How My Step Daughters Toppled My Great Big Daddy Ego

rsz_stepfather_daughter

Yeah, Doug Zeigler kisses his sons. But it’s been a more complicated road to affection with his step daughters.

 —

Last week I wrote about how I kiss my sons freely and openly. But this? This is about something that often is fraught with emotional landmines. This is about sharing affection and love for step-daughters.

It’s second nature for me to be affectionate to our boys. I’ve been that way since the beginning when they were wee babies. After I divorced, I met the woman that would come to be the inimitable Clark to my Lewis in our travels throughout this life. As our love evolved and grew, there was a new challenge presented to me with whom I had no experience: Jillian has two daughters.

To me, raising sons was easy. I’m a man, and I used to be a boy. I can relate. Girls though… Not a clue. I’m not ashamed to say it scared the hell out of me. I had immediate visions of emotional breakdowns, major attitude issues, not loving me because I’m not their biological dad, and not willing to accept my help as they navigate the peaks and pitfalls of dating when the time came. Most importantly, I was afraid they wouldn’t love me and any affection expressed would be off the table. I didn’t want to be this step-father figure; I wanted to be a Dad to them.

Partly, this was me being competitive. I knew that their dad held to a more “traditional” father role, but I subscribe to a more open way of parenting. Being human, I wanted to believe my way is the best way. I wanted to be able to offer them all the fatherly gifts I had to give: tactile tenderness; an ear to actually listen to their thoughts, joys and fears; a haven where they could be themselves and free to explore the nooks and crannies of their personas.

♦◊♦

However, I found that achievement of being a dad to two step-daughters isn’t that straightforwardly simple. What if our personalities clashed, which they did at times? What if they responded to my parenting methods with the same reaction to the strict discipline of the other household? There are a plethora of potential hurdles that potentially get in the way of this self-imagined utopia I sought to provide.

I decided I had to take the time to get to know these young ladies. I needed to invest myself in them. How else could I understand what they required of me as a man and a father? By investing my heart and my mind in each of them, I uncovered two utterly unique little humans. Our oldest daughter needs an ear to listen to her so she can rationally hash out her feelings and ideas. Our youngest daughter functions differently: she needs a physical presence and a quiet guidance with her feelings.

What I came to realize was my ego was getting in the way of me being the best possible father figure and showing them how I felt about them. I had to drop the part of my psyche that had to “win” against my wife’s ex husband and open myself up and be vulnerable to allow the girls to love me if they wanted to—and more importantly—on their terms, not mine. I let them control how much or how little they wanted me to love them.

I am very fortunate because my daughters—I will not call them step-daughters, even if I didn’t contribute to their creation—were craving that attention I relish sharing with everyone I love. They offer all the hugs and kisses I could want, and then some. I get that my situation may not be the norm. Not every situation with blended families is as smooth as ours has been. I know there can be so many challenges to loving daughters when you are not part of the magical procreative dance that spawned them into being. BUT…If you’re genuine with your interest in who they really are, honest about whom you really are, and making sure you can be available to be there for them on their timetable while checking your own ego and expectations, then I believe there’s an unfathomable amount of love you can share with your girls. The alternative is that you can choose to let your ego rule the day, or worse, force a strained relationship into being. However, you just might miss out on an opportunity to foster a truly unique, selfless love in your daughter and in you.

Read more about affection between fathers and children:

Yeah, I Kiss My Sons…So What?

Photo:Flickr/Kellie Carter

NOW TRENDING ON GMP TV

Flight or Fight
Forever Boogies
Are You A Narcissist?

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Doug Zeigler

Doug is a husband, a father of four, a tech and video game geek. In his rare spare moments, he enjoys good books and even better beers, exploring new things, places and food with his wife and Kentucky basketball. He also possesses a vast knowledge of 80's music that he hopes will pay off big at some random trivia night.

Comments

  1. Doug, this is amazingly insightful and beautiful. I loved every word. I don’t have kids myself but one day possibly wanting to be a parent, I would totally put your words into my own interactions with my kids. You are having such an amazing impact on those two little girl’s lives that will one day reflect in the relationships they have with other men.

    Especially loved these comments from your piece:
    “…open myself up and be vulnerable to allow the girls to love me if they wanted to—and more importantly—on their terms, not mine. I let them control how much or how little they wanted me to love them.”

    and this:

    “If you’re genuine with your interest in who they really are, honest about whom you really are, and making sure you can be available to be there for them on their timetable while checking your own ego and expectations, then I believe there’s an unfathomable amount of love you can share with your girls. The alternative is that you can choose to let your ego rule the day, or worse, force a strained relationship into being. However, you just might miss out on an opportunity to foster a truly unique, selfless love in your daughter and in you.”

    You’re helping those girls to not just survive, but thrive.

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      Thanks, Erin! I want our girls to be as ready for the world as they can be, and to experience and show love how they see fit.

      If you haven’t, I’d like to hear your thoughts on my last article about our sons and love. Here’s the link: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/yeah-i-kiss-my-sons-so-what/

      Thanks again for taking the time to read and share your view!

