Step Dad

Step Dad

(Guest post by Philip Crocco, Kristina’s husband.)

I still remember the day I met her. I still remember how beautiful she was and how the whole room seemed to stop when she walked in. I remember the time leading up to us dating and the energy she was so full of all the time. I could never have imagined then how much she would change my life and teach me about love and growth and make me laugh. I remember the day she first introduced me to her daughter. I could never have imagined on that day that this little, precious child would one day call me dad and that it would be all I needed to have a great day. I remember when her little boy walked up to me and asked if I was going to marry his mommy, and all I could think about was how lucky I would be if that were to happen. I could never have imagined on that day that this little guy would one day be coming to me with his most personal problems, searching for an answer, and that I would never feel more important or proud if he walked away feeling better. The three of them transformed my world and opened my eyes. I can’t think of what my days were like before them and how empty they must have been, not filled with little kisses and little hugs and tender care from someone who truly puts you first.

And now I’m a step-dad. The word elicits so many thoughts, feelings, stereotypes and expectations. Being a step-dad is such a wonderful blessing, but it is sort of a loaded word. I honestly still feel a little weird saying it to people. It feels like somehow I am almost a dad, but just not quite. Like I’ve passed all the tests, but I missed a few credits of P.E. and I didn’t get my diploma. Sometimes I feel like a kicker in football. Sure I was on an NFL team, and yeah we won the Super Bowl, but… And no offense to any kickers out there, I have the utmost respect for your ability to perform under such amazing stress and pressure. I guess in some ways it’s not so different. Most of the time I defer to the kids’ father, but there are those pressure packed moments when the game is on the line and I have to perform as if I had been out there the whole time. And it needs to be seamless for the benefit of the kids having a sense of stability. That’s really what it’s all about though, isn’t it? The kids. I told Kristina before we got married that I felt like I was marrying three people, and that wasn’t me just being cheesy. It was the truth and I am so thankful I was able to see that ahead of time.

That would have to be my first and biggest piece of advice to all you men out there who are considering marrying a woman with children. Certainly every situation is different depending on the status of the father and the ages of the children and all, but you ARE marrying a family, not just a woman. They may or may not be “your kids” but they are your family, and you need to do everything you possibly can to convey that to them so they feel the same way about you. The biggest challenge for me has been being their “dad” for every minute I am with them, right up until their father walks in the door and then being able to take a step back. I love, more than anything, being their dad and it is such a central part of how I define myself. And so, it is such a fine line to walk and takes an awful lot of patience and self-restraint to take off that hat at any given moment.  I am nowhere close to perfect in this, but I always come back to thinking about the kids and that stability thing. They need to know that I have them safe and taken care of in every way and that I am their fearless leader and love them with all of my heart, but that there isn’t a power struggle between their father and me, that he and I are on the same team and I am in no way replacing or trying to get ahead of him. If you want to make sure the kids aren’t playing you against each other, then show them at all times that you are working together. Clearly this doesn’t work when the father is someone who should not be a role model to the kids, is abusive to them, or has serious issues. I have no experience in that regard, thankfully, and wish you all the strength in the world if that is your situation.

We are so often set up to fail. You are likely walking into a history and you have so many relationships to juggle and understand. We aren’t all psychologists who can recognize the deep underlying fears and neuroses someone may have from the way he or she responds to our request to pass the salt. The best you can hope for is to build trust and show love and strength. And this includes the way you interact with the father. You have to show him that you have his children first on your priority list, ahead of any ego issues we all suffer. I helped Kristina’s ex-husband move a dishwasher a few weeks after I first met him. He hadn’t asked, but I overheard them discussing it and I offered. Was it a little awkward, sure (maybe even more for him than me), but I wanted to set the tone from the beginning that I was there to help him in any way that I could because we would be in this together for a very long time, assuming I could convince that cute, curly-haired Croatian girl to stick around. I needed her to know that I was willing to do anything to make our relationship work because I knew we had something really good. I also invited her ex-husband over the first time the kids watched Star Wars. I was so excited for them to see it, but I also felt like he should be there for such a big moment in their lives, and they should have their dad there as well. I mean, it’s Star Wars! So, we watched, one kid next to him on one couch and the other next to me. And they switched a number of times throughout the movie. I never felt like I had less because he was there and I know they felt like they got more. It’s that type of thing that makes me truly happy. I continue to go out of my way for him. He, in turn, has been so good about including me in things and helping me out whenever he can so the kids see us as a team. Sure, we have had many bizarre conversations and situations arise, but I keep telling myself, this is bigger than me.

So, I push my pride aside, I swallow a few weird situations and the kids think it’s all totally normal. They have no idea about all the drama and mess this whole step-dad thing is “supposed” to cause. Maybe we can redefine what normal is, especially if the current normal sucks so badly. Our normal, after a few years of both their dad and I going out of our way and pushing our egos aside, now includes spending the holidays together, having him over for dinner, attending the same church, and most importantly, never making anyone feel excluded. I’ll tell you one thing, I have always given the kids the choice to call me Philip or Dad and when they choose to call me Dad, it makes my heart melt. They go through phases and I never take it for granted. But I also correct them any time they call their father by his first name. He is always “dad.” He gets that honor, I have to earn it. And that is something I really like about being a step-dad. They get to choose how they feel about me. Thankfully, my two munchkins choose to love me and that makes being “not quite a dad” pretty fantastic.

Being a kicker probably isn’t so bad. If you hit that last second field goal to win the Super Bowl, the fans will remember you forever. But your only chance of making it comes from how you practice every day of the season when no one seems to be paying you any attention.

