A Guest Post by Dad/Blogger Extraordinaire Keith Kendrick
Originally posted at reluctanthousedad.com
hate the term ‘stepfather’. For me, it conjures up images of distance, not intimacy.The media have turned it into a term of suspicion (and thanks to Cinderella, stepmothers have it worse!)
Even in these modern times of complicated, ‘blended’ families, eyebrows are raised when a husband’s relationship with his wife’s daughter is a ‘step’ one.
But I am one. Legally. I am married to the mother of my wife’s daughter. And I use the term ‘stepdaughter’ all the time, both in the blogs I write about parenting, but also to everyone who, on introduction, asks: ‘So, is this your daughter?’ To which I reply, ‘No. She’s my stepdaughter.’
But I never use the term stepfather, or Stepdad within our family. And nor does my, er, stepdaughter. We call each other by our names: in her case, Daisy, or Dais; in my case, ‘Beef’, or ‘Cheeseglasses’ (don’t ask!).
It is this informality between us that makes my relationship with her very different to the one I have with my two sons. I am very much ‘Dad’ to them, and I am very proud of that fact.
Logic, therefore, suggests I not proud of being Daisy’s Stepdad. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. I am immensely proud of the 10 year-old girl who has been part of my life since she was one year old. And I am immensely proud of the relationship I have with her.
Occasionally, this is frustrating for both of us. If one of my sons is upset, I pull them onto my lap, stroke their hair and kiss their tears away. If one of my sons steps out of line or back chats, I give them hell. I am their dad. It’s my job.
But I don’t feel comfortable doing either of these things with Daisy.
I put myself in her father’s shoes, and imagine how he would feel if his life and soul was being cuddled and comforted by a man who wasn’t him. I put myself in his shoes and imagine how defensive and protective he would feel if a man who wasn’t her dad was tearing several strips off her in the way I do my sons.
So I keep my distance.
And instead, what has developed over the years, is not a father/stepfather relationship with her, but a friendship.
Yes, she’s only 10, but she’s an ‘old’ 10. She’s finding her way in the world; she’s full of questions and curiousity. And it’s me she turns to with these questions.
It’s a different relationship to the one she has with her mum or her dad. She tells me stuff she wouldn’t never tell them – and I would never tell them, either.
It might be struggles with homework; it might be issues with classmates. But she comes to me because she knows I’ll listen; because she knows I’ll never break a confidence. Because she knows I won’t judge her.
Yes, I’m her Stepdad, and I have all the stepfatherly responsibilies of feeding, clothing, running around and nagging.
But hopefully, with my own approach to step-parenting, I will never have to suffer that moment of teenage rebellion when one’s stepkid reacts to an instruction with the cruel retort: ‘You can’t tell me what to do – YOU’RE NOT MY DAD.’
No, I’m not. Never pretended to be. Never want to be. I’m ‘Beef’. And to me, my wife’s daughter will always be Daisy. Mates. Forever. Hopefully.