It took me twelve years to recognize my step-father as my Dad — and I wish it had happened a lot sooner

Guest post by Samantha Jane

My mom and Dad, Mike.
Since I’ve spent just under half of my life as a child of a single parent, I never thought I’d be able to pinpoint the exact day I finally got a Dad of my own. I grew up with my Mom, two brothers, and my (maternal) Grandma. I had a few male role models throughout my childhood — mostly family members like my Uncle, Grandpa, and my younger brother’s dad — but they came and went without trouble and I wasn’t too concerned with why they didn’t stick around. After all, they weren’t my father — they had their own lives and their own things to do… which didn’t include raising me.

My biological father was never a part of my life, and I never agonized much over that. I was pretty happy with my childhood and my Mom worked really hard to successfully wear the hypothetical “Mom” and “Dad” hats. I suppose that my biological father being absent from the get-go made it such that I couldn’t miss what I never had. Everything changed when I was eleven years old and my mom married a wonderful man. He adopted me twelve years ago, but only recently became my Dad.

In 1999 when my Dad, Mike, married my Mom, I think he could only be described as a very courageous man. I was eleven and my brothers were eight and fifteen. I can remember overhearing a family therapist that we visited telling my parents that this time, at the ages we were all at, was the worst possible time for Mike to make his appearance in our life. We were bratty and far from accepting this alien man into our lives. I can only speak for myself when I say that his entrance happening while I was on the cusp of becoming a teenager was a terrible time indeed. Yet he persevered and adopted my older brother and I, knowing that he was walking into a minefield. Looking back now I wonder if I may have confused courage for insanity. Regardless, I couldn’t be happier that he did.

All this turmoil, and we just waited like sitting ducks for Mike to get fed up and bail out — but he never did.

All of a sudden my “fatherless” brother and I went from being damaged goods to diamonds in the rough. It took me years to realize that Mike was in it for the long haul. Believe me, I seized every opportunity to test his patience and will — from the “you’re not my Dad, you can’t tell me what to do” phase all the way through the “I’m sixteen and you still can’t tell me what to do” phase. Having a father figure was fun! My Mom was tough and didn’t take any flack from us, and we learned all too quickly that Mike would fight back with us. We’d bicker and argue until my Mom would get home and put a stop to the madness. We’d divide and conquer to get what we wanted and then laugh about it when we knew we pulled the wool over their eyes. All this turmoil, and we just waited like sitting ducks for Mike to get fed up and bail out — but he never did.

Seeing my Dad with my niece and my daughter just made me wish that he came into my life a lot earlier than he did. Once it even made me wish that he “really were” my Dad. Biologically, I mean. It wasn’t until my son was born four months ago that I realized that Mike really IS my Dad. It isn’t about blood or the quantity of time we’ve spent together. It’s about so many other, more important things, like the love we have for each other. The bond that we share is just between us. It’s about the memories of him that I hold so close to my heart, like him teaching me how to drive when I was 16, and walking me down the aisle at my wedding.

Twelve years have passed since my Dad adopted me and I only started calling him Dad four months ago. He was right next to me when my son was born and I named my son after him because my dad, Mike, is the best thing that ever happened to me. Never in a million years did I think that my relationship with my Dad would be what it is today. The wonderful man who became my mother’s husband thirteen years ago, who became my legal parent twelve years ago, finally became my Dad four months ago. I will never find the words to thank him — not just for putting up with me all these years, but for loving me as much as he does, and for never EVER giving up on me. Because to me, that is what makes a step-father a real Dad.

Comments on It took me twelve years to recognize my step-father as my Dad — and I wish it had happened a lot sooner

  1. I am so glad you were able to accept him as your father. My husband is lucky enough to have two dad, (plus a mom). The first a bio-dad who is very much the traditional 1950’s dad where children earn love. The second one wears his heart on his sleve when it comes to my husband. He is my mother-on-laws 2nd husband and we call him Pop. Now that we have a child it is so nice to have so many adults who love us and our son. You can never have too much love.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes as I am living a somewhat similar situation. My father was evicted from our (my brother’s mom’s and mine) lives when I was 15, 11 years ago. He had become what I am now able to recognize as very sick and we were all suffering from terrible violence from his part. My mom met a wonderfull person about a year later. He was so loving and caring and really nice with my brother and I. Life being what it had bein for us, things weren’t always easy for my parents back then. I needed my space and left home, rarely speaking to them. My brother sank deeper into mental illness. It’s only when my mother decided to have the state take custody of him so that she could continue to have a motherly relationship with him that they decided to get married.

    When I got pregnant, I asked him if he would like to be Mathilde’s grandpa and he said yes! It’s about at that point that I started to refer to them both as my parents. I never called him dad, nor asked him to be. It’s just not what we need I think. But I like to know he’s part of the team that makes my parents 🙂

    Etienne takes being a grandpa VERY seriously! He loves my daughter so much and the twinkle in his eye when he sees her can only come from grandpa love. I’ve come to terms with my childhood, my own dad and the fact that he was sick. I’m also able to remember some sweet memories from childhood I could never think of before.

    I’m so happy that Etienne is Mathilde’s grandpa because he is a wonderfull man and person and the love he shares with my mom is pretty inspiring. I’m glad I made that decision and it made me realize (again!) that it really isn’t all about blood or whatever 🙂

  3. This was so touching to read! I am fortunate to have a very close relationship with my dad. Relationships with one’s father can be so important, but they don’t have to be biological. It’s all about being able to connect with a child and make them your priority. There’s really no better feeling in the world than knowing that someone loves you unconditionally, regardless of blood ties.

  4. What a great story! My favorite grandfather (I had three) was actually my step-grandfather, and he only met my grandmother a few years before I was born. My mother adored him too–in many ways he was a better father to her than her own ever was.

  5. This made me cry… My mom started dating my stepdad when I was 7, and my sisters and I would always play fight him and call him mean names… I didn’t realize how much I loved him until he had a heart attack and died when I was 15… One of the only things I regret in life is not calling him “Dad” sooner…

  6. My Dad fell in love with my mom when I was 3, she was 28, and he was 21. Looking back now, I can’t believe that he took me on. His family thought he was crazy, and I fought him tooth and nail when I was entering my teens. But he did, and was there too to walk me down the aisle, and will be there to build all sorts of things for his grandchildren!

    Even though his family still has a hard time accepting me as a “real” child of his, I don’t care. If they can’t see that love is greater than being a blood relative, I can’t control it.

    Good to read this and know there are other amazing men out there like my pop!

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