.

He had a dad that had scooped him up. He had a protector that was protecting him. He had a comforter whose cheek was pressed against his neck and whose lips kept kissing the back of his head.

And it wasn’t me.

And it wasn’t his mom.

And I was strangely… okay with that.

In fact, I was grateful. Really grateful. I looked at Chappy in that moment and I had only one thought going on. This man is as much a dad to Noah as I am.

Yes. Noah’s stepdad is a dad indeed.

And as much as I wanted to, I never offered to take Noah from him. I knew I would have plenty of time in the hospital that night to be everything for my boy that he needed me to be.

Instead, I slumped into a chair, snuck a picture, and let the world move on without me trying to control its axis.

And, sure enough… once we were escorted to a hospital room, I had my chance.

The doctor poked and prodded Noah. My little man did great, all except for when the doctor tried to put a tongue depressor into his mouth. Then he had a mental breakdown. Apparently he doesn’t like tongue depressors too much.

And when the doctor stepped out for a minute, Noah sat deflated on the bed for a moment. Tired. Hurting.

And then he looked at me.

And his arms stretched out.

And I got to be Dad. Comforter. Protector. Finally.

Yeesh. There’s nothing fun about having to take your kid to the emergency room. But in the midst of the emotional pandemonium, I couldn’t help but be thankful for the perspective I was given that night.

Chappy loves that kid as much as I do. No less. Noah loves Chappy as much as he loves me. No less.

And at the end of the day, that is something to celebrate.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

PS. Have you ever had to face a similar situation? One where somebody (anybody) else was holding or comforting your child in a time that you really wanted to or felt like you should? How did you handle it?