With Father's Day quickly approaching, we're preparing to celebrate the amazing fathers in our lives. But what about the step-father? What about the man with no title, just his first name? What about the man that has taken on a role that's been filled already? How do we remove the negative stigma that is associated with the word 'step-father'? As a mother looking to remarry soon, I want my children to feel comfortable being able to celebrate their father AND my husband without any guilt.
As parents, the last thing we want is for someone to come in and take our place in our child's heart. We might inadvertently say or do something to make our child less accepting of the new person coming into their lives. It is hard to trust a new person with one of our most prized blessings, but we have to have faith that the other parent has made a wise decision in the partner they plan on spending the rest of their lives with. We hope that person will love our child just as much as we do. Try not to look at it as someone coming in and attempting to take your place, but more like there is an additional person that wants to come in to love, support, and encourage your child.
Growing up with step-parents, I remember how I felt when my mom remarried and wanted me to call this man I barely knew "dad." I didn't have a problem with him or with my mom getting married, but something in me instantly got defensive. I already had a dad. I just knew it would hurt him if I called someone else by his name. I was young and didn't know any better but I just didn't get it...why did my mom want me to forget my biological dad and embrace this new individual???
As an adult, I know better. I get it now. Over the years I have grown to love and admire my step-father in more ways that I can even put into words. I seek him for advice in a lot of things in my life. He makes sure whenever he is in town to shower me with gifts (ladies we are never too old for that, am I right?!), and I always enjoy just spending time with him. We have a very close bond that I wouldn't change for the world. He calls me his daughter, and I love him as a father, but I call him by his first name. I believe if I was given the opportunity to set the tone for our relationship in the beginning, then maybe I would've given him a cool name like Pops or Pa.
Fast forward to today. I am in the same position as my mother once was. How do I introduce this new man in my children lives when they have an amazing dad? I am allowing time to do that for me. My new husband will have to build relationships with my children individually; they can't be forced. We have to be intentional about how we interact as a family and the time he spends with each of them one-on-one. Each relationship will be different because each child requires something different. One thing I do know is that you don't have to call a man "dad" in order to love and respect him as a father. I know firsthand that you can love as many people as you are blessed to have in your village. Just because you don't carry his DNA does not make him any less special or any less important. I know that I can celebrate my dad and step-dad - both of my fathers - on this day. Because they deserve that, and so much more.
So yes, your child may have a step-father and he is just as important as dad. "Dad" may not be their official title, but it is the role they signed up for. So make double the macaroni neck ties, the handmade cards, and the flower bouquets made from the weeds in the front yard. Don't spend the day feeling like you have to choose one over the other. There is so much love to give we can give it out in abundance.