Many fairy tales depict step-parents are evil but this is not always the case in real life. In fact, one stepdad and marine, Leonardo Avila, brought up his step-daughter, Alessandra, ever since she was less than one year old. He was the warm and loving father figure in her life, but when Alessandra turned eight years old, she wanted to make it official.
“He’s been her Dad since she was seven-and-a-half to eight months old, like he knew her then and when we moved to North Carolina he snapped into that daddy role,” said Alessandra’s mother, Angela Avila. “She was like ‘I want Papi to adopt me’ and she was really firm so I said ‘OK.’” 
Alessandra Asks Her Marine Stepdad to Adopt Her
Alessandra surprised her stepdad with an “adoption proposal” on a baseball diamond on September 12, 2018. She held up a sign that read “Papi, you are my forever home. Will you adopt me?” 
A family friend led Avila onto the field. The marine stepdad was blindfolded with a baseball glove. But when he saw Alessandra and her sign, he was overcome with emotion.
“It was shocking because it was completely unexpected. I had no idea at the time as I was walking with the glove over my face — I didn’t know what to expect,” Avila said. “We’ve always had this kind of bond, we’re daddy and daughter but it’s best friends always, I tell her she’s my best friend and she says you’re my best friend too.”
Although Avila was in Alessandra’s life since she was an infant, he became her stepfather in 2012 when he married Angela. But Alessandra wanted him to be her official father as well. So she worked with her mother to plan a way for her to ask her stepdad to adopt her. They chose a baseball field since Avila and Alessandra bonded while playing and enjoying the sport. In honor of the occasion, Alessandra wore a pretty velvet dress and baseball cleats.
Avila described his reaction, saying, “I told her, ‘I absolutely 100 percent will [adopt you]. I told her I care about her and she means the world to me. I hope I could keep showing her an example of what a good father is and later on down the road, what a good husband is supposed to be.“
So, on January 10, 2019, Alessandra took on Avila’s last name and legally became his daughter. “After all is said and done, I feel she has made the best decision and I’m proud of her,” said Angela.
Her marine stepdad added, “To know that was her decision that she wasn’t pressured, that it was something that she wanted, my emotions came over me. To know I made this type of impact to her life that she wants my last name, it was an amazing moment and definitely something I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.”
The Role of the Stepfather
Stepfathers face many difficulties when they integrate with their new family. Many feel like they need to step in as a new father figure, but this only alienates their stepchildren. Instead, they need to act, not as a replacement biological father, but as a supportive and caring presence. Even having a healthier marriage with the mother than her previous one is already a win. It gives the children a positive role model in terms of relationships, and hopefully, in other aspects of their lives as well.
It’s a delicate balance. Many stepdads have to override their initial assumptions about fatherhood, which often include establishing authority and discipline. More often than not, stepfathers aren’t welcomed with open arms by their stepkids. In fact, the children may feel conflicted and resentful towards the new adult in their lives. Stepfathers have to respect the role the absent biological father has in the kids’ hearts, no matter how irrational it may seem. Even if the original father was negligent or abusive, many children’s loyalties will go to him before their stepfather. Instead of trying to take that father’s place, a stepdad has to work to develop his own relationship with the children.
It’s hard work, but when stepdads are in for the long haul, their role can be incredibly fulfilling and joyful. 
- “8-year-old kid surprises stepfather with adoption proposal: ‘You are my forever home’.” Global News. Adam Frisk. January 21, 2019
- “’You are my forever home’: 8-year-old surprises stepdad with adoption proposal.” ABC News. January 21, 2019
- “8-year-old surprises stepdad with tearful adoption proposal.” Good Morning America. Nicole Pelletiere. January 23, 2019
- “Navigating the tricky waters of being a stepdad.” The Conversation. Joshua Gold. June 16, 2017