Crank up the Step-Dad love this Sunday!
Father’s Day is my favourite day of the year. Period.
Father’s Day has not been a national holiday as long as Mother’s Day (1972 vs. 1910), but today’s more involved dads don’t care about history – we love our kids. I treasure the hand crafted gifts my children make for me at school and feel incredibly privileged to be a father.
On Father’s Day, I reflect not only on how lucky I am, but on how unlucky some other men are: the guys that are unable to become fathers for whatever reason, be it nature or circumstance. However, some of those men do become dads when they meet a single mom with children.
“Dad” is an awesome title, but it should not be reserved for only the biological dad. “Dad” can be perfect for any man playing a significant role in the life of a child; uncles, grandpas, and perhaps most importantly step-dads. Today, I want to focus and salute all the step-dads behaving dadly.
Frederick Buechner declared that when a child is born, a father is also born. As a father, a man loves his children instantly and unconditionally. But when a man becomes a step-dad, he CHOOSES to love someone else’s child as his own. He chooses to develop a relationship with that child and invest time.
In many blended families this weekend, Sunday will be spent with biological dad. He gets top billing, and perhaps rightly so, but let’s not forget the other dad that plays a big role in many kids lives.
Being a step-dad doesn’t come with nine months of prep time. He usually parachutes into a family unit with children at various stages of development. Like skipping the puppy years with a new dog, some step dads may love missing out on the diaper years, while others wish they had more time during the critical years to develop a relationship with their new step-child. As I wrote about a few years ago, in an article “Loving My Red-Headed Step-Child” (that was later published in the book “Dad’s Behaving Dadly”), my step-son already has a great father! I am not trying to replace a dad, just simply wanting to be another positive ‘dadly’ influence in his life.
Most step-dads arrive into a child’s life like an awesome new playmate: someone that always wants to throw a ball or bounce on a trampoline. This play-based relationship usually evolves into a more parental role as one roof begins to house all the children. My step-son and I are carving out our own unique relationship. Like step-dads everywhere, I try to be present every day and make deposits to my step-son’s emotional bank account. I want to earn his respect, not demand it.
Sometimes step-dads are the only dad present and participating in the life of a young child, so they grow into their ‘dad’ title naturally. Ray Johnson said it best, “It takes a strong man to accept somebody else’s children and step up to the plate another man left on the table…”
Frankly, I would never insist that my step-son calls me “Dad”. I don’t care if he calls me “Daddy-Jeff”, “Bald-Dad”, or just “Jeff” – just don’t call me “not involved” or “not present”. I want to lay the careful foundation for our relationship now so that when the storms of the teenage years hit, I will be another safe harbour for him. I want to be a strong male role model and the beacon for guidance, morality, ethics, and love. A man may not share genetics with his/her step-children, but they can share a relationship and a connection.
I do honestly believe, if done well, children of divorce can receive MORE love as they may have two additional parental figures that will love them, help guide them, and be there in their lives. In my family, we have had weekend soccer games with four excited adults cheering! Step-parenting can have great benefits. Just this past week, mom was at work, dad was at work, but I was able to attend and videotape the daytime talent show recital!
So this weekend, let’s celebrate all male parental figures. In your circle of friends, reach out to a step-dad and tell him what an awesome job he is doing. If you are a dad that has the blessing of another dad in your child’s life, reach out to him and thank him for being there! Step-parenting is not always an easy role, but very rewarding!
While it’s easier to become a father that to be one, for these supermen, the choice to love another’s as your own is even more incredible.
TAKE AWAY POINT – Don’t forget step-dads and their contributions on Father’s Day. While the children may be spending time with their biological dad, make sure their step-dad gets his kudos because he is also awesome. You cannot love mom and ignore the inherent responsibilities of her children. Step-dads choose to love and that’s worth celebrating!
Until next time…