“Brandon and I met in 2015 at the gym where he worked. We weren’t looking for anything serious since I had just separated from my husband a year prior. I never thought Brandon would be anything serious, much less ever meet my daughter Raina who was 18 months old at the time.

At the start of our relationship, I explained all the things I was going through; finalizing a divorce after a year of separation, raising a toddler on my own, staying with my parents while I got my life back on track. He didn’t seem to mind, I think because we didn’t really expect our relationship to get so invested. But the first time Brandon met Raina, my heart melted. He sat and played with her for hours. The toys varied, but the enthusiasm did not. He complied to every request with a smile, with no hesitation whatsoever; dolls, kitchen, the Nabi. Little did I know that this was going to spark the relationship that they have today.

Anastasia Lindenman

The visits and playdates with Raina quickly became weekly, and then daily. He would come over and make a big deal out of her and anything she did. He ate the fake food, danced to music, pushed her in the Little Tykes car, played store over and over. She began asking for ‘Bennin’ daily and he would deliver every chance he could get. That year he helped me put together the most amazing SpongeBob birthday party for her turning two. I was so stressed out, he was the only one who took pictures to remember the day and the decorations. He comforted me when I found out 2 hours before the party that my ex-husband told his entire family not to come.

When Brandon looked at Raina, you could see the love he had for her. By 2 years old, he was teaching her to play soccer, love and cheer for the Eagles, count numbers, and more. Their relationship grew into one like that of best friends. They were together all the time, Brandon would spend the night and Raina would be happy to wake up to him being there.

He took her to doctors’ appointments, soccer practices, the park, on walks. It has never been a boring moment in our house since Brandon came along. He aspired to be a father figure to Raina and wanted to be there for her, to give her the best life possible.

Yes, Raina’s dad is/was still in the picture, but in the beginning, not as much as he is now. He was only there periodically in the beginning and really had to make changes in his life in order to have Raina. He definitely wasn’t happy when he learned about Brandon and all the time Raina was spending with him. Since, we have come to a mutual understanding that a stepparent is going to be something that is common in Raina’s life and that we need to be accepting of such things.

Brandon has been there to love and support the two of us for 3 years. He has walked into court with me, stood by me as my last attempt for a relationship with my biological father deteriorated, held my hand through the stress of my previous relationship and the anxiety it caused. He celebrated the little things with me — my Associate’s degree, my first 5k, my new job, our birthdays. He has made a big deal over everything Raina has done and accomplished. Her first year of preschool, her first 100m dash, her birthdays, her first base hit in t-ball, her ABC’s, her 123’s. He has kissed her booboos, rocked her to sleep, cleaned up throw up that went all down his shirt. He has been her constant.