The Olympics are truly a portrait of human hopes and dreams. This year, there was an athlete who may have changed the views of society; the world witnessed the unconditional love of a stepdad for his son. Danell Leyva, a member of the United States gymnastics team, has been known for his prowess in high bar and parallel bars. Now, he is equally well known for the devotion of his dad, Yin Alvarez. Mr. Alvarez has been Danell's coach and biggest fan. Known for his systematic clapping and loud cheering during Danell's events, Mr. Alvarez is the quintessential proud dad. In fact, like many parents, he has devoted his life to help Danell fulfill his dreams.
As people watch Mr. Alvarez grab his son while hugging and kissing him over and over, I would bet that they would never think that he was Dannell's stepdad. After all, stepdads probably would not devote themselves to a stepchild. Right? Could a stepdad show that kind of passion for a stepchild? After all, there is no biological connection! When you hear Mr. Alvarez yell, "I love you, baby!" after each of Danell's events, the answer to these questions is blatantly clear.
Every stepparent has been asked the inevitable question: "Do you love your step child like your own? Isn't it different than the love you feel for your biological child?" We finally have a spokesperson. The message is out. Biological parenthood is a precious and wonderful connection. But love does not know anything about biology. A heart's connection has nothing to do with genetics. Yes, we love our stepchildren like our own. In July, Danell told ESPN that he and his dad, "always had a connection, always." The same month, he told the New York Times, "I inherited my fight from him. Nothing can break us."
For every biological parent who reads these words and is silently thinking "that's not really true," there is good news. A stepparent's love for his stepchild does not limit the child's ability to love their biological parents. Love is not scarce. There is enough to go around and nothing to fear. Human beings have an unlimited capacity to love without any damage to their devotion to their biological parents. Ask Danell.
Danell Levya is used to the questions about his parents. He says that he doesn't feel like anything is missing in his life. He loves the father he's never met. He loves the stepfather with whom he spends almost every waking hour. "My parents raised me to know the value of not only a dollar but of everything in life," Danell said in his interview with ESPN. "I've had the best childhood anyone could ask for."