What I’ve learned about being a Step-dad

Category : Holidays

One Day Weekends & Road Trips

Being a step dad is a full time job, even if you don’t have the kid’s full time.  It’s not always easy finding things to do with them, especially with our restricted budget.  Fairs are great fun, but can run up to 40-50 bucks for a few quick rides and some ice-cream.  A movie is terrible expensive and given the large range in ages 8, 17, and parents it’s not easy to find something that everyone can agree on.  Not to mention that the little one’s father usually takes her to see the kid friendly movies of the week.  So we’re forced to find economically maintainable activities for each weekend.  Sure sometimes it’s just us staying home doing what’s available around the house, but we’d rather get out and do things.  Fortunate for me, the kids don’t shy away from doing things that are “educational”; of course we’re slowly starting to run out of places to go.  Recently however we’ve been seeking out dog parks to take our puppy.  We found this wonderful one in Bay Shore called Gardiners County Park.  It was a lot of fun, there’s a long path that you walk down and at the end is the ocean.   The fun part was while we were walking down the path we had no idea that the other end held the ocean.  So all the dogs and their owners were coming back down the path toward us soaked and dirty.  Now just to clarify why this was so much more fun for me than it should have been, my wife is crazy about keeping everything clean.  The dog got 3 baths in one week because of her disposition to cleanliness.  And here we are walking toward a big old area for the dog to get just as dirty as he possibly can.  I could feel her worry grow with each passing mud packed tail wagging pup.  Of course the comments of the owners were helpful too “Boy that’s one clean puppy”, and “Someone keeps you very clean”.  All I could do was smile, I knew no matter what happened at the end of this path I was sure that not only was the dog going to be a mess but my wife just might get a bit messy herself.  Eventually we got to the end of the path which spilled into a small beach were the dogs and owners could get a little wet in waves of the ocean water.  There wasn’t much of an undertow from the waves, and they were only inches high, nothing like the waves at Jones Beach or anything.  Just slight waves like an active lake would have.  Unfortunately the dog didn’t like the water too much so there wasn’t much of a mess.  I ended up getting the wettest in my attempt to coerce the pup into the water with a treat.  This worked but once he got the treat ran back on shore.  We met a family with a similar dog there and talked a bit.  Eventually we left, walking the trail back to the beginning.  We found Mr. Softy there and enjoyed some time together with a bit of teasing and laughing and all the little things that make moments like this memorable and fun.  It was then that I realized that all the people that were around us enjoying their time didn’t stop to think if I was a dad or a step-dad, all I was doing was being I.  When I was a kid and went out with my family on little trips and what not, I didn’t think I had to act like my parents son.  And with that same idea when we as parents/step-parents go out we don’t think we have to act like the parent of these children.  Ultimately we have to just be ourselves, and as long as we do that, as step parents, we’ll get the respect we suspect a parent would get.

This past Monday we went to Pennsylvania to go visit my 19 year old who’s away in school.  Since the wife and I both had the day off from work, we thought we’d just take a quick day trip to go have lunch and have the family all together for a few hours.  What a trip…  This was a sort of test run for me, as next week I’ll be driving the family out to Hershey Park, Gettysburg, Lancaster, and all those other wonderful places around there.  And I’ll be doing that for a week.  So it should be interesting.  But that’s for next week’s post.  This week were talking about what can be done in one day.  And the day trip we took this last Monday was fun.  One of the big things you learn about the kids is their taste in music.  I, as the driver, always expect that the music that is played is according to my choice.  Let’s face it; I’m the one who’s driving here.  It’s not like I get to take a nap, read a book, stare off into the passing world, or generally speak on nothing in particular.  Well… Ok, maybe I can do that last one.  But the rest I’m bared from.  I’m driving after all.  I personally love the beach bum music, but there’s never any to be found, I enjoy good country but I know I’m the only one in the car that would, the only thing left that I like to listen to that doesn’t make me want to vomit is Classic Rock.  I’m sure as #@&* not going to put on any rap or other such nonsense music.  We went the entire two hours there listening to classic rock, and then for the entire 2 hours we were there we listened to classic rock.  But once we were on the road again heading home the meek little voice of my 17 year old decides she’s had enough of the classic rock.  After some unsuccessful attempts at different music selections that would enjoy too I decided to put the radio on scan.  Now for those who don’t know, scan is a setting most of today’s radios have.  It plays a station for about 30 seconds and then it changes to the next station it finds up the dial, and then repeats this process.  I tell my 17 year old to tell me when to stop.  About 15 minutes later I realize that we’ve gone through all the stations at least 3 times and no one has said a word.  Finally I asked why she hasn’t stopped me.  No one even really noticed that the radio was flipping through the stations for the past 15 minutes.  Sure once I piped up, everyone said they were wondering what I was doing, but the changing stations was apparently less annoying to my 17 year old than the classic rock I was listening too… I worry for the future of music.  The funniest thing about the whole music issue was that her maid complaint about the music was that it all sounded the same…  Classic rock all sounds the same?  And you’re comparing this to what?  Brittany Spears, or maybe Beyonce, maybe even Justin Beber?  Want to talk about music all sounding the same?  It’s amazing what you can learn about your kids when they’re hot and tired in the back seat of a long car ride home.

