NOTE – June 19, 2016 Addition: I wrote the post below 2 years ago, Father’s Day, 2014. This year, as I think of my step-dad’s battle with Alzheimer’s, I find myself sad and reflective. I’m sad for my mom who is my dad’s full time caregiver. She continues to amaze me with her patience, care and sacrifice. At the same time, I’m sad for my dad who can no longer articulate any clear thoughts outside of a few random words. More than ever I need to be reminded of the life lessons I learned from him. Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there.
NOTE #2 – June 17, 2018 Addition: “Mic” passed away 15 months ago after a hard fought battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Missing him today.
When I was nine years old, my mom remarried and we moved across the river from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Even though my biological dad passed away when I was young, my step-father has taught me many valuable lessons along the way. On Father’s Day week (one day late!), I thought it would be appropriate to share the top five lessons I learned from my step-father.
1. Thou shalt respect thy momma!
First and foremost, above all else, respect your mom. No back talk, no yelling, no arguing. I can’t imagine a better lesson when it comes to my relationship with my mom. This carries forward now as I raise four boys – the number one rule is to respect mom, to listen to her and to obey her – all the way, right away, with a happy heart.
2. Address adults as either “Sir” or “Ma’am.”
Even thought we did not grow up in the south, my step-dad instructed us to address adults with respect and reverence. Kids these days, even my own, are too casual in the ways they address adults. My dad instilled in me the importance of respecting adults and addressing them accordingly.
3. Clean up after yourselves… or you may find your shoes in the front yard!
My dad warned me if I left my clothes out in the family room that I might find them the next morning on the front porch or in the front yard. Needless to say, after the one time I left my shoes in the family room and found them in the front yard the next morning, I learned my lesson. We carried this one forward into our marriage, continually reminding our kids to not leave clothes in the family room, or shoes in the middle of the hallway. If they leave them there, they know where to find them the next morning!
4. Help around the kitchen – it’s not a woman’s job to clean, do laundry, and make meals.
I grew up watching my step-dad cook, clean and do laundry. He never pulled out an org chart that delineated the household chores of the wife and the husband. Rather, he stepped in and did anything and everything that needed to be done. Because of his faithful example, I try my best within our family to do the same; Lord willing, our kids are picking up the same habits!
5. Step families are really tough.
I don’t think I had any clue about how challenging things would be in the midst of step family life while growing up. As a marriage pastor, now looking back, I realize how difficult I made things for my step-father and my mom. The best books on the topic of blended families come from Ron Deal. Check out his website, especially the book, The Smart Stepfamily.
More and more families are step-families, yet I believe they are often the forgotten members of our church and community. Marriage and parenting are hard enough as it is without throwing an ex-spouse, step-children and abnormal schedules into the mix. If you are a step-family, check out Ron Deal’s resources. If you’re not one, you surely know one, so take some time to pray for them today.
Discipline is never pleasant in the moment
I never loved my step-dad’s lessons and often resented him along the way (See Hebrews 12:11). But looking back now as an adult, and even more so as a parent, I realize the wisdom of his leadership in my life. I couldn’t be more thankful for the lessons he taught me along the way – lessons that today we pass on to our boys.
See also What the Brady Bunch Got Wrong
What are some lessons you learned from your dad?