Yesterday, I read a news story that made me angry. It was about a local man that was being hailed as a hero for turning a relationship breakdown into something positive, moving to Rio de Janeiro and helping the underprivileged children of Brazil. Very noble of him certainly, except I happen to know that there's one detail the newspapers weren't aware of. In the midst of the catastrophic break up that he did mention, there was a fling that he didn't. From that fling came a child. A child that he actively rejected and then essentially ran away from. A real hero, I'm sure you'll agree.
I have personal experience of growing up with the knowledge that I'd been rejected by a man that had never even met me, so stories like that tug at my anger strings. However, something then happened that stopped my anger in its tracks; I was reminded of the power of stepfathers. Naturally, I have an automatic soft spot for any man that does a wonderful job of raising children that he has no genetic obligation to, and I was reminded of this by a post my older sister put on Facebook. Her husband is father to only one of her children and incredible stepfather to the other four. Her post was about the amount of money she had spent on school uniforms so far, and she mentioned how hard her husband has to work in order to be able to afford such requirements for all five children. It occurred to me then that, rather than getting angry about the men who were walking out of children's lives, my energy would be better spent recognising the ones who made a conscious decision to walk in.
I have two sisters and both of their spouses are heroes. They fell in love with these beautiful women and, almost without thinking, took on the children of lesser men as their own. The husband of my older sister went from a pretty responsibility free lifestyle to father to four children in just a few short months and, as far as I'm aware, it's never even occurred to him how amazing that was. My younger sister attracted the attentions of a man who already had a child, but who was living quite a bachelor existence; one which he immediately dropped, fitting naturally and comfortably into his role of dedicated family man. They are real men because they choose to be and I love them both for it.
My Dad - my wonderful, caring, occasionally terrifying Dad - he's a hero too. He moved in with a woman he had met and her two neurotic daughters. I was only three, but my sister was eight and was fast becoming the teenager that he would have to learn to deal with. I was young enough to be pretty open to the new man our lives, but I'd soon grow out of that. A few years back, I began to serialise my teenage diaries (you can find them here), but stopped that little project in its tracks when I discovered that my teenage self was horrible. I was horrible to and about my friends, but I was absolutely demonic when it came to talking about my stepfather. I was pretty awful to his face too; in fact, I once threw a drink into it while he sat in his armchair. My Dad didn't leave. He didn't get up and say "fuck this shit; these aren't even my kids". He waited for me to calm down and then dealt with me like any father would - with a bollocking and a grounding that he would inevitably let me talk him out of.
So sod the bloke in Brazil, who had the chance to know someone incredible and turned it down. Sod the men all around the World who are failing to be a part of the lives they helped to create. Sod them all, because there are plenty of incredible men who are willing to fill the gaps that they're leaving, and those men are the real heroes.