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good times, for a change

Over the last eight years, I have always looked for ways to connect with the boys. It's a delicate dance that I have to do, respecting their limits while pushing them to give new and different things a try. It's made even harder by my position in their lives as a Stepparent™. Most of the things I love are rejected out of hand, because to embrace those things would be to wholly embrace me, which (in their minds) would be to somehow betray their father. I have shared my interests and passions with them, but beyond poker, and Ryan's limited affection for 80s alternative music, we have little in common at this point in their lives. It makes me sad from time to time, but it's something I have to accept; they're just not interested in geeky things like comics and RPGs. I'm sure that part of it is their age, and the differences in our generations. There are times when we make wonderful connections, but I still lay awake some nights and wonder if I'll ever be able to fully close the gap that currently exists between us.

I'm not a car nut, by any means. I think American muscle cars from about 1960-1974 are pretty damn cool, but I could care less about today's expensive sportscars . . . Nolan, on the other hand, positively loves them, and while we were at the car show, he made an effort to share that love with me, the same way I've attempted to share my love of science fiction with him. On the surface, this is just a car show . . . but it's much, much more to me . . .

Over the next hour or so, we slowly moved from one booth to the next across the West Hall. I watched Nolan as he sat in several cars that he likes to drive in various Xbox games. I could see the far away look in his eyes while he was in the Audi TT, gripping the wheel tightly as he pulled through turns across Trafalgar Square in Project Gotham Racing, and I smiled. He finished his race (in first place, no doubt) and got out of the car.

"Nice driving," I said. "Ready for the South Hall?"

"You know it," he said, and took my hand.

We left the hall, and headed down a long corridor. Our walk was uneventful, until we neared a small chamber called the Concourse Hall. Nolan looked in as we passed, and stopped abruptly.

"Oh my god, Wil! We have to go in there! I just unlocked a Lotus in PGR2, and they're totallygoing to have the real one here!" He said, "Can we? I've never seen one in real life."

"Of course!" I said, "That's why we're here."

We walked into a room that was packed (well above its capacity) with hundreds of exotic sportscar enthusiasts. In addition to the Lotuses, this hall contained the Bentleys, the Ferraris, the Lamborghinis, and the Saleens.

"Man, this room is really full. Should we come back later?" Nolan said.

I looked around the room. It was hot, and a faint reek of greasy hair and sweat hung in the air, like an elementary school hallway after lunch recess. Several people pushed their way past me, one of them knocking me off balance. Nolan squeezed my hand and steadied me.

"I think the Lotus booth is just to the right," I said, "I think we can at least see that, and if it's too crowded, we can come back later on."

"Are you sure?"

In the far corner of the room, a group of men cheered, and I saw several arms reach into the air.

"Yeah. I think there's just some sort of giveaway happening over there."

"Maybe it's a free whack at the GTO," Nolan offered.

"Oh! Where can I sign up?" I said.

We giggled and slowly wove our way through the teeming masses yearning to win prizes, until we were pressed right up against the rail in front of the Lotus booth.

We hadn't even stopped moving when Nolan went off on this car. He was like an audio version of Car and Driver.

"Can I take pictures?" He asked.

I handed him the camera and told him to go nuts.

A few minutes and about a thousand pictures later, we squeezed out of the suffocating room.

While we walked past a booth selling Auto Show T-Shirts, Nolan said, "Wil, I can get so many Kudos with that car in PGR 2 --" He stopped, and turned to face me.

"Is this boring for you?"

It was a very unexpected question, and caught me completely off guard.

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I keep stopping you to look at cars."

"Nolan, it's a car show. What else are we going to do?"

"Okay, I'm just checking." He looked away, then back to me. "Are you sure you're not bored?"

"Nolan, I'm really happy to just be hanging out together, and I think it's totally cool that you're into these cars. I'm having a fantastic time."

"Okay," he said.

We walked another fifteen feet or so before he stopped again.

"Thanks for bringing me here, Wil." He hugged me, right there by the Los Angeles Times booth.

I hugged him back, tightly, in spite of myself. "You're welcome, Nolan. Thank you for telling me that." I smiled. I've spent most of the last eight years teaching both kids to be compassionate and appreciative. I love it when I see a little glimpse of my parenting in action.

"I'm really glad we did this today," he said.

"Me too."

(Next time: The real return of the muscle car!)


Awesome that you and Nolan both enjoyed your time together at the car show. Now lets see some of the pics that Nolan took of the Lotus. ;-)

Nolan, knowing you're having fun gives Wil more joy than you could ever know. Believe me, you'll know this for a fact when you have kids of your own.

am i the only one that's creeped out by the fact that so many kids appreciation of cars today stems from unlocking them in video games? It's half the reason Slammed Civic's and EVO's and WRX's are so popular. Why the hell does taht bother me? Hm.

Anyhow. I can't wait to have kids.

As I've read over the years your interactions with Nolan and Ryan, all I have to say is that you are a good stepparent and parent. Keep it up. You are making a positive impact. =^)

Had tears in my eyes reading this. My wife and I can't have kids but I get a similar very occasional moment with the nephews. Lap it up Wil it doesn't last long!

I am happy to hear that you have such a close relationship with your stepsons even though you don,t have too much in common.Having a bond like that is something that should be cherished Take Care:)

That is super cool Wil that you can have a wonderful relationship with your stepsons! Being the product of a split family I can attest to you that although they may not say it, I would imagine they love you as much as their father. If you have there respect, then you are well on your way to keeping their hearts open to you. Enjoy these times with them, they will remember them!!!

Wil, you make me chuckle and get teary at the same time. Savor these moments. My ten year old little tough guy would rather eat his own liver than hold my hand in public. But when we go to the biannual antique toy show or teddy bear show he will sometimes forget and take my hand. It is a great connection and I would not trade it for anything.