    • Just a Big Kudos You have just a clue as to how IMPORTANT a kind, loving, strong, righteous Male Role Model I! So many women can testify to fact that lacking this vital human connection skewed their image of a future husband or partner. In every aspect of their dealings and relationships in every aspect of their future and the decisions are molded by the first interactions with the men in their lives. Myself, I can tell you it shape mine. I had know concept of what a healthy relationship was. At 50 yrs old and now blessed with my father in my life I I treasure every day with him. Please keep up all the good and remember they listen to EVERYTHING you say. Just a note… I was 14 years old and driving as a family I joyfully was singing along to some song on the radio and my dad ” jokingly” said “Sister don’t sing your not the best of crooners” It took me 30 years to sing in front of anyone.
      KMR

  2. Thanks for writing this, Doug. I’ve recently found myself the step-dad/dad to two daughters–I have three boys of my own. It’s an adventure I’m happy to undertake. These three words, “on their terms,” may be the most important words about any step-family situation.

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      It’s weird to switch gears, isn’t it, Aaron? But it took some real self-reflection to let go and be what they needed me to be, not what I thought they needed me to be.

  3. WOW. This is excellent. It’s almost as if you were looking into my house and writing about the way my partner interacts with my 3 children. I know my 12 yr old daughter scares the hell out of him. Lol But he navigates better than he gives himself credit for. I’m really pleased to see this blended families and relationships topic addressed. Thank you.

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      You’re most welcome, Carrie, and thanks for reading. Keep letting your partner know how well he’s doing, because it can be hard to convince ourselves we’re doing the right things.

  4. I was parented by a man I shared no genealogical links to…but I love him with everything because he opened his heart up to me. I will be sharing this article with him, in part, to thank him for choosing to be vulnerable enough to love someone else’s child.

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      I’m more than happy to share my path with my children. I’m thrilled you had a man to be your father regardless of biological make up. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  5. Doug,

    Thanks for adding this to the previous piece. A much needed addition!

    Gary

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      Thanks, Gary! I thought it was a natural progression, having 4 kids and all. Each one is an individual, and we owe it to each of our kids to the best parent we can be for their needs.

  6. Darcy Rivera says:

    Doug,

    This is a fatastic article. My husband has taken on the step-father role with our daughter and has definately done an amoazing job, but did struggle at first with the same thing you did, wanting to be better than the ex. I will definately be sharing this article with him to show him he’s not the only one :)

    Thank you!

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      Darcy,

      Glad you enjoyed the article! I do think that there are plenty of men who are great step dads and aren’t lauded for it. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  7. This is a lovely article. I do think it’s important to keep in mind that to a stepdaughter with a strong attachment to her father, a statement like “I will not call them step-daughters” could be quite offensive and off-putting and could hurt the relationship. It was important to me that my step-parents knew they were step-parents and would not try to displace my parents–that my stepdad would defer to my mom on decisions concerning me, etc. Strong statements from my steps implying that they were the same as my parents would have been awful for our relationships in my case. I had a dad, my stepdad was not my dad, and I would have been very angry with him if he had thought so (and the same with my stepmom). That is part of what it means to take things on the stepchildren’s own terms, I think. Since they didn’t overstep, I was able to relate to them pretty well. Obviously, this can be different in different cases, though.

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      Christy, well said. I should have clarified: I call them my daughters (because they are to me), but I do NOT make any attempt to imply that I’m better than their biological father, nor to I make them call me dad. They call me Doug, and I’m fine with that.

  8. Doug, very nice article and well written. I am infact using it to try and thank my new son-in-law for being better at expressing himself and his feelings than I could or can myself. I have always tried to be the rock of a DAD and in doing so, I failed in expressing myself and feelings to my own kids. It has gotten better I think with the grand kids because I don’t have to be that rock for them, and I can be softer, more loving and show it without damage to a foolish ego. Pride can be a dangerous thing for a man. I think. If anyone reads this, don’t let your foolish pride and ego rob you of loving relationship with your family!

  9. Doug, that is a very beautiful article. I wish my father (yep, biological one) had the same wisdom as you when it came to his own daughters. Unfortunately he thought that he’d only be helpful if we had been born boys, because then he’d have something to contribute. Us being girls, the only thing he could give was financial support. Then after my parents divorced he found a wife with a son of her own and it seems he feels more comfortable with him than with us. He has also tried to forced us into a relationship with his wife that was (still is) strained, because she doesn’t like us (our existence is the proof my father has loved another woman before).

    We are adults now, my sister and I, but we are reaching a point of really drifting away from dad – as much as we love him – because he doesn’t open himself into having a personal relationship with us. Which is what you described you tried to do in your article.

    Most of fathers still see their daughters – steps-daughters or biological ones – as a mother’s problem. I was a happy to discover a different example in your story. Thank you for sharing. I really hope I may find for myself a man as you, who is not intimidated by having daughters and building a real relationship with them.

  10. This kind of humility is so important. It has to be on the children’s terms and ego will destroy the opportunity for a unique and important bond. As a single parent with two kids for a very long time (it seems), this has been one of the biggest reason why my most significant relationship had so Many struggles. The ma who barges in and tries to lead with an iron fist will wall out alone. The one who can toss his ego and show patience and openness to the unique needs of each child can find a lifetime of love both with the mother and the kids.

  11. Hi Doug, great article.. I suggest you register your expertise in 80s Music at our website! We love having people share insight and knowledge of their passions. It’s like having a blog without having a page – but you get the kudos!

Speak Your Mind

*