STEP-DAD.net

What I’ve learned about being a Step-dad

Archive for June, 2010

Bedtime Stories

Every weekend we make a family trip to the local library (Island Trees Public Library).  Danielle, our 17 year old, loves to read.  She usually gets at least 3 books every time we go, and she finishes them all every time.  I enjoy reading, but I couldn’t possible gobble up a book the way she does.  Our youngest, the 8 year old, usually gets a few books but then don’t touch them till it’s time to take them back.  This past week however I picked up The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, and for the past week I’ve been reading a chapter to the little one at night before bed.   Most of you, I’m sure, have seen the movie version.  You always hear people say how the books that movies are based off of are so much better.  Well, let’s just add this book to the list.  Everyone knows the opening fantasia scene where you meet the Rockbiter and the little guy on the racing snail and the other character that flies on the bat.  The first chapter of the book goes into detail about who they are, what they’re doing and where they come from that the movie never even touches on.  As a matter of fact I went back and watched the movie just to refresh my memory on the various items in the story.  Now as I read the story to the little one I’m amazed at just how much was cut out of the screen version of the story.  Not that I’m knocking the movie at all, it fit as much as it could in the time it had.  But the book is so interesting, of course the characters names leave you wanting, but you have to remember that the book was written in German and so the fantastical names are even more out there.  If you think you might have had a hard time with some of the Lord of the Rings names while reading those books, you’re going to have a real issue with these names.  Just to make life easier I changed the names a bit (actually I really just shortened or used the movie version of the names).  All in all however, it’s been a lot of fun reading the book to her.  I’ve realized that at the rate we’re going there’s no way we’re going to be able to finish the book by the time it’s due to be returned to the library.  So we’ll just have to rent it again.  The real fun of this whole thing is that I know that this story is going to stay in her mind for ever; it’s certainly staying in mine.  And the memories that we’re making together will stay with her.  The only unfortunate part of this is that when she sees the movie she’s going to be so disappointed that it’s not the movie.  But what can you do, it’s just one of the things we deal with in our entertainment industry.

Just to put this out there, one of the best ways in my opinion to experience a book is to hear it read aloud. Sure you can do some great things with your own imagination when you’re reading, but when you hear someone else reading, your imagination runs even wilder.  At least it does for me.  A movie forces you to accept the movies interpretations, while reading limits your ability to truly get lost in the stories world.  Having it read to you allows you to close your eyes and truly escape into that world.  Orson Scott Card writer of Ender’s Game
speaks about this in the audio book version of his book Ender’s Shadow.  Both of those stories by the way are great books for boys.  As a matter of fact Ender’s Game is listed as one of the books all boys should read according to The Dangerous Book for Boys by Gon and Hal Iggulande.  And for those of you out there that think they would have trouble sitting and reading out loud for any reason, know this, I haven’t said an entire sentence of this book so far perfectly.  I mess up things left and right.  But I keep on going and no one notices.  Even when I give the wrong voice for a line (yes I even do the voices for the different characters) I just keep on going.  Besides all that, it’s so much fun to escape to this fantastic world.  For me it reminds me that I still have a child hidden inside me, and this lets me let him out for a breath of fresh air. Just an FYI, there’s also The Daring Book for Girls by the same author.

This may be a bit off topic, but it’s my parting thought for the week, so deal.  I was sitting in my car having lunch a while back and I was watching a small family of geese.  The mother was meandering along the grass stopping to eat here and there, the father was standing tall looking over the area and watching everything that approached the area and the two little baby geese were eating and bouncing around as they do.  At one point the mother goose decided it was time to move on a bit so she just started to walk away.  The Father continued to watch but followed along slowly.  There were no sounds, no quacks or squawks or whatever the sound that a goose would make.  The chicks saw that mom was leaving and quickly caught up with her only to be followed by dad once they were there.  I kept noticing the same thing happen by the young of many of the mammals in all those animal planet type shows. You can go ahead and make whatever assumption you like from that, but for me it made me realize two things. One, what it is that I should be doing in regards of my family.  My job is pretty simple, keep my family protected.  Of course we humans are bit more complicated in what we have to do, but the same concept still applies.  The other was that the chicks didn’t need to be reprimanded or threatened to do what they should do, it was automatic.  And I leave you with that thought.  Do your kids ever show that type of behavior, or have you noticed it with others?  Thanks everyone for reading, a please feel free to leave a comment.  Especially if you’re looking for some input on a situation, I’m pretty good at listening.  You can also email me at TheStepDad@step-dad.net I’m happy to help where ever I can.  Ciao for now, and Have FUN!

(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).

Teen Drivers

I will never forget my first few driving experiences.  The very first was with my father at the Jones Beach Parking lot.  When I tell you that this was the biggest parking lot I’d ever seen, I mean that if you needed a parking lot that would fit the entire population of Long Island, this was it.  Of course if you have the same car as everyone else that could be a problem.  My uncle later had taken me to teach me how to drive a stick, which was interesting. We went to the parking lot of what was once Pergaments where I basically just drove in a big circle trying to not destroy the clutch. And finally, my Driver’s Ed instructor at school, He was the loudest meanest old man you’d ever met.  He hated women drivers, and constantly yelled at you for not staying to the right.  Granted that’s what you’re supposed to do, but he took it just a bit further.  If we weren’t within inches of the right hand curb we weren’t close enough.  My first driving experience with him was in the back parking lot of the middle (jr. high) school, where he put us in reverse and told us to step on it.  I still don’t know why he did this or what I was supposed to learn from it.

