A Day for All Fathers

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

Father’s Day is a time to honor the incredible role fathers play in our lives. This day is uniquely significant for stepfathers, marking a journey of resilience, love, and dedication. My experiences as a stepdad are another element of my resilience learning, one filled with challenges and triumphs, tears and joy, that have shaped my ability to be a good dad.

I joke that my first child was born when I was eleven. I wanted to go to the hospital, but my mother wouldn’t let me out of the house.

And that is a true story….At least the first half.

When Sheila and I married, she had three children from her previous marriage to my “husband-in-law,” George. When I stepped in, I immediately became a stepparent to a twelve-year-old girl and eleven and nine-year-old boys. Starting a new marriage and adjusting to three kids seems ridiculous in retrospect, but perhaps youthful naivete left me feeling like it would be a fun adventure. Adventure. Yes. Fun. Yes. Aggravating. Yes. Amazing. Absolutely.

From early on, the three parents agreed that the children’s interests came first. I never tried to be their “biological” father and supported George in that role. I wanted to build my own relationship with Corinne, Kevin, and Kenneth, and we did.

When Ken became a concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel, he relished giving me a tour of the facility and arranging a tee time on their exclusive golf course. He loved seeing how proud of him we were and how we loved telling “Concierge Ken Tales” to our friends. One of his finest moments was arranging a new wardrobe for Gladys Knight when her ensembles got waylaid in traffic before a big concert.

Once, when we were vacationing in Florida, Corinne called to tell me she had spun my car 360 degrees on an icy bridge and totaled it. Of course, she was in tears and worried about how I would feel about the vehicle. I told her I didn’t care about the car as long as she was okay. Like every teenager who has had an accident, she was worried about how mad her parents might be. Who cared about a dumb car, I told her. I was ready for a new one, anyway. She laughed through her tears.

Our middle son, Kevin, was the one who told me, “You are not my father!” which is de rigueur for stepparents. After he went off to college and, perhaps, we both matured a bit, he came home for my birthday party and proceeded to do cartwheels on the deck (he was a gymnast), pronouncing that I was a good guy after all.

When Corinne developed the breast cancer that would eventually take her life, Sheila and I took on the role of caregiving while she was in treatment at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston. We rearranged schedules, transported her back and forth, and stayed with her during her treatment.  We found a hotel suite that a friend provided so she could use, which provided a safe and somewhat luxurious space while recovering from treatment. All this was designed to allow her husband and kids to try to keep a regular schedule.

She shared this amazing card with me on Father’s Day 2003, which I treasure.

So, this Father’s Day, I want to honor all fathers—biological, step, adopted, foster, informal, avuncular, big brotherly, neighbors, godfathers, mentors, caretakers, and teachers—and any other way that men connect to kids and take on that role of dad. Their resilience and love create a tapestry of family that is rich, diverse, and deeply meaningful. Let’s celebrate the incredible fatherhood journey in all its forms, recognizing the strength, dedication, and resilience it takes to be a dad.

© Richard Citrin 2024

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