When I refer to him, I call him by his first name. When I look at him, I see someone with two feet planted firmly in my life — while my actual father used those feet to run as fast as they could away from my family.
In his eyes, I see my past and my future. I see someone who loved me unconditionally when he didn’t have to. Someone who got me to sit in his lap as a child when no one else could. Someone who taught me to ride a bike and to drive a car.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Step-Parenting
I see the definition of a dad, but more importantly I feel it.
Like any dad, he didn’t always have it all figured out. There were curves and bends down the path to becoming a step-parent. He had to learn to navigate them all, but he did it well.
Of course, he had plenty of worries.
He feared my sisters and I wouldn’t like him; that we wouldn’t connect with him. But he tried anyway, and he succeeded. He kept talking to us, even though I was shy and unsure, until I talked back. He didn’t give up until I let him slip through the small crack I had in my heart and decided let him in.
But we weren’t the only kids he cared for all those years — our stepdad already had a daughter of his own, which planted other doubts in his mind.
What if my child get jealous? What if she feels left out? What if … what if …
But he put his all into it, and tried anyway.
It takes so much bravery and so much heart to take on someone else’s three children and think of them as your own, but my stepdad did all that and more.
To all the newly-minted stepdads out there, I hope you know you’re doing great. You’re not some kind of second-rate dad. You’re whatever you allow yourself to be. You are showing up, and that means something.
My stepdad literally “stepped up” in a way. My oldest sister had no relationship with my real dad, but she had him. He made her feel like she didn’t miss out on a father-daughter bond. My other sister struggled with mental illness, and when he found that out, he lived in the trenches of it with her — he didn’t run. He showed us girls that true love does exist and set the kind of relationship example with our mom that a little girl needs to see.
Today, he’s our kids’ papa, the man who changes our oil, and the one who makes our mom feel complete. He’s the one who would say “yes” when our mom said “no,” and still does even though all three of us are grown. He was not only The One for our mom — he was The One for us.
All the obstacles he overcame to win us over, all the moves he made to let us know our worth … what made us love him. Those are the things I will never forget.
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