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When I was four years old, I vaguely remember my mom introducing me to her new boyfriend. I was a bit skeptical of this quiet-but-kind guy. Alternatively, he had a chatterbox son two years younger than me who, despite his talkative nature, was fun to play with. Eventually, the quiet guy and chatty son would become my stepdad and stepbrother.
Divorce is hard, even when both parents agree and try to get along during the transition. As material items are separated and weekends and holidays are divided up, heart strings are pulled and emotions are strained.
But there can be a silver lining to it all: The step parent. In my case, I ended up having a wonderful “bonus dad.” He balanced his role as a male, father figure in my life with being a cool person I could chat with.
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Stepdads don’t have to replace biological dads. I was extremely fortunate to have my real dad heavily involved in my life growing up (he lived 20 minutes down the road), as well as a stepdad.
While I don’t have advice on divorce, I can share why and how having a stepdad enriched my youth and my life as an adult.
They’re Just Plain Fun
Stepdads get to have all the fun! While some stepdads may need to fill in as a disciplinarian, they often lean toward the fun side — at least mine did. A new man in a kid’s life can be intimidating, so when silly, light-hearted activities can be added to the mix, it builds trust and memories.
They’re a Confidant
Here’s where my stepdad shined. When I entered my teen years, my emotions came in like a wrecking ball. My mom and I would have epic screaming battles. We slammed doors. We shouted hurtful comments.
Every time, I would go up to my room and sit on my bed, my anger raging. My stepdad come and sit on my bed and be “Sweden.” He would listen without judgement and would wait until I was finished talking before giving advice. When it came from him, it just made sense. I could trust him.
Stepdads can have a special way of calming the waters and speaking to both sides. It’s like a third party everyone can trust.
They’re There for the Long Haul
Some parents are married forever. Many aren’t. Some remarry, and that marriage dissolves, too. For me, both my parents divorced twice. That’s another article.
What I love about my stepdad is that even after he and my mom divorced, he continued to be in my life. Like a “real parent,” his role didn’t disappear after he was no longer legally connected to me. For 17 years he was my stepdad, and he’s continued to be my stepdad and a bonus grandpa to my children.
Stepdads — the good ones — are there through thick and thin. Marriage and titles are only what we make of them. You don’t even have to be someone’s legal dad or stepdad or guardian to make an impact. You just have to be present.