© Pressmaster | Dreamstime.com
I wasn’t angry, but a twinge of jealousy ran up my spine. I even felt slightly light headed for a moment. I looked away from the computer screen to stare at the bare wall ahead of me as I breathed in several deep, cleansing breaths. Once my nerves had calmed, I went on with my daily routine, trying my best to ignore what, in truth, I immediately understood: From now on, another man would have the opportunity to spend more time with my son than me.
While I attempted to disregard this realization for the first few days, the knowledge that I needed to accept it kept popping up like an hourly chime. I had already come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t necessarily be there when my son rode a bike for the first time, but I still needed to accept that another man might be the one running behind him.
My father and grandfathers had always been my heroes. All three were men of great fortitude, men who were present and devoted to their families. All fathers want to be a hero to their sons, and I feared my own son would sidestep me for his more present stepfather.
That Saturday morning, I loaded my boy into his booster seat, and pulled out of the drive. He turned to wave goodbye to his mom and her new husband, who were standing in the doorway smiling. Important decisions can only be held at bay for so long, and I still had a choice to make. I could cling to the jealousy I felt or accept my time as a gift and make the most of it. I reminded myself that jealousy is based in insecurity, and I accepted that I was scared this new male role model in my son’s life would minimize my influence.
I’ve always found that once a fear is truly acknowledged, it can be set aside, so I made myself a promise. I vowed to not live a life based on insecurity. I would enjoy the moments I had with my child instead of dwelling on those I might miss.
Several years later, there have been countless other photographs of day trips and vacations. Every Wednesday night, I watch and smile as my son hugs his mother and stepfather goodbye before we leave to spend our weeknight together. I have seen the bond the two of them have forged and now, I can admit to you, I am grateful for this man.
While I was dealing with my jealousy, my son’s stepfather also had to make a powerful decision. In fact, I believe his decision was more formidable than mine. He had to choose to give over his home life to a child not biologically his. His every evening would be spent, not only with the woman he decided to marry, but with the family he decided to marry into. You can’t do that just because you fall in the love with a child’s mother. He also had to devote his life also to this child, my child, and help create a home where my son would feel secure, safe, and loved. While I had to give up my insecurity, he was pledging to furnish security.
One thing I am grateful for is that, in many respects, my son’s stepfather is my exact opposite. Nothing reflects this more than our interests in sports. While I have never been a team player, opting instead for the singular activity of skateboarding, his stepfather has been able to show him basketball and baseball. These games have quickly become my son’s favorites, too. Now, he skateboards with me every other weekend, and plays basketball with his stepfather during the week. This has allowed me to have a specific activity to share and enjoy with my son that forges a bond between us, while he gets to develop in another direction with his stepfather.
All of this isn’t to say it’s become easier for me to drop my son off at his mother’s house and go a week without seeing him. It isn’t. Every time I hug him goodbye and pull out of the driveway, I am struck by the quiet that slowly envelops me. The hum of the car engine, the hollow feeling of the house — yet it isn’t just the lack of sound. It’s my son’s youthful life force that is sorely absent from my home. It’s then that I remind myself of the home he now fills, and am thankful that it is a happy one.
I’ve heard countless stories of stepfathers who misrepresent themselves to the world. Very seldom do I hear the stories of the stepfathers who choose the opposite, who embrace completely a responsibility not born to them, and accept it as their own. From one father to another, I would like to personally thank him, and the many other men out there who are giving their time and energy. You are sharing in the rewards of fatherhood with those of us that can’t be there every day. Although we seldom acknowledge your role, what you do is noticed and appreciated.