Father's Day honors dads all around; those who go by titles of dad, grandpa, papa, adopted dad, real dad, foster dad, pop, old man, padre and stepfather.

The last dad on this list can have his work cut out for him, depending on a multitude of circumstances but he truly becomes a father by decision and may miss a small or vast time period of the child's or children's lives.

Many stepfathers take on the commitment with eager confidence when becoming husband and father at the same time.

A stepfather is not a rare role and would not even get a second glance of title declarations, but the status can have rougher ground to cover than simply "father."

What could be the difference between the roles of a stepfather and father? Don't all pull-up diapers go on one leg at a time no matter who is on duty? Don't all bike-ride trainings, fishing lessons, camping trips, bedtime stories and first driving experiences all work out the same? Can a stepfather love the child or children as much as the "real" father?

There is no need to confirm the resounding "yes" answers to all of those queries. What is left are the questions of how a stepfather is different and how his role differs from those of a natural father.

For children, there is a natural adjustment time when they realize that it is no longer just mom, and a stepfather's presence can mean that father will not be returning. Giving up on the idea of mom, dad and a happy, television-style family, like some children believe all the other kids homes are like, can be painful to accept.

Most kids in this situation would not describe it as painful but show their emotions in anger, sadness, rude behavior, tantrums and insecurity. Children adjusting to a stepfather can make life for everyone, including the stepfather, really difficult.

To make stepping into the role of stepdad successful is not about the big things, such a dream vacation or buying for the children like it was Christmas all year round, but the everyday things such as bedtime stories, walking the dog together, help with homework and showing up for sporting events.

The role of stepdad means developing a real desire to be father to a child who is not his own and this takes some getting used to, for everybody. Every source of advice on becoming a stepfather emphasized communication. Keep talking, explaining, asking questions and be willing to listen and be flexible.

A stepfather in Delhi who did not wish to have his name printed spoke about the first year after becoming a stepfather as being difficult.

"I felt like the kids' manners weren't very good because their mother had been so busy with working, they just needed to help out more," he said.

The first year together for this family was a year getting used to each other and adjusting, but the stepdad says it has worked out. "I have learned how to tighten a bike chain, I know the Boy Scout promise, have had the best holidays of my life and have learned about a lot of things" that would not have happened without becoming a step father, he said.

"I knew things were going to work out when the kids made me a card for Father's Day a few years ago," he said.

The duty of father and stepfather remain the same, but stepfathers can typically have a choice before entering into the role.

Stepfathers agree to be responsible and meet the child's basic needs of food, shelter, clothes, education, health, attention and love. When a man becomes a stepfather, separate from becoming a husband, he makes a decision to provide safety, support and guidance to the child or children.

There are stories of bad stepfathers, those who are not responsible, but the numbers are few. This may have to do with several factors, including the fact that stepfathers ultimately have a choice to enter into the role and that sometimes the natural father has some influence as well.

Unfortunately, the stories of horrible stepfathers spread with such tenacious vigor that any knowing child would be apprehensive about this new man in their lives.

Having a good relationship with stepchildren might mean encouraging them to have a relationship with their natural father, discuss rules, honor the need for adult time, keep remembering tolerance and acceptance and, finally, stepfathers do not need to be called "Dad."

Paul Tandy of Deposit became a stepfather 15 years ago, and his three stepchildren are now adults. Tandy said that the kids just started calling him Dad.

"I think they just thought it was easier to say that (dad) than explain anything," he said.

Tandy never legally adopted his wife's children because their natural father was still around, though not an active part of the kids' lives. "It worked out good for us because we got along pretty well right away. I think the kids just really wanted a dad so they accepted me," Tandy explained.

The title of "stepdad" can be an interesting one. The gray area of definition and titles is left up to personal opinion and what fits comfortably with each family. Father's Day is to honor the men who fit into the role of father. Most stepfathers fit into the role of being a good dad by their decision to take on the responsibility of fatherhood when they become a husband to a mother.

Happy Father's Day to all the men, whatever name they answer to when a child calls for them. Any man who chooses to make a difference in a child's life by caring about their safety, health and happiness deserves to be recognized on this special day.

Recommended for you