22 Responses to Step Dad

  1. Sue November 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

    I loved reading this and just think about some friends/loved ones and their step/BD/BM/ex struggles. Your approach to this (and Kristina’s from the vomit night post) were not only testing moments, but needed to be standard for the long-distance. Glad the kids’ dad works so well for them, too. Thank you to the 3 adults for being so great in these kids’ lives.

  2. Sarah October 9, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    This is beautiful! And as a step mom for the last 6 years (4 years married), I agree with and am able to take away some very very valid points and try to apply them to my not always smooth relationships. Putting my ego aside being one of them. The step parenting gig is not always easy!

  3. Tracy Pavelich September 28, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

    What a beautiful outlook! Thanks for sharing this intimate piece of your life so it may help other step-parents! Also blessings on marrying a beautiful Croatian girl, I’ve been told we may have a bit of fire in us LOL

  4. Gabriella September 28, 2016 at 11:19 am #

    As a stepmom, this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  5. Kat Fantis September 18, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    I loved reading this post. So eloquent and honest. Thanks for sharing!!

  6. cherish September 8, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

    I am a single mom of three kids too. Thanks for sharing your story. So inspiring. Hoping to met one good men someday. 🙂

  7. Katherine Castro September 8, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    Never better explained, thanks for sharing. Articles like this can definitively enlight others journey

  8. Staci May 28, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

    Wow! Beautifully written from an amazingly conscious, loving soul! Thank you for sharing because many of us need to really “see” there are men like you in the world!

  9. Lauren April 21, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    I am SO glad I was led to your blog. I pray I find what you have found or what found you, for myself and my daughter. Its absolutely beautiful. Melts my heart.

  10. Heather Clayman February 2, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

    This is beautiful I just met someone a I adore who is amazing just like you this story begins almost identical to yours and has helped me let go a little and realize this dream could be reality.

  11. Shelly February 2, 2016 at 5:31 am #

    This is amazing Phillip! I have a step-dad (whom I also call Dad!) that was totally willing and ready to do exactly everything you’ve done for your munchkins’ dad for mine. But unfortunately mine wouldn’t have it and unfortunately made the situation way worse than it had to be. But my step-dad is my dad and he is nothing less, he’s everything I could ever want in a dad and he has been more of one than my “real” dad ever way. In fact, I am 23 now and even though I have made it clear to him that he is my Dad, any time he is in the same place as my actual dad, he does what you do and steps back, even when my real dad pretends to have his arms full so he doesn’t have to hug me, Dad refrained from saying anything even though he wanted to chew him out for it, ha! I am so happy to read your story because, speaking from the other end of the spectrum, I am SO happy that it has worked out so wonderfully for you and your family!! The world needs more step dads like you and mine, and I think dad’s can learn a lot from you too!

  12. Jennie Evans February 1, 2016 at 7:00 pm #

    This is how my children about their step-dad who they never refer to that way. Phillip I take my hat of to you taking on a family is a big step and you’ve done a great job. It been 30 years for us and it’s funny my kids don’t remember a time when “Dan” wasn’t in their life.

  13. jennine nye December 26, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    What a truly inspiring post by your husband. I too had to start over, but with five kids in the train.. three of them grown up and two boys of ten and twelve. From the beginning we managed to integrate the two with his three of similar ages, and they all got along so well, it was not too difficult to manage. Of course I did have hardships with his girls, but now we are all in a good place,25 years later. As your husband did, we include my first husband and my second husbands first wife in family gatherings and the kids have benefited from all this despite the sometimes difficult and awkward moments. I think you too have a man in a million, and there are many more out there like him… I am sure that he has given hope and advice to others that might follow in his footsteps.. Having my husband was a really big thing to be bringing my boys up and he was their parental role at a pivotal part of their lives.. how lucky we have been finding men of this calibre… but as I did say, there are many more like them, just hopefully they will find the whole experience as positive as our husbands have** Yesterday we spend xmas day with my first husband at my daughters house, and then in the evening at his daughters house, her mother and husband were there, so it is possible to integrate really well … just have to work at it… I enjoyed reading your husband’s post, he is a truly well rounded and thoughtful man…[with the bonus of being good looking too ha ha Happy New Year to you all…

  14. Scientist August 13, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    You are a wonderful man!

  15. Lisa July 3, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    This is a true definition of a man. I was lucky enough to find a man strong enough to to
    Complete my life as a single mom. He married me and became a dad to my daughter. 10 years later we have 3 more children. Thank you for this article and bless you for being such a great role model to those beautiful children.

  16. Alex June 27, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

    Wow so moving and such an insight!

  17. Charlie Giles May 9, 2015 at 3:50 am #

    Hey Philip and Kristina, I am a blast from Philip’s past. What a remarkable family you have! I am in awe reading these posts. I don’t know if you guys ever make it back to this part of the world, but it would be great to see you all if you do.

  18. Kathi Hardney October 3, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this and hopes God sends someone with n.amazing perspective as you have!

    • raven September 16, 2015 at 12:00 am #

      I am a single mother with three children…this gives me hope that there are good men out there willing to do the best they can even if the father is in the picture or not…thank you..brought tears

  19. Kristina Tokic September 10, 2013 at 5:48 am #

    Beautiful Soul *AMAZING*

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Philip | KristinaKuzmic.com - September 12, 2015

    […] (Read Philip’s advice on step parenting here.) […]

  2. A Promise to his Stepchildren | KristinaKuzmic.com - September 12, 2015

    […] My husband rocks. He came into my life when I was a single mom with two young kids. (You can read more about that here.) He is the greatest example of a loving, selfless stepfather I’ve ever seen. (You can read his advice to stepparents here.) […]