So here I am approaching my sixty second birthday. Sixty-two doesn’t sound so bad when you consider that I have an aunt who is approaching her one-hundred-and-second birthday. I called my aunt on Mother’s Day. Although her hearing and eyesight aren’t what they used to be, she’s still sharp as a tack. Before she goes to bed every night, she spends some time reflecting on her long life. She raised two boys on her own and ran her own business. She could play the piano and had a pretty good singing voice. She was always tough, but she had to be. She has outlived two husbands, all of her friends, and one of her children. In my comparatively short sixty-two years I’ve had a chance to reflect on my own life. Choices good and bad, the best laid plans that aft gang agley, like my first marriage. That marriage didn’t last very long and there were no children. When I remarried, my second wife came with a pretty cool car (a vintage Stingray) and two children, a fifteen-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter. Now I was facing one of the toughest jobs on the planet… step parent.
Fortunately for me, their biological father was pretty much out of the picture. That made things a little easier. At least I didn’t have to compete with anyone.
I’m not what you would call a fun guy. But I tried to be the fun dad. Take it from me, it doesn’t work. It was easier with my step daughter. I surprised her with Riding Camp when she turned ten years old, and I built stables for her Breyer Horse collection. She wanted a fish tank; I got her a fish tank. She wanted to play the violin; I bought her a violin. Is anyone out there interested in buying a violin?
It was a much tougher with my step-son. He was turning sixteen so we indulged him with a car. HUGE MISTAKE! When he blew it up I paid for a new engine. EVEN BIGGER MISTAKE!
It was also tough on him. He was taken away from all of his friends, his school, and his whole way of life. I was the lucky so-in-so who got him when he was at his most rebellious and fell in with the wrong crowd at school. I didn’t know how to relate to my step-son and he didn’t know how to relate to me. To tell you the truth, I don’t know how either of us made it through those years. My toughest lesson was learning how not to be the fun parent. Learning how to say NO! That was tough. My daughter wasn’t used to a step-dad who said no. My daughter is now twenty-four.
Then there was the problem of what to call me. My step-son called me by my first name. My step-daughter didn’t call me anything. It was only through my wife that I found out she referred to me as her dad in front of friends. It took years before she called me ‘dad’ to my face, and even more years for my son to call me ‘dad,’ though he feels more comfortable calling me ‘Pops,’ which I don’t mind. I called my own father, ‘Pop.’ My son’s now twenty-nine years old and married. We get along very well. I just wish he wouldn’t kiss me on top on my head.
The toughest thing about being a step-parent is that you never share that instant bond I’m told people feel with their biological children. It’s never there and it’s the biggest void you can experience. You’re their dad, but you’re never really Dad. You can’t be. That’s something every step-parent lives with.
So that’s what I reflect on. What do I look forward to? Walking my step-daughter down the aisle and maybe in the not-too-distant future, holding my first grandchild in my arms who will only know me as ‘grandpa.’
D. G. Weiss