Can I be a little honest here?
I love being a dad. I love being a stepdad. I have been around Aiden since he was 4ish and it has been great. When I started with Aiden, we were quite close and I often put him to bed, went on little outings with him, took him to practice, went to get haircuts together, played baseball in the back yard, played catch endlessly, you know, dad stuff.
Aiden and I have shared a great relationship since I started dating Elana, to the point that I befriended him before Elana ever had taken note of me. And because of the circumstances with his dad, it really felt like I was Aidens dad too (his dad was definitely his dad in that he and Aiden love each other deeply and Aiden idolizes him). So when I first started dating Elana, after we got married, as Aiden started school…we were fairly close.
Yet as he has grown up a little- he’s now 8 almost 9- life is slightly different. First, when we moved to Pearland the neighborhood we live in has tons of kids his age and so much excitement. Aiden no longer needs me as a playmate because he has entered the world of “friends.” Second, Aiden is now a baseball player. He is involved in every league imaginable, from Fall Ball and Spring Ball to All Stars to Select teams. His baseball schedule fills our calendar and occupies enormous amounts of time for Elana and his dad as the yet him to practices and games and tournaments across Houston, Pearland, and even Beaumont. Third, circumstances are different with Aidens dad. Fourth, Aidens schedule with us looks pretty different than years ago because of a split in time and his growing ability to be choose where he stays from time to time (i.e. inconsistency). Fifth, Ryan’s presence in my life has taken some of my own attention as Ryan is not yet old enough to play real baseball or catch or other games with us without distracting me from Aiden.
So things have changed. Can I be honest here? I don’t feel like the dad I used to feel like with Aiden. It can be disappointing. It can be sad at times. I miss it and miss getting to play with Aiden often. In fact, at times it is kind of heartbreaking. What I really miss? The way Aiden treated me like a dad. He doesn’t treat me badly but the relationship has changed and he of course has recognized that if only unconsciously.
But if I might continue to honest, it’s okay. Or at least I’m learning to accept that it’s okay. Because the interactions and relationship of fatherhood and stepfatherhood changes over time anyway. Ryan will change too. Aiden will change again as a teen. Kids grow into their futures and their lives and as a parent I respond with respect and love, just as a little one walks into the first day of kindergarten and is different from there on out.
Yes, I don’t feel like his dad anymore and I grieve that. I will for a while. But I also celebrate it for Aiden, because it means he is growing up, or because he has a good relationship with his dad, or because he is growing into his personality. There is grief and joy. Grief and joy seem to always be connected as a parent.