When I was two, my parents’ marriage ended. It was over before I was even born, sadly. He left for other women and another life, living freely without responsibilities. The role of a father was left empty and ultimately fulfilled by my mother for years.
My mom did find love again after spending time taking care of me and it just being the two of us. I don’t remember when my stepdad walked into my life, I was too little, but I remember how he made me feel. I remember being territorial of my mom, saying not to hug her—I was the only one allowed to do this. I remember the fear of anyone new in our lives, but I don’t remember the day it changed.
He slowly became my dad, and I thank him for accepting this challenging role.
Not only do stepparents make a single parent believe in love and commitment to each other, they simultaneously embrace children as their own. In this case, my stepdad had no experience with children and was thrust into toddlerhood with my mom. I don’t know how he did it, but I know it was fueled by love and a desire to show a little girl that men can and will provide for her and be that prince she so dearly deserves.
He showed up for everything for me, and he didn’t just show up. He took pictures, brought flowers, took me to dinner after events. He learned to braid my hair, watched Ariel at least a million times and acted just as excited each time Ariel made it to land. Things as silly as fifth-grade talent shows he suffered through—front row, nice suit, and a huge grin. He opened car doors, assisted with homework, and put fear into boyfriends I came home with. When we were low on money, I got the last slice of pizza, a matinee movie, and he always let me have the popcorn to myself.
My stepdad sat next to an open seat reserved for my biological father at my college graduation and made sure the day was special for me, though I was deeply saddened my dad did not show. My stepdad loaded the U-Haul and moved me out of our childhood home, married me off to a wonderful man, and walked me down the aisle with tears in his eyes.
What I didn’t see behind closed doors was that he struggled to learn to parent a child who wasn’t his own, he fought with my biological father, and was mending the broken heart of my mother for many, many years.
My stepfather has brought life into the word “daddy” and shown me the deepest, purest form of love there is—that of a father.
My stepdad never thought of me as a burden, I’ve always been an added bonus, and HIS daughter, and you know what? My stepdad is MY father.
I raise a glass to all the stepparents out there opening their hearts to children and embracing the new role of a mother or father. I know it’s not easy to inherit us, but we love you and are forever grateful for your acceptance and love.
The Stepfamily Handbook is one of our favorite tools for navigating the roller coaster of building a blended family.
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