Stepdad on daughter: "I hoped she'd call me dad after I got married; she hasn't in 19 years"

Amy Christie

*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission

Trying to complete a family through a second marriage will also bring about different parenting connections. Being close to your partner's kids may create an expectation that they would consider you their parent.

But what happens when time passes, and that simply doesn't happen, not even after more than a decade? Does that mean there's no love, or does calling someone "mom" or "dad" not matter that much?

My friend Mark has been married to his wife, Gabrielle, for 19 years. Gabrielle already had a daughter when they met, and Mark was happy to fill up the space left by her dad. They didn't have any other kids, but they both did their best to make sure Alex, Gabrielle's daughter, knew how much they loved her.

"Since I met her, I knew she needed someone to count on. Her dad had left them for another woman. And he hasn't come to see her more than three times, and even then, only for half an hour. He hasn't sent any money either, but we didn't really need that. We earn enough. It was about looking after Alex, but he was gone, and all the times we called him didn't help much," Mark said.

He thought that with her dad basically gone, the little girl would have no issues with calling him dad since he was there every day and played with her and answered any question she had.

As it turns out, Alex always remembered her dad and refused to call Mark that. She looked up to him as a good friend but wouldn't address him like that, no matter how often the couple encouraged her to do so.

"I know other kids call their stepdad just 'dad,' but that's not for me. I know who my dad is, and I'm not going to say that to someone else. Yes, he left mom and me, and he won't be back, but he's still dad to me," Alex said.

As she's getting closer to her last year of high school, this disagreement has started to create a distance between her and her stepdad. Mark feels that Alex didn't appreciate all his dedication while she grew up and that she just doesn't care about him as much as he would want her to.

"I hoped she'd call me dad after I got married; she hasn't in 19 years. I don't know if I should have done more, but I tried everything I could think of. I bought toys; I coached her; I drove her to every kind of school activity she could think of; we went hiking, we read together, and she asked me anything she had doubts about. And still, I'm not her dad. She doesn't feel that way about me. And it's sad to discover that after so many years. Makes me wonder if she's still waiting for her dad to come back," Mark said.

Gabrielle tried to talk about this with her daughter and make her see how much it would mean to Mark if she could call him "dad," even if she's not little anymore. Unfortunately, Alex felt like they were trying to make her do something she didn't want to.

"I flat-out refused. No one can direct my feelings. If I haven't called him dad until now, I'm unlikely ever to do it. I still care about him very much. If he can't see that and would rather just have a specific name put on our relationship, I'm sorry. I can't forget my dad, the only one I have, even if he probably forgot about me," Alex added.

What do you think about this situation? Is Mark fair in expecting Alex to call him dad because he's been there for her for so many years? Should he just accept the fact that she considers him a friend and enjoy the positive relationship they have instead of trying to make his stepdaughter do something she doesn't want to?

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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX

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