An Open Letter to my Stepfather

Senior Man Smiling

To my Stepfather:

Thank you for sticking with me.

I was a teenager when we met. You came into my life at a time of change, attempted independence, and confusion over my parents’ separation. Anger greeted you for the first time. Rebellion refused to eat dinner with you and Mom. Loyalty didn’t speak to you when we sat in the same room. Spite moved out of your house without a goodbye or thank you for the hospitality.

Thank you for sticking with me.

Depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder consumed much of my twenties. Then came the therapy, therapy, therapy. I decided that moving away was the cure – new cities, new jobs, new friends. Conscience followed me like a long October shadow, and as you know, I always returned – sometimes to your home as a free place to stay.

Thank you for sticking with me.

Sometime around your wedding to Mom, I began to see things in a slightly new light. I saw your happiness together, outside of my ideas and expectations of my own family. I saw you for who you are – your kindness, your patience, and your generosity. I saw clearly and deliberately for the first time. And no matter what my attitude had been, I was always invited to your dinner table, I was welcomed to a week in Mexico with you and Mom, and a few days in Amsterdam where the three of us explored the city, the canals, and the white beer.

Thank you for sticking with me.

We have come a long way since those first days. No, that’s not right. I have come a long way. You were always kind. And now, in some kind of circular-life-happenstance, I am also a stepparent. Like you, I met and fell in love with someone who is a loving parent to two children. And so, after all those years, all those struggles, all those emotions, what does this mean? What have I learned? Well, a great deal actually, and it starts with this…

Thank you for sticking with me.

From you I have learned the value of being humble, of being patient, of being there for others from the sidelines. Watching you and Mom together has shown me what partnership looks like. I put that lesson to work every day with my husband. When I met his kids, I spent a lot of time thinking about my role and what that should look like. I knew that I wanted to be a loving person in their lives, to support them in whatever they chose to do, to be patient with them as they navigated their own lives and their changing family. I think, so far, I’ve done a pretty good job with that. I also know that I have you to thank for that guidance. I know right now you might be reading this and thinking I must be talking about someone else, because no way did you teach me those lessons! Right? Well, again that is another measure of your character. I’ve known for many years that I could go to you with questions or concerns, and you would give me advice and encouragement – without pushing one way or the other. You’ve shown quiet pride in both me and my brother, and I think about that often as I take the kids somewhere special, help them with their reading, cook dinner for them, and most recently, take them on their first plane trip back to their mom for the school year. I watched her hug and embrace them – her babies that she hadn’t seen all summer – and as I hugged them goodbye (for a little while anyway), I felt happy and secure in my place. My role. My job. I’m a part of their lives, I’m support and love for them. I’m cheering from the sidelines, but I’m cheering loudly.

Thank you for teaching me.

Now Matt and I have a new baby on the way, and this little one is so lucky already. A Mom and Dad who love them, a brother and sister to play with, a Grandad, a Grandma and a Grandpa. Because of course you will be a Grandpa, with just as important a role as my Mom and Dad.

Thank you for everything.

Breathe deep, love deeper,

Erin

 

Erin Careless PhotoErin Careless is a PhD Candidate in Adult Education, focusing on stepmom learning. As a certified Stepfamily Coach, Erin provides support and help to stepmoms through her business, Steplife – Stepmom Coaching and Support. Erin and her husband Matt share their home with his two little ones – 9 year-old Oliver and 7 year-old Waverleigh.

 

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