backup quarterback


Wil Wheaton has posted on and off about his experiences being a step-father. Ever since I’ve had the twins in my life, I’ve felt a certain sense of validation about myself from reading his posts. Wil describes being a step-parent as “more like a backup quarterback who can get pulled from the game at any time”, and in many ways that’s a very accurate description.

The twins’ biological father can ruin weeks or months of our patient role-modeling in a single afternoon. I’m always very conscientous not to insult or denigrate him, and I take great care not to intentionally influence the girls’ impression of him. I want them to make their own minds up, and I don’t want anyone to ever claim that I’m trying to “take” them from him in any way.

Before I became a step-parent, I would have glossed over most of Wil’s parenting posts (or anyone else’s parenting posts, for that matter!), largely uninterested due to lack of any real connection. Now that I’m in the same boat as Wil, I read his posts with a sense of camraderie. He’s another guy trying hard to do the right thing, and I know well the frustration of his challenges as well as the indescribable joy of his victories.

Being a step-parent is a weird, and wonderful thing. I often find myself wondering what would be different if I were the biological parent, instead of a step-parent. How would I “parent” differently? How would I be different as a person, if I had spent all six years with these girls instead of only the last three? How would the relationship between me and my daughters be different, grow differently, if we had been together from the first formative moments, instead of being introduced after their individual personalities were largely established?

I am afraid of a great many things as a step-parent. I’m terrified of the girls using their biological father as an emotional weapon against me (or him using them, for that matter). I’m terrified of the girls rejecting or demeaning my commitment to them. Worse than outright rejection would be sheer antipathy; like they could care less either way. I know – intellectually – that the teenage years will be tough. But I have no idea what to actually expect, and that scares the hell out of me.

I read Wil’s postings and take from them tips from a step-parent who’s living through that teenage crisis, and by all accounts is doing a bang-up job. Wil’s posts bring a smile to my face, and a sense of hope to my future as a step-father.

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