By Eric Payne
Portions of this post originally appeared at MakesMeWannaHoller.com.
“Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.”*
*Source: The National Fatherhood Initiative, 2010
Not too long ago my son sought to demean me by referring to me as “just” his stepdad. It was during an extremely tense moment when I had had enough of his shenanigans. I was tired of always being the bad guy, tired of always having to repeat myself, tired of not getting through.
Apparently on this night, just four days before Father’s Day, I got through to him so clearly he told me in so many words to step off. Though I had always hoped I’d never hear those words come out of his mouth, I knew without knowing that they would eventually come, sooner or later. In my head I had sort of scheduled myself to be prepared by his junior or senior year of high school. But on that June day he was just a freshman.
Luckily my wife was around to prevent me from losing sight of myself — my place as the male role model in the home, the father, the man who was about to make a boy regret being born. Truth is, in that moment he probably did regret being born.
During the twenty-four hours that followed our incident I thought so many things I never imagined I’d think. Among them: “I don’t need this,” “How did I get myself into this situation?” “How am I going to get out of this?”
I didn’t beat myself up for my thoughts. After all, I’m only made of flesh and blood. It’s better to acknowledge your humanity and work through it, then to deny it and explode later due to the self-imposed pressure.
While I was regrouping I remembered a conversation I had with one of my son’s doctors. I didn’t know my boy’s full medical history. Embarrassed, I admitted that I was the stepdad, not the dad who’s never laid eyes on his flesh and blood. The doctor stopped me cold.
“Don’t ever speak like that again,” he reprimanded. “You’re the dad who stepped up, so I’m going to march to your steps because you have the lead.”
I almost started crying. It was indescribably heartwarming to be acknowledged by a complete stranger for what sometimes feels like such a thankless venture.
It was also preparation for my pre-Father’s Day incident with the boy.
So yes, I AM the Stepdad. The dad who attends all the games. The dad who has been with the boy since he was five years old — back when he was little and cute, and I was just a boyfriend.
In the aftermath of my altercation with my son I told him that biological fathers don’t get to pick their kids. I had the obligation-free luxury to be able to choose him not because I was dating his mother, but because I loved him. And I’ve never wavered in my service to him.
To call me “stepdad” may well have been one of the nicest things he’s ever said.
Don’t lose heart step parents. No matter what that child might say to you, they need you desperately. And so does society.
Author of the now infamous, My Wife Is NOT My Friend (on Facebook), you can follow Eric on Twitter, or on his Facebook Page. He is the creator and author of MakesMeWannaHoller.com, his blog on fatherhood and marriage. Check out his restaurant reviews and NYC tourism articles at NYMetropolista.com. He’s also a contributing relationship writer for Atlanta-based J’Adore Magazine.
like what you're reading?