Editor’s note: This week, we are pleased and honored to welcome back Dr. Meg Meeker as our guest blogger. Dr. Meg is a well-known and highly respected pediatrician, mother, and best-selling author of six books. She is a leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health.
When the Wedding March started by the solo organist, the congregation, including me, stood up and turned to see the beautiful bride. She beamed. I cried.
At 28, she was committing herself to the man of her dreams after many years of sadness, loneliness and depression. I cried tears of joy, because as her pediatrician for 21 years, I had been with her through her parents’ divorce, her father’s alcoholism (that finally took his life) and her struggles at school.
But my tears flowed for one more reason: securing her left hand that was looped through his elbow was her stepfather. And he was crying too.
I have been to more than an occasional wedding where a stepfather walks a bride down the aisle. I smile because I know the deep impact that men have on young women’s lives, and stepfathers are often unsung heroes.
Coming into a family where children are present and navigating the dicey task of loving and earning the respect of children who may or may not want you there is no job for wimps. It is tough, but from where I sit, the payoff for hanging in there and loving their stepchildren well is enormous.
At a time in American history where fathers are often portrayed as idiots, men are lauded for being feminine, and stepfathers are seen as one notch below wicked stepmothers in media, we must take a moment and thank those good men who have stepped up to the plate and been there for our kids.
Because here’s the truth: every child needs a healthy father role model. And sometimes, that isn’t a child’s biological father.
Girls need to feel safe and protected, and boys need the stamp of approval of a good man in order to stay emotionally healthy. We all know what boys without strong men in their lives look like and the trouble they get into.
Boys without men go wild. They rage. They shoot. They harm women.
So, friends, please, look at the man in your child’s life who is helping him or her grow up to be solid adult. That father figure may be a grandfather, a stepfather, an uncle or the child’s biological father. Hug him. Praise him. And say thank you for working hard to help you.
We live in a broken world, and traditional Christians occasionally criticize families that are non-traditional. We need to stop this.
Our kids need father figures and mother figures if biological parents can’t perform their roles. So, when surrogate parents step in, let us take the energy we might otherwise use to criticize a situation and use it for good.
If your neighbor is a single dad with three kids, knock on the door and ask if the kids would like to come to your house once a week to play. Give him a break, and I promise, when you return the kids home, he’ll do a better job parenting. If your sister is a single mother, buy her groceries, babysit on weekends. If your own parent is now parenting your nieces or nephews, lend a hand.
There is beauty in difference, but often we traditionalists have a hard time seeing that. Perhaps we feel threatened. So, let’s open our eyes and recognize that grandparents can be great parents, and single mothers and fathers actually can raise happy, healthy, successful kids.
But every family — traditional or not — needs a helping hand.
My challenge to each of you is this: find a family that is different from yours, and get to know them. Invite them to dinner, offer to babysit, drive the kids to school.
Who knows, you just might be a parent who needs that kind of help in a few years.
Do you have any comments or insight on this topic? We’d love for you to share your thoughts below!