Dad on son: "He thinks of his stepdad as his dad; I want to cry"

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

Ending one marriage and moving on to find a new partner has more challenges when there'd kids to look after whose feelings could easily get in the way of finding happiness again.

Whether you're ready to be a stepparent yourself or have to watch your kids get along with the new person in your ex's life, it can be hard to accept them using the same terms to refer to them as to you.

Would you be ok with one of your kids suddenly calling someone else mom or dad when you thought that word was meant only for you?

My friend Lucas was married for five years before his wife, Marianne, divorced him. They didn't get along and argued almost every day, so they decided to end their relationship after trying to parent their son, John, despite their disagreements.

"We both cared about John and just couldn't see him get upset each time we argued. It was better for us to separate rather than go on arguing and adding pressure on him all the time," Lucas said.

His wife agreed to separate, and in