Fatherhood. What a joy it is to experience all the things that go along with that responsibility. I am not just a father, though. No. I am a stepfather. To a 15-year old girl. So I’ll ask this as simply as possible – help!

This is my first marriage, my first foray into the Kingdom of Teen, and sometimes it feels like I’m climbing Mount Maxi-pad with all these women around. Don’t get me wrong. I love my wife, and my stepdaughter. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. They have blessed my life to the nth power, and I thank God every day for them. Being far removed from my teenage years though, sometimes I forget what it’s like. Having never been a teenage girl doesn’t help much either.

Take, for example, boys.

I’ve never dated a boy. Never had a crush on someone with testosterone. Yet here is my stepdaughter, in love with a boy. The nerve of her. What kind of advice do I give her? What do I do when he breaks her heart and she’s crying into her pillow while listening to a band I’ve never heard of and never want to hear again? Oh the trials and tribulations. I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing, and you let me know if you think I’m on the right path, okay?

So she likes this boy. He’s older, yet seems to be on the same maturity level as her. They like video games, but as far as I know, that’s where the similarities end. She’s a reader. Shy and quiet until you get to know her. He’s got muscles and volunteers as an EMS and wants to go into the Marines. Oy vey, and I’m not even Jewish. I know she’s thinking about sex (eww), and I know he’s probably thinking about it too (why I aught to…), and before I know it, there I am with my darling wife, sitting down and talking to her about it all. Talk about pressure. We explain to her calmly, in our most rational (let’s try and talk her out of this) voice, that she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to. We tell her we want her to make good, responsible decisions, and that we trust her to do so. The only problem is, we know she’s a teenager and will probably disobey our every word. Okay, maybe not every word, but you get the idea.

What do I do when my stepdaughter comes to us, crying that the boy she loves just broke her heart? How do I react when her mother asks, “Did you have sex with him?” and she nods? Comfort her? Love her? Wrap a chastity belt made of metal and barbed wire around her?

These are the things I think about as I embark on this amazing journey. Any advice you can give would be much appreciated. It’s exciting, scary, and fun all at the same time. With my wife by my side I know I can do anything. Including raising a teenage girl.

My name is James Melzer, and I’m a stepfather.