Today is Father’s Day and truthfully…I don’t remember Father’s Day last year.  My wife doesn’t either.  So as far as the restoration tour and Father’s Day, we’re just going to assume that last year wasn’t good.

My wife and I both had kids from previous marriages, so when we got married, we did the whole blended family thing right from day one.  We never had any kids together because she was no longer able to.  All of the kids she already had were very young, so I was in their lives from early on.  I had a daughter who didn’t live with us, and my wife had two daughters and a son.

They don’t give you an instruction manual on raising your own children, and raising step-children is even more of a challenge.  I always tried to be there and provide stability, but I never tried to take the other parent’s place.  The kids had a “real” father, and replacing their blood relative was never a thought for me.

It took time for the relationship to develop between myself and the kids.  There were custody and visitation issues, as well as the problems left over from the previous failed relationships, and those are things that you just have to figure out as you go.  I thought that if her kids saw me treating their mother right, that was about the best thing I could do for them.

From the very beginning, we agreed that there would be no “your” kids and “my” kids.  We were married, so everyone was part of the family.  We always referred to all of them as “ours” and we still do.  That wasn’t to say that they no longer belonged to their other parent, it just meant that in our household, there would be no favoritism.

My wife’s oldest daughter, Angie, developed the earliest and strongest bond with me.  She had been a teenage pregnancy, and her biological father had chosen not to be a part of her life.  Even though she knew him, I was the only “Dad” she really had for most of her life.  She is one of my heroes, because she overcame the rejection and dysfunction of her early childhood, and has become a shining example of what can be, rather than what could have been.

When things went bad between my wife and I last year, Angie was as devastated as I was in her own way.  She cried and agonized for the same number of days and months that I did, so much so that her own marriage began to suffer for it.  What neither of us realized was that she had watched my wife and I through the years, and seeing the beautiful marriage that we had gave her the faith to believe that she could have that too, despite her less than ideal beginnings.

When people are going through troubles in their marriage, it’s very easy to forget that there are future generations who have a stake in the outcome.  While my wife and I had alternately cast our love for each other aside and wallowed in self-centeredness (i.e. focusing on what I want and MY needs and what makes ME happy), we lost sight of the fact that there were other people who were going to have to live with the consequences of our choices.

A friend of ours got a divorce after her husband cheated on her, confessed, and then went back to the same woman.  As much as it was a horribly painful experience for her to be betrayed like that, she discovered that the future pain that she had to watch her children go through was even worse.  She once told us, “If I had known what the divorce was going to do to my kids, I would have invited her (the other woman) to live in my house and sleep in my bed.”  While she wouldn’t have in actuality, the point hit home.

When a marriage fails, it’s not just a husband and wife who experience the pain of loss, and their pain is not necessarily even the deepest.  For my wife and I, our pain was very real, and our loss would have been great.  For Angie, there’s no telling what the final toll would have been if we hadn’t made it.  She said to us that she had based her whole marriage and choice of a husband off watching us, and if we couldn’t make it, then what chance did she have?”

When we reconciled, we not only saved our marriage and created a testimony of hope for others, we positively affected generations down the line.  The other kids have been affected, and have since shared things that we never realized they saw in us and thought about us.  Today, those kids are celebrating with us and wishing me a happy Father’s Day, even though I’m only their Step-Dad.  I would like to believe that they would still care about me if our marriage had failed, but there’s no guarantee that I wouldn’t have lost both a wife and a family.

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