You landed yourself in a job that is not always desirable and nothing like what you imagined for your life; you probably would have turned the position down completely if you had read the job description. The notion of “Instant Family” was garbage and there weren’t millions of avenues for stepparent support like there were for conventional parenting.
We weren’t the Brady Bunch and you probably didn’t fall in love with me right off the bat like you did with my parent, and goodness knows I didn’t love you either.
But you made it work in spite of the perilous uphill trajectory we were both on.
You willfully took on the role of a sideline guardian to me and my siblings. You quietly cheered me on from the back of the room for my band concerts, soccer games, and each commemoration of a milestone. I’ll never really know how much it hurt to watch me come parading into the house with my gleaming report card, running straight to the arms of your spouse without acknowledging you in the room. But I knew you still celebrated my victories.
You had the patience to leave discipline to my mom and dad, no matter how much I tested you; you had the maturity to know that even though their marriage was a failure, they were still wonderful parents individually. You never threw it in my face that I’m just like my mom or that I’m following in my dad’s footsteps. You honored my loyalty to them and never made me feel like I had to declare my allegiance to one side or the other in order to gain your affection. Because somewhere in between two silently feuding parents, you realized I needed a friend.
You possessed the astounding grace to put aside all the emotions, hurt feelings, and bitterness to be cordial to your new spouse’s ex so I could enjoy collaborative birthdays with both my parents. At the same time you eased the tension in my other parent; it never occurred to me to thank you for helping them through the darkest time of their life. Somehow you made a blended family completely different than a broken home.
I’m guessing your hardest trial was learning to share your partner with me. Sure, you had a vague idea that someone else’s children would take time, effort, constant supervision, but it was never advertised that you’d have to forfeit your own claim to your new love regularly. Selflessly you recognized that the one thing I needed most in those moments was my parent, and you obliged.
There aren’t many “Best Stepdad Ever” t-shirts or “Happy Stepmother’s Day” cards flooding store shelves, and we both know those cape-less heroes deserve so much more than cheap gift shop accolades. Yet I’m hoping you still were able to see my gratitude when I wanted your opinion on an essay topic, asked you to come to my gymnastics meet, or recommended a good book as I made you a cup of coffee. It’s truly so minuscule but it was my way of showing you that I had room for you in my life.
You were the parent that I never knew I wanted, never knew I needed, and over time you grew as a layer of sediment in my foundation with a slow and steady manner; though the love I have you for might be different than it is for the mom and dad that birthed me, the one we share is resilient and fireproof. Divorce, court rooms, and custody battles are so ugly but somehow I managed to come out ahead of it all, with my parents and stepparents by my side. That’s one heck of a feat.
I’m sorry I never knew how or what to say to explain a stepchild’s perspective on the millions of intricacies that compose our relationship, but I’m glad each tiny fragment is a piece of who I am today. Take all the doubt, the constant worry of whether you’re doing this the right way, and the absolute tight rope walk of emotions that come with stepparenting, and throw them all out. You’re doing the best you can and that’s more than enough.
So for all the years, battles, tears, tiny triumphs, huge defeats, hugs, inside jokes, and for every time we stepkids neglected to say it, thank you for being a dear stepparent.