04/04/2013 19:30 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

How To Make Step Families Work

How to make step families work Rex Features

My stepdaughter has never called me 'Dad'. Not even in error. She has never tried to, never wanted to, and I have never wanted her to, either. She calls me Beef. Or CheeseGlasses (don't ask). Or now that she's nine years old, more often: 'You're just as idiot.'

You see, Daisy has a Dad – her own dad, her real dad. She loves him and connects with him in a way she has never done with me and I'm cool with that.

She has been my stepdaughter since she was one year old, but has seen her real dad every weekend and holidays since. The logistics of this can be quite wearing because every weekend it involves one of us doing a 100-mile round-trip for either the drop-off or pick-up.


But it's worth it, because Daisy gets to have the best of both worlds – in all senses. She has created an extreme example of how a so-called 'broken family' can become a 'bonded family.' Ours is a complicated family, but it works because we all put one person at the centre of everything: Daisy. My wife gets on with Daisy's dad and his new wife like a house on fire; I get on with them both like a house on fire. We are one big burning house of a family.


Recently, for example, my wife went to see her daughter do a gymnastics display. She went along with our eldest son, her ex's eldest STEPdaughter and his OWN newborn baby boy. And there they all sat, one big complicated happy family, cheering along the centre of their universe.

Unfortunately, many people find this all rather odd. Exes are supposed to be at war. They're supposed to bitch and row and pull and push at each other's patience. They're supposed to negotiate more than a UN Summit and then renege on the outcome.

That's what happened to my brother. He and his wife split up and she was so devastated by the split that she stopped him seeing their three children for the best part of four years.

It's not like that in our Big Fat Complicated Family. We just get on. None of us are best mates. We don't go out drinking and dining together - we're not that weird! But we do appreciate what's best for Daisy and that is to give her the best of both worlds. She has her Real Dad and her Real Dad's Family. And she has her Mum and Beef and her brothers.

Some people might argue that it would have been better for Daisy if her parents had stayed together instead of splitting up all those years ago, and I can see their point of view. The organisation and the constant to-ing and fro-ing can be very tiring for everyone.


But Daisy doesn't see the downside. When she has been asked at school about her family life, she is not just open and upfront about it: she is proud. 'I have a mum and a dad and a stepdad and a stepmum,' she declares.


Then she tells them how every year she has two birthdays, two Christmases, (at least) two holidays, and endless, endless trips and treats as she flits between the two of us. She also doesn't fail to tell them that she has two sets of nagging parents, on her case to finish her homework, tidy her bedroom, stop leaving wet towels all over the place etc.

'But surely there must be SOMETHING wrong with her?' cynics might ask.

And indeed there is: she can be lazy, snappy, surly, day-dreamy, moody, and has a voice like a cat's nails on a blackboard. Just like any other nine-year-old.

Aside from that, though, she's pretty much perfect. In fact, she even won her Year 4 'Achievement' prize at the special ceremony a fortnight ago – an event that all four of her proud 'parents' attended.

But obviously, that success is nothing to do with her: I put it down to what a brilliant housedad and stepfather she is lucky enough to have to coach her through life!

Keith's blog is Chronicles of a Reluctant Housedad