Reddit came through with advice, feedback and words of wisdom when a stepdad posted about an uncomfortable quandary he’s experiencing with his stepchildren. The user explained that he’s been married to his wife for two years and they’ve dated for five years. She has two kids from a previous marriage, James (15m) and Becky (8f). Their biological dad is absent from their lives.
Recently, Becky asked him to adopt her. He was so moved and happily accepted. He’s known her since she was little and feels like a father figure already. His wife privately told him that if he was going to adopt Becky then he needs to adopt James too. This idea didn’t sit well with the Reddit user.
“I am absolutely not going to do that,” he wrote. “If Becky thinks of me as her dad then James absolutely does not. He’s never liked me and has no interest in bonding with me. He won’t come on one-on-one days out with me and never really has, will barely speak to me, doesn’t want me to come to his school sports, doesn’t want me to know about his life or his friends or his hobbies etc.”
There’s no way that James would want to be adopted, the user explained. However, his wife feels that he’s treating her children differently. She’s saying things like: “He’s just a child, you need to be the bigger person,” “You’ll be excluding him from the family if you don’t, how could you be so cruel and heartless” and “You’re not the man I thought you were.”
The Reddit user wonders if he’s being TA in this situation. He admitted to the forum that, while he loves the teen on a familial level, he doesn’t feel connected with him. “My wife has now said if I don’t adopt James I can’t adopt Becky (because apparently I can’t be trusted to treat them fairly) and I can’t say that to her because it would break her little heart. AITA?”
Reddit collectively did not think this stepdad was TA and offered personal anecdotes from their own similar life experiences. Many encouraged the user to include his stepson in the conversation as much as possible. “As a child of a step parent who adopted my brother and I, I was all for it and had a great relationship with my dad,” a user wrote. “My little brother didn’t and it just brewed resentment that festered long into his teens and even today. I think if we had been given the choice, I’d have said yes but he likely wouldn’t have, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Another added: “I was legally adopted by one parent after my parents got married (one of my biological parents passed away) and nobody ever thought to ask me if that’s what I even wanted. I was much younger. There is absolutely no reason not to ask him what he wants. He’s beyond old enough to understand and speak for himself.”
A lot of people reinforced the idea that James’s decision in the matter should not effect Becky’s decision. And, if one child wants to be adopted, that does not mean that the other child has to.
“You have been around since Becky was 3, and James was 10. Your wife isn’t looking at the whole picture here. James was more grown up than Becky, and was unlikely to form the same bond as Becky was,” someone pointed out. “James is old enough at this point to be treated like an adult in some respects, and adoption probably isn’t something a 15 year old cares about. Your wife needs to talk to him and not treat him like he and Becky are the same age/have the same bond.”
What do you think this stepdad should do?
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