Wil...I am completely impressed! I would have given anything for my real father to do something like this with me, and you have done far better as a step - you are a true "dad" all the way. Be proud.

*sniffle* That was awesome. Good to read that you're connecting with your kids. Step-parenting or not...they can still be your kids and you love them as such.

Just like on that early eppy of the Brady Bunch. :)

I love a writer that can make me laugh and cry at the same time, while evoking feelings of familiarity with the characters. Dude! its as if I know you and the family!! I love it!
I suspect my Dad felt the same way with me at car shows even tho I'm a chick I like a good car show and that was one thing Dad and I could relate on.
Its just as good a memory for the kid as the parent, its those things I'll remember when Dad's gone.

What a nice story. Thanks for sharing. I am glad that you had a special time with your stepson.
Take care,
Jen Webster

Wow, Wil, a 12-year-old boy hugged you in front of everybody at a CAR SHOW? He loves you, buddy! You guys are lucky to have such a nice family.

As a stepparent (TM) I can truly appreciate the moment that you had with Nolan. Sometimes you feel like the outsider, not wanting to step on the sacred ground of trying to "Be their father". I have been lucky enough to have had many moments like this in the past 8 years, and damn anyone who says "But wouldn't you like your own?", because well...they are our own.

That was a great story, thank you for sharing that!!

What often draws me in to WWDN is the music references. That goes double for today's story since the title started one of the most melencholy songs ever running through my head for at least half an hour. Despite that starting point, reading it through made me smile. Thanks Wil.

How could you have a great deal in common? You are all from different times. It looks like a normal parent and child gig, to me. What do these kids want to do with their lives!!!!????


As I read the first paragraph I thought, This is me! (although I only have four years experience as a step dad) especially the part “because to embrace those things would be to wholly embrace me, which (in their minds) would be to somehow betray their father”.
Part of me wishes that my stepchildren would read your story, it would seem we all (stepparents that is) go through the same feelings.
But isn’t it worth it when we do CONNECT!.

Wil - whenever I read your entries regarding your stepkids it just makes me feel great! You are an awesome stepdad and I think it is great that the relationship that you build with those boys is so important to you.

Especially as teens they will see you as a scapegoat as the step parent. Just be there for them and truly put them first and in a few years they'll grow out up and look back and appreciate you. My parents haven't remarried but they didn't always put us first in their divorce and it would have made a world of difference if someone had.

Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion! Wil, you are such a great father. Your recounts of events with 'your boys' remind me of similar times spent with my father.

wil, dude... stop making me cry at work.

but seriously, you are doing a great job with nolan and ryan. it's no wonder that anne loves you so much.

Wil, your stories about you and the boys prove over and over that the concept of "family" can and does transcend the question of whether or not you have a genetic link to someone you love and who loves you back... It's obvious you're a wonderful "bonus dad" to these boys. How lucky they are!

Awesome story. As someone who is on the other side of two similar relationships (i.e., I've got two step parents), I can say that I'm a little jealous of Nolan and Ryan. Having to deal with stepparents is never an easy thing, but it seems to me you're handling it right. Way to go!

I SOOO know what you mean about the thrill of a step child bonding with you. You are right on target about the loyalty concern. It's hard for a kid to understand that love is not a zero sum game and that they are not taking away from their birth parent if they feel love and affection for you. It is especially tough when the birth parent encourages disloyalty feelings. I am the step-mom to a truly wonderful 15 year old boy. It has been a bit of a struggle, and frankly at ages 13 and 14 it was really tough. However, somewhere around 15 kids start to form independent opinions about the circumstances in which they find themselves. And when they do, the relationship with a step parent seems to take a quantum leap. My advice based on my experience is to just keep being a gentle presense in your step-childrens lives. Keep letting them lead the relationship building, so it happens at a pace they feel comfortable with. I can tell you, the feeling of joy that comes when you finally break through to a place where the child if finally OK with a full relationship, and doesn't feel he is disloyal anymore, is absolutely wonderful!

Folks, he may not be their father, but he's still Dad.

Off topic, but is that not a Smith's song you quoted in the title?

Good stuff...

wil, it's awesome to hear that about bonding momments like these. Speaking as someone who has had a step-father, believe me when i say it's momments like these that your step-kids
seriously will rememeber. I know its just simple stuff like taking them to a car show, to the movies, or even just hanging out with them, but these are the times that when they look back a little while to even years from now, they will know that you gave a care about what they thought was cool, or took them places pertaining to their what their interests were, instead of wishing you did but just never did due to a busy life, or just could not connect, because of different personas. Don't let the differences stop you, believe me, i know they can be discouraging. all right, i guess i'm done sounding like an after school special.

It truly is a great thing to know that you have developed such a wonderful relationship with the boys- even with the wall of you not being their biological father(BLAH- I hate that term.. step..step to what exactly?!). Though you might not have the same genes, every bit of what you shared with us, in this entry and others, show that you are truly their father. The sharing of the same DNA or not, you are someone who has made their life a little more forefilled. That is a wonderful thing, and gift, for both of you.
In the end, you may worry and fret about how to relate and take on the role of a stepparent. . but guess what. You shouldn't. Because honestly you've outgrown the stepparent role. I'd say you've grown. . into a full fledged parental role. But you don't have to take my word on it. . just listen to your heart. That speaks loudly enough for all of us.

Kym :)

After I read this (and stopped crying), I shared this with my husband, who is also a stepdad (to my oldest) and he totally related.....it is sooo refreshing to see guys like you and my Mark who rise up to the occasion and show that it takes alot more to be a Dad than genetics.....Kudos to you!!!!!

Am I the only one who read "stepparent" as "stepp-arent" instead of "step-parent"? Just me then...