My nephew and his friends made up this very fun game and I’ve been playing it with him for what seems like forever.  And it’s a great car ride game.  It’s called … well it doesn’t actually have a name, but we’ll just call it the Twinkie Game.  The idea is to get the most points from spotting a twinkly while on the road.  But a Twinkie isn’t what you might think.  Not it’s not a yellow cake filled with white filling.  But instead it’s a yellow vehicle.  Now as it is a game here’s the rules.  1. Taxi Cabs and School Busses don’t count.  2. It must be self propelled by a mechanical engine.  3.  It must have at least two wheels.  4. You only get one point per Twinkie.  Now my mom and sister play this game too, and they like to call out extra points for unique Twinkies that they see, i.e. “Twinkie Plane, 10 point”.  Personally I feel that the harder Twinkies to find are the motorcycles so if any should be more points it’s that.  My little one likes to call out extra points for Twinkie punch buggies, and I always let her call whatever she wants.  Because once she starts loosing she gives up and quits.  As a matter of fact on the ride home she says ” I’m not playing anymore, but that doesn’t mean you win, cause I won and that the end of the game” of course I continued to play but she wouldn’t recognize any of the points I was getting.  Not that anyone else in the car was playing.  The older one only plays to beat out her sister whom in turn she does that in turn ends the game as the little doesn’t want to play anymore and if she’s not playing then there’s no point for the older one to play and I’m left high and dry wanting to just play and not getting anywhere…  But that’s their relationship that how they are going to grow with each other.  The older one will always be trying to prove that the little one is too young to “hang” with her, and the little one will always be trying to prove that she can “hang” with her.  Little do they both know that they are being forced to “hang” with me… oh and the wife too, of course.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to just spend time with your kids, even if it’s doing nothing.  Sooner or later a smile will pop out from somewhere and you’ll find that little connection can build big bonds between you.

As I mentioned I’m going away next week with the family.  So the chances of seeing a publishing an article next Saturday is pretty slim.  If you would like to “Step” up and try your hand at writing an article one week, I’m more than happy to leave the floor open to you.  Just shoot me an email and we’ll discuss it. I’ll have access to my email on my phone but it’s no good for publishing these articles.

Last Day of School & First Day of Work

Ah, remember those days sitting in the classroom with everyone including the teacher staring at the wall clock waiting for that final bell to ring, the sweat dripping from your forehead and back because the AC wasn’t on.  And all you can think about is getting out for the ENTIRE summer.  Tic toc tic toc tic toc…  The seconds just keep plucking away, and you finally realize just how much time you spend in each classroom.  And finally it happens, the bell rings.  You run out to your locker, pull everything out and dump it on the floor and head for the door.  We were all set up for disappointment it seems…  My office for one doesn’t break for summer.  I can’t pull the contents of my desk and office and toss it on the floor.  Nope, I’m here day in and day out, no summer break but for a single week when I’ve accrued the adequate time to take a small vacation.  So what better way to save our kids from this disappointment than to send them off to work themselves.  It may seem a little cruel to take away a summer of nothing but fun for these kids, but think about it this way.  Do you remember how good it felt when you paid for something with your own hard earned cash, something you wanted, and something you worked for?  I want to give the opportunity for this feeling to my kids, so they will work through their summers.  Sure, I’ll still help them however they need, but if they can do it on their own they’ll feel much better about it.  It all comes down to that old fisherman tail “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man too fish and he’ll eats for a lifetime”.