Now an interesting side note to this is that all this time while I’m learning to drive a car, I’m also at school learning how to fly a plane.  In a plane you use your feet to turn while on the ground and a slide to accelerate it.  It’s a good thing I became a good driver, as I didn’t turn out to be a very good pilot.  I know it’s a tangent but it’s a fun story.  We flew up over Jones beach and the instructor turns to me and says “ok I’m going to stall out the plane and I want you to recover it”.  Now being the good driver I am, I think “no prob, I know how to turn the engine back on”.  Well let me tell you when a pilot says the plane is stalled it has nothing to do with the engine.  He pulls back the engine (which I expected) pulls back and aim the plane up just a slight bit and then we start to fall forward.  The plane tips forward and down we go.  I turn to him and said “but the engine’s not stalled”.  He looks at me, closes his eyes and shakes his head.  Now did I mention that we’re not alone in this plane?  There are two passengers in the back who are also learning how to fly like me.  He turns back to them and they’re both wide eyed and a bit scared looking and pulls the plane out of the stall and then proceeds to educate us on the proper way to recover from a stall.  All this time we’re still falling out of the sky.  Not once did any of us panic however, because we’re all teenagers.  And as every teenager knows, you’re invincible until you turn 21.  And then you’re invincible only when you’re drunk.  I never felt that invincibility in my car until after I got my license.  Again, the driving exam passed it first time out.  Like I said, I’m a good driver. By the way, I searched all over for the picture I know I have of me in the cockpit, but only found my Flight Log and Plotter so grabbed a picture of that for you guys. That photo of a Cessna is just as an example of the type of plane I was flying.

Anyway, now it’s my 17 year olds turn.  So what do I do?  I take her out to the Jones Beach Parking lot of course.  Now this isn’t the real first time she’s driving, I let her drive the car around a tiny parking lot one night just for the fun of it, and then I let her mother drive (she doesn’t drive either).  Who do you think did better?  The wife of course (she actually reads these).  Since then I’ve taken her a few times to drive and she’s getting better and we’re getting to bond a bit at the same time.  Now here is the most intelligent girl I’ve ever known and she’s having problems understanding the study material for the written exam.  So I downloaded the DriversEd.com app for my iPhone and let her study with it a few times, take a few practice tests, and hopefully by next week she’ll have passed the written exam and we can go driving on the roads. But until then, my advice for all you dad’s out there that have to start teaching your step daughter to drive… Get your blood pressure medication ready and remember this is a good time to bond so be yourself, give the best advice you can, and teach very, very slowly. In the end it’s all worth it, these are lessons that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, not to mention helping them to deal with the ultimate road rage we all deal with on a daily bases.

First things First

Before I start giving any advice or anything I should probably tell you all a little about me and why anyone should take anything I have to say seriously.  First off, don’t take anything I say too seriously.  I know what I know from my own experience, and just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for you.  There’s no guarantees in life, and doubly so online.  Now that that’s out of the way… 

I was born into a normal home life (at least as normal as a child can understand) I love my mom, loved my dad, and dealt with that sister of mine (yeah, I love her too).  All was normal for most of my childhood, up until I was 16.  My father passed away.  We all mourned as it goes and life moved on.  Mom began to date other men a couple of years later.  Eventually she met my step father “pop”.  I look back now and realize just how hard it must have been and how easy he made it all look.  Here he was in that vacant spot a good father used to fill and he had to perform up to par without any of the benefits a dad gets from his kids.  But he did it, spectacularly.  Simply put, he just did what he did.  He didn’t try to be a dad or even a friend, he was just always there and ready to help when we needed it.

It’s amazing just how much it helped to know that there was someone there just in case you needed it and wasn’t trying to replace my father. Granted, I think I was a pretty well adjusted kid so I didn’t have too much baggage to deal with. My acts of rebellion weren’t all that rebellious when I look back at them now, even if my mother would like to tell me otherwise. J

As chance would have it I find myself now the step father to three children, a nineteen year old, a seventeen year old, and an eight year old. The eight year old is beautiful little terror. She’ll melt your heart with a smile and kick you in the nuts at the same time. Her father is still very much involved in her life. It can be trying sometimes and I’m sure I’ll get into that later, but for now let’s keep it to the facts. The other two don’t have that type of connection with their father. The nineteen year old stays at school, so I don’t get to spend much time with her, but the other two live with us. And although I describe the little one as a terror she really is a wonderful child, and my seventeen year old is already “daddies-little-girl” even if she doesn’t know what that means yet. I get into more trouble for defending her than anything else. But it’s worth that and so much more just to see them smile.

Finally you may be reading all this and wondering where there mother fits into all this. Well, she fits in right here. I love her, and she brings me joy and happiness every day. That’s right fellas, she cooks me eggs every morning… I joke, she does cook me eggs every morning, but she does a lot more for me than I could explain here. We’ll get more into my wife as we go along. But I could probably write an entire blog just on her.

So there you have it, I have a step father and now I am a step father. I hope to pass on some helpful information to all you step-dads out there that just need to know there’s help out there for you. And although every legal website or person will tell you that you have no rights what so ever when it comes to the kids, you still have the responsibility to be a good father figure, friend, and always ready and willing to help them grow up to become good people.