Gerrit Bantjets, a Care for the Family speaker, wrote an article called, ‘Do you love him as your own?’ with the sub-title, ‘The reality of being a step-dad’.  In the article, the author shared five tips ‘about bringing up step-children:


1. Be patient

2. Respect their other biological parent
3. Agree with your partner
4. Treat them as your own
5. Create new family traditions

You can download the 2017 edition of Family to read this article which is on page 16 of the magazine.

​29th August 2017

Unfortunately, my step-dad didn’t see the need to include me into the picture and I can’t really blame him for that. But I do remember that I would always look with longing eyes, wondering if this time there was something in the bag for me. I remember feeling quite sad and unloved during those days. Somehow, I never thought about the effects of that until I read the article. And although my step-dad is dead and cannot benefit from my sharing, I wanted others who are currently in that position to take note and recognise that it is important to include their step-children and make them feel part of the family.

 

At 16+ I joined my mother and her then husband (new spouse) but I didn’t have a father-daughter relationship with him either. We simply greeted each other politely each morning and occasionally at nights when he returned from the pub early enough and was sober enough to respond. During days when he would stay at home he would watch the TV (mainly sports) or read the sports section of the paper, play some music on the record player (one of his prized possession) and then head to the pub. I remember receiving £20 from him for my 17th birthday and that was the extent of his love towards me.

 

I never had a relationship with either of my mother’s spouses and so I never had the experience of having a father in my life.  I didn’t realise then the importance of a father in a child’s life or the damage being done to my emotional well-being.  But becoming a parent has opened my eyes to the importance of a father in the life of a child, whether biological or otherwise. So when I met my step-father, two decades after his and my mother’s separation (and eventual divorce) I was able to encourage him and his new wife.

 

That meeting took place at my Granduncle’s funeral reception. We shared a table and had a meal together. Although I didn’t know what to say, since we only exchanged pleasantries when we shared the same home space, it would have been rude to pretend I didn’t know him. So, I greeted him, introduced my family and before leaving I encouraged them to keep their marriage alive and not allow external issues to infect their marriage. 

 

A year later, at another relative’s funeral, he addressed me as his daughter to some folks whilst at the burial ground. It took me by surprise. It was an awkward moment. Unfortunately, that realisation came just a little too late, for we had nothing tying us together. He had wasted the opportunity to experience fatherhood, in the years I spent in his presence. He never had a child with my mum nor did he father another child. I was the gift God gave to him to add meaning to his life which he didn’t embrace.

 

If only he had a different outlook on life he too could have been saying similar to Gerrit Bantjes when he said, “Joey and I may not share a blood-line, but we do share a love-line”. When I heard the word ‘daughter’ leave his mouth, I actually felt sorry for him because he had lost something precious. He just wasn’t wise enough to recognise the gift when it was presented. I wonder how many fathers out there are being presented with the gift of a step-child and passing up on the opportunity.

 

At 17 I may not have understood or even acknowledged my step-father’s efforts but if he had tried to engage it would have been a beautiful thing for me to introduce my son to him not just as my son but as his grandchild. How accepting it would have been for my 28 year old self to have heard him saying, as part of his speech, at my wedding, “Janice and I may not share a blood-line, but we do share a love-line.” That would have made me feel so loved and accepted on my wedding day and looking back I would certainly appreciate him being part of my world.

 

It didn’t really sink in at the time but that time we spent eating and sharing with my mother’s ex-husband and his wife was the first time we really had a meaningful conversation. It must have brought some truths home to him for him to recognise that indeed I was his daughter. I needed to see his love in action but the years went by without a glimpse of his fatherly love and acceptance. We neither had blood-line nor love-line. What a waste of the years!

 

I wish I had that kind of maturity when he and my mother were together. Instead of waiting for him to reach out to me, I guess I could have reached out to him also. However, I hadn’t yet lived and experienced the challenges of life that would have brought such maturity. He was the adult and the parent so I’m not excusing his lack of interest in my well-being then. But for the sake of this article, I wanted to focus on the role of a parent in the life of a child. I had years of living to do and many different types of people and situations/circumstances to encounter in order to reach the place of maturity I was then to encourage him and his new wife rather than focusing on my loss.

 

So in closing, I’d like to encourage all fathers to look at where they stand, review their place in the home and if they are found wanting in being a responsible parent (whether biological or step-parent) to make a change in their attitude towards their children.  You can make a difference in the life of a child if you choose to love and accept them.

 

© 2017, Janice S Ramkissoon​

When I first read the article I went back to my childhood where my first step-dad would bring groceries for my two sisters as part of caring for / providing for his children. He and my mother were no longer a couple. I admired that about him and wished my own father would visit like he did (even once, so I could know what it felt like to have a father and know the feeling of excitement my sisters felt when they knew their dad would visit).

A Step-Child Advises Step-Fathers