Have you ever been a step-parent? Have you ever been a stepchild? I grew up in a house where I had both of my biological parents there. Did you notice that I did not use the word ‘home’, that I simply said house? Just because I had both of my biological parents living within the same four walls as I did, this did not mean that it was automatically a ‘home’. I had a great Mom but my Dad was severely lacking in his human skills. I left home at 17 because of how much of a hell-hole he made of our family life. He died when I was 37 and it took me till I was about 40 before I could forgive him of his ways toward me. Only when I was able to say to myself that he really was an ‘a–hole’ and that he also was mentally ill before I was able to forgive him. I know that I asked my Mom a couple of times before she died if Dad really was my Dad, asking her if maybe Dad thought that I really wasn’t his as I was trying to find a way to come to grips with how horribly he treated me and if there really was a ‘why’ that made any sense. I thought that if maybe he thought that I really wasn’t his, that if he thought Mom had cheated on him that this might be the reason he was such an a– toward me but she told me no both times about the issue. There is an old term about ‘beating you like you’re a redheaded step child’ that might come into play with me but that wasn’t it, I am of his own blood. I brought this up because I was the only blonde child and the only left-handed child, so I thought, well maybe. I did not ever experience a step-parent situation even though I honestly felt having no Dad in our house would have been much better than having a hate filled drunken maniac dominating our household.
I grew up determined not to be anything like my Dad’s example of a human being though I did make many parenting mistakes of my own. I married a lady in Texas who had a son who was 11 at the time we met and married, he is now 46 and married with a child/son of his own and as far as I know he is a great Dad who loves his son very much. 17 years ago I remarried to a lady in Florida who had a son who was 6 at the time, his biological Dad had committed suicide when he was 4. This son was a bit difficult because he didn’t believe or understand that both of us really did love him. He was about 16 before he actually ‘got it’, once he did see that light he now for the past 7 years has become a great child to both of us, especially to me. He is now 23 and a year ago his Mom and I bought a house that has a full 3 bedroom 1 bath apartment with a ‘walkout’ basement. One of the big factors in buying this house was so that he could live there if he wanted to, and he did.
Ten years ago his Mom and I would never have thought he could come so far in his development as a person, as an adult. I am sure that none of the three of us would have thought that after he turned 18 that he would want anything to do with us or quite frankly us to do with him. What changed him? I believe it was him coming to the understanding of the fact that he really was loved, by both of us. He is a grown man now, there is nothing that says he has to live in this basement apartment, he chooses to. A couple of years ago he told me something that really stuck in my heart, that meant a whole lot to me. He told me, “Dad, all the good that is in me is because of you”. When a child you have raised loves you even when they are adults and there is nothing that says they have to do so or to even pretend that they do, that is very gratifying to one’s Soul. About 20 or so odd years ago there was a Country Music song that came out called “the Dad he doesn’t have to be” about a man stepping into a marriage with a woman who had a son already and how this man performed his role as a Dad. I am blessed to have two sons who were not biological to me that still love me, even though they do not have any obligation to have to do so. This is why the title of this note to you “the son he doesn’t have to be.” I am a strong believer in blood family yet I have learned that blood alone does not guarantee they will love you. I have also learned that someone who is not blood to you can still absolutely be “family” and love you even more that those who are blood to you do.