The One With the Stepfather

Good morning, Reno!

Two for the week. Hopefully we’re back on track… I’m even getting my journaling back in order! Perhaps this year will be the year for self-reflection!

In the not too distance past, my wife and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. More recently, I celebrated my stepson turning 13. Normally, I imagine the arrival of a teenager in one’s household would be more of a huge, grand event. And don’t get me wrong, it was a big deal. Only thanks to this COVID ridiculousness did we not have a barn burner of a party… but it was different than if it had been a child I had known and raised for 13 years. That said, I’ve known him for eight years and absolutely view him as my own. And that’s where the fun begins :-) A recent appreciation for sure…

2020 was gross for many… And yet he and I tackled all kinds of fun things – microwave replacement (and inadvertent retiling), yard projects, garage gym setup, trumpet (he and I both play), he’s playing drums and I picked up guitar – a literal garage band. For me, it felt like the year where we established a permanent connection. When I think of my father, I think of one of my best friends growing up (and still to this day), someone I could confide in, and also someone who gave really great advice, comfort, and wisdom without judgment. Discipline? Of course (and as needed) but also that male figure who I could look to. I can only hope I am on the right path to offer that to mine :-)

This is the Way.

2021 has been a great year for us so far, primarily because SNOWBOARDING! I haven’t had a season pass to a Tahoe mountain for 7 years. Shoot, I hadn’t even been on a snowboard for 7 years… So thankfully the opportunity for snowboard lessons showed up, and new adventures for us were born.

Despite not really identifying as “a dad,” something changed last year and is carrying very strongly into this year. Couldn’t really tell you what it was. Have I unearthed a newfound affinity for the little man? Of course. Do I know the secret to being a decent male role model? Ehh… I’m not so sure. However, it easily could be the shot of testosterone he and I both pursued with our previous however-many-days of being stuck together in quarantine. Exceedingly manly house projects, trips to the hardware store, dude hangouts with my friends, renting power tools, watching sports together, playing catch, learning how to be a gentleman, and most importantly, studying the Bible – the list goes on and on.

“A dad is someone who wants to catch you before you fall but instead picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again.”


For me, nothing has been more challenging than trying to figure out how to be a stepfather, and it’s purely a reflection on me. He’s a great kid, always ready to make people laugh or tell a ridiculous story or remind you why kids are fun. Some of my favorite moments are watching him rise to the occasion around the house or helping his mom or I, and especially how he interacts with our friends and brings a mature and respectful nature (while still making fun of them) :*)

I have had to do many things to reinvent myself over many, many years since college, but this one is certainly the most special. It’s actually natural now, which is pretty cool (scary?). Maybe my most favorite is that he is now expressing interest in the physical activities I love – outdoorsyness, running, indoor rowing, weightlifting, baseball, music – he doesn’t know this, but I appreciate that I need him more than he needs me ;-)

In some ways, my triathlon journey (hello, 2007!) has prepared me for all of these unknowns that I am currently experiencing. Preparedness is the only thing we can do in bracing for the unchartered waters we face each and every day!

Make sure to thank the important male figures in your life. We all know moms are great, but dads should never be underrated or underestimated either :-) It’s a rare and wonderful opportunity to care for and have influence over another person, and we should all handle with care as we prepare them for the wild world that awaits them (when we toss them out of the house!)

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Links to awesome dad quotes.


  1. Russell, This is a great article. I had a step mother (beginning at age 12) and as an adult I met many mostly step mothers to be who gave no thought to their roll in the children’s lives. My step mother had no idea about parenting. She took the act of leaving the bedroom light on as an on purpose act of defiance. She took the personal pronoun “she” as offensive. We had a sort of breakthrough when I was 21 and she was a good grandmother to my daughter. More needs to be written about the role and responsibility of being a step parent.

    I am praying for your family regularly.
    God Bless,

    Your old, very old now, Sunday school teacher,

    Math stuff Lisa and I made website below.

  2. Thank you :-) yeah, it’s definitely something that doesn’t seem to be talked about much (especially for fathers). I’m glad you had a breakthrough!!! That’s so encouraging to hear. It’s a big responsibility to learn… I’m not sure I’ll ever get there :-)

    We appreciate the prayers. I don’t think you’ll ever be that old :D

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