Father's Day, like many holidays for blended families, is complicated in our house. The girls, armed with a blackberry pie and homemade art projects, left this morning to spend the day with their biological father. Cliff and I will spend the evening with the boys making dinner (hamburgers and tater-tots) and celebrating the man that gave them life and has been there for each milestone. Being teenage boys, they don't express how they feel about him, but it's obvious how much they love and respect him when you see them interact.
But what about the girls? What about the stepfather role? I won't mince words. It's rough. He does the heavy lifting, providing for us and offering shelter from every storm with his strength and steadfast heart. It's a thankless role. Preteen and teenage girls are mostly self-centered, concerned with friends and clothes and school. They’re messy and expensive and moody. If they realize all he does, they certainly don't express it.
When we took our vows last summer, we included our children, promising to do our very best to love and support them. It's one thing to fall in love and pledge loyalty and forever love to one another. But taking on one another’s children is daunting. It takes courage and grit and a huge amount of faith. Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for Cliff's willingness to take the leap of faith and join me on this wild ride. Three blonds for the price of one.
Cliff makes it look easy. However, I know the truth. We're bewildering, yet he holds his tongue. I can only imagine what he thinks on a daily basis. Why is she crying again? How could one girl need that many shoes? Making cookies, but it's nine p.m. Another show on CW?
So, Happy Father’s Day to the man who never complains and sacrifices without expecting retribution. Happy Father’s Day to the man who puts up with messy bathrooms and buys dresses for dances and sets up blind tastes tests to determine the best ice cream.
It's a thankless job. I know.
That said, despite their current behavior, my girls have good characters. Someday they will think back on these years and realize all their ‘stepfather’ did to raise them into the women they are. I suspect it will be when they have children of their own. Although no one wants their parents to divorce, including mine, it is an indisputable fact that they now have twice the parents loving them. No one ever suffered from too much love.
To all the fathers and stepfathers out there – thanks for showing up, for being there even when we’re acting awful, for being our fierce protectors. Thank you for the sacrifices and decisions you make when only God is watching. The mettle of a man is measured in the gentle moments of fatherhood: sitting in the bleachers at every game, the patient assistance with math homework, listening to the hundredth knock-knock joke, playing catch, learning how to braid hair, watching another cooking show instead of soccer. And, in the case of my own father, the inevitable question, “Did you check the oil before you left?”