Fathers. I didn’t have one while I was growing up. My grandpa filled the shoes of my dad figure. He took me fishing, I helped him in his garden, we watched Lawrence Welk and Gunsmoke together, and we played cards as a family on warm summer nights or lazy Sunday afternoons. I loved my grandpa. I remember him telling my soon-to-be first husband that if he ever hurt me, he would be answering to my grandpa. By the time I married, my grandpa was an old man, but I appreciated the sentiment. He died not knowing the abuse I lived with every day.
My ex-husband was abusive and anything but a good father. He was an intentionally mean and hateful person who willfully inflicted pain and suffering, but presented a much different face to the outside world. I believe he systematically chose to break me down through psychological, emotional, and occasional physical abuse. By the time we had children my view of normalcy was so tainted I honestly was unable to see the extent of damage done to my children. I carry the weight and responsibility of that every day of my life.
Six and one-half years ago, I married a man who is a father of three and loves and accepts my three kids as his own. The contrast is obvious. We are not The Brady Bunch – The Brady Bunch is a myth. Blended families are a challenge, at best. He doesn’t get it right all the time partly because our kids were raised in very different environments. Although my husband understands, it’s an academic understanding. He can never truly understand what we endured, but his heart is in the right place.
The fourth commandment found in Exodus 20:12 is said to be the first commandment with a promise, “ Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which ADONAI your God is giving you.” (The Complete Jewish Bible) Parenting is hard work, and the reality is we fail as parents. I did, for sure. The best we can hope for is our children’s grace and forgiveness for our parenting failures. That is the definition of honoring our fathers and mothers. Does this apply to willful and intentional abuse? No, I don’t believe it does. Choices equal consequences. Choosing to be abusive begets consequences even in an imperfect world. Karma eventually catches up with us.
I thank God for every father in the world who loves their children and wants the best for them, for the fathers who nurture, support, advise, and protect. They fail sometimes, we all do. No one hands us a parenting manual after the birth of our kids. We parent like we do most things in life – we figure it out as we go. Hopefully, we won’t repeat our mistakes and missteps but sometimes we do that, too.
I thank God for the men who choose to love their stepchildren. There is a song by Brad Paisley called “He Didn’t Have To Be” about a man who takes on the responsibility of being a dad to a child who wasn’t his by birth. If you have a stepdad who loves, accepts, supports, and protects you – even if he doesn’t get it right sometimes – wish him a Happy Father’s Day because he didn’t have to do any of those things. He didn’t have to be a dad to you…..