December 12, 2015

A letter to "Stepdads"

Dear Husband,

Today I sat at the final basketball game of the season for our oldest son. In the seat to the right of me was my mother-in-law. To the left was my other mother-in-law . . . your mom. They both cheered loud for our son and watched you coach his team.

I had a moment today. As I watched you out on the court—coaching and cheering on our son—I thought about the road that got us here. It has been four years since you came into our life. Today I realized something I may have been taking for granted all these years: You chose to be here.

I sometimes forget the feeling of sitting at the funeral—just a few years back—and aching that my five kids would not have a dad to help raise them. I forget how my body hurt just thinking about all the moments that we would do alone. I cried many tears for the fact that my sons would never have a dad to teach them how to play ball, or give them advice about girls. I thought about all the dances and first dates the girls would leave for without a dad to tell them they looked beautiful.

I knew one day I would remarry—I hoped they would one day have a stepdad—but I just knew it would never be the same.

And then there you were. It felt like I was in a dream—at first—having you love me. Most of the time I felt unworthy of love, but—no matter how hard I tried to push you away—you loved me anyway. You made my kids feel special and you were always trying to be there for them. It wasn’t always easy for you—I could see how hard it was some days to all the sudden have to balance six kids. I know it was a sacrifice in many ways for you to give the other five some of the energy and love you used to be able to give to just one.

Some days I forget you could have looked at us as used baggage. You could have seen the trauma and imperfections, you could have seen how broken we were—but you didn’t.  You chose to see so much more—even more than I could see—you saw us.  I sometimes forget that you were not always here with me. I forget that you had a life without me; but I also forget that you fell in love with all of us—and chose to marry the whole package. I forget that your options were endless—and you still choose us.

Our family isn’t normal. We haven’t always been together—like other families have. Sometimes that is hard, and it makes us think maybe all the work isn’t worth the fight. But sweet husband—today I see you. The you that works hard to love the kids he didn’t get to help create. I see you—the man who fathers by choice instead of obligation. I see you—the man who chose to be a dad, to five children who had lost hope in having one.

Being a “stepdad” probably wasn’t ever part of your plan. That’s the crazy part about life—our plans are going to fail. But thank you for taking your failed plan and finding us in ours . . . and becoming a father.

Those moments I just knew life was never going to be the same—I was right—life has never been the same since my babies lost their father . . . and it never will be. But today as I looked out at a basketball game and watched a “stepdad” coach a little boy— I remembered you were always meant to be his father.

We aren’t always going to understand the WHY’s of this life . . . but the joy that I felt today helped me understand the HOW’s. God had a plan for us . . . and He gave us YOU.

Anyone can become a father—thousands of them are made every single day—but not everyone would choose to step in and become a dad. That kind of a parent takes an extra special person—one like you.

Your wife

~The kids today after the game with Shawn's mom and dad, and Emmett's mom, dad, and stepdad~


glenda said...

What a beautiful letter with so many true words. Beautiful pictures of a blended family, made with LOVE and because you two made the CHOICE to be a family... to be together! May this holiday season fill you up with much Joy, Love, health and happiness to last a lifetime. My mom would always say that "a father/ dad is the one that raises the kid and is by their side" anyone can make a child... it's those special ones like Shawn. Best to you and your beautiful family. Peace & strength always!

Unknown said...

Never considered the time you and the family have to spend with Emmett's family until I read this post and saw the picture. God bless you and all your family. you all are just amazing!

Anonymous said...

💞 That was beautiful and I couldn't stop the tears. Loved seeing all the parents together in that picture.

Anonymous said...

What a great guy to take on so much and never once look back! You deserve every bit of that love and i'm glad you found someone who is giving it to you! I'm glad Emmett's parents get to also stand on the side lines and watch their grandchildren they love despite the loss of their sweet son. You are right...we don't know the answers, but you are a prime example of turning tragedy into triumph...and i've loved reading the stories that got you from there to here.

Keep sharing...keep believing in all that you are capable of...and all the people you can touch along the way!

Merry Christmas to your beautiful family.

Anonymous said...

This beautiful family resembles ours quite a bit. A widow at 25 with one child and a single father raising 4 on his own.... We have chosen each other (14 years later) and have blended our now teens and wouldn't have it any other way. God's timing and planning is always perfect. We now have another one on the way. Couldn't be more happy with the love that surrounds our home. Merry Christmas to your whole family

Unknown said...

Dear Ashlee,

what a beautiful letter to Your husband! I admire You for all Your strength and him for the will to raise five children who are not his.

I saw You on the episode of Dateline and it saddened me how people, who had everything, did not treasure it all.

Merry Christmas to You and Your precious family!

Dagmar Zasterova

Eire Nor There said...

Beautiful, you deserve every happiness as does your new combined family.

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