Now working is great and I’m all for them paying their own way with things.  But…  and it’s a big but.  The opportunity to volunteer their time is better.  Sure, they don’t get paid, but they get an experience and an even better feeling of accomplishment than getting paid can ever give you.  Now remember last week I told you how we go to the library every weekend.  Well, my 17 year old got a volunteer job at the library.  She goes for an hour a day to help out.  Of course she’d be there an hour a day if not more anyway, but that’s not that important.  What is important is the sense of responsibility and the willingness to follow through on those responsibilities.  This is good for me too, because when I was her age guess where I worked?  Yup, at the library.  Of course I wasn’t volunteering, I got paid, but still.  The point is that it’s something we share in common, something we can talk about and share stories about.  It’s all about finding those little things that you can bond with them on.  And you’ll find that to be a common theme in all my posts, finding a way to make every experience a bonding one.

There’s another saying that comes to mind when we think of Summer time for kids out of school…  but before I share it let me say, I’m not one of those crusading Christians or anything, as a matter of fact I’m actually a Wicca (but more on that later).  Now here it is “Idle hands do the devils work”.  What I mean is that if they’ve got things to do than they don’t have time to get themselves into trouble.  Of course my kids are perfect so I don’t have to worry about that…  yeah right. Given enough idle time and boredom kids can find ways to do stupid things even if they’re the most brilliant minds you’ve met. Not that I have any experience with that…

(Step) Father’s Day

Father’s Day.  It’s a big deal for all the dads out there, and a huge question mark for all us step fathers.  We’re never quite sure where we fit into the father’s day puzzle. Sure, we celebrate Fathers, Grand Fathers, God Fathers, but do we celebrate Step Fathers?  All the others have been there since day one, but we step fathers…  We haven’t.

I remember celebrating father’s day with my father.  Every year my school had these little flea market type things in the cafeteria the week of Fathers day and Mothers day.  And every year my mother or father would have to give me a few dollars to buy a gift at the flea market for the other on their respective day.  Eventually those days passed and we had to start remembering these things on our own.  By the time I started to remember and prepare for father’s day, my reason for celebrating it at all was gone.  There were still plenty of other people celebrating the day, and I often found myself wishing a happy father’s day to people that weren’t my father.  So I got used to the idea of celebrating a father’s day for someone that wasn’t my father before my own step father came along.  Of course once he did, it was a bit awkward.  It was like starting all over again; my mother would constantly have to remind me that its father’s day and that I should get something for Pop.  Of course some of that had to deal more with my own teenage selfishness, but it also had to deal with the idea that Pop was now the father I should be celebrating.  Like I’ve said before he is a good guy, and worth the celebration, I just wasn’t sure what to do.  Eventually though I got over it.  Sure these days I’m being reminded of these dates by others, but that’s more because I’m a forgetful person and not a teenager dealing with his selfish phase.

Over the last 13 years now, I’ve actually been celebrated on father’s day by my nephew who I’m the God Father too.  But this past year was the first Fathers day that was celebrated for me where I was the actual father.  The little one enjoys celebrating anything as long as she gets some sweets.  The then 16 year old however was a different story.  She wasn’t all that interested in the day at all.  Not because she’d rather spend it with someone else, but more seemingly because she didn’t know who or why to celebrate it at all.  This year however, I hope she’ll know and want to celebrate.

The big thing to remember here is this.  You can’t expect it.  You can’t want it.  You can’t even wish it.  Father’s day is about other people recognizing you for the father you are.  This isn’t something we can force.  It’s either appreciated or it isn’t.  So my suggestion to all you step parents out there who aren’t sure what to do on Sunday, just be happy if they try to do anything, even the smallest remembrance is worth it.  And don’t forget the bio father has been celebrating this day with them since the day they were born.  Traditions are necessary and shouldn’t be touched by us step parents, ever.  We have a strange job, us step parents.  We have to nurture not only the relationship between the step children and ourselves, but also the rest of the family (including the bio-father, or bio-mother).