Shall I write a post since I’ve been away the last couple of days? OK, here’s a quick one.
Today, my brother and sister-in-law took our kids to the airshow. Every year my sister-in-law’s stepdad, an ex-Navy (I think) flyer and owner of an aerospace company in California comes in to take his grandkids (my nephew and niece) to the airshow. Knowing both my partner and I were busy this weekend, and that the kids love planes (the oldest wants to be a pilot and knows every military plane and their specs by heart), my brother invited the two older kids along (their younger brother, 5, was off to his dad’s today).
At the show, my sis-in-law’s stepdad took my stepkids under his wing, so to speak, buying them t-shirts and hats and talking airplane with them all day. He even got them something to bring home for their little brother. He can afford it, but that’s not the point — the point is he went out of his way to make these kids he hadn’t even met before today feel welcome, like part of the family.
This is something I hadn’t realized I was signing up for when I became a step-parent: other people’s kids. As it happens, you aren’t just a parent to your own kids, but to their friends, to your neighbors’ children, to any kid that needs a parental hand. It changes the way you look at children in general; suddenly, you’re the responsible one, and that extends beyond your own family. We just had to talk our daughter’s friend, who is staying the night, out of a full-blown panic attack when she realized she’d left her bag, with her asthma medication, at my brother’s (we’d taken her over when we went to pick up my step-kids). My older step-son is asthmatic, so we have pretty much the same medication here; there was no reason to panic. But try reasoning with a high-strung hyper-ventilating 11-year old! And what it takes is being “fatherly”, talking to her like your own, being the voice of authority and surety that kids need to feel secure.
There’s so much more to this stepdadding business than meets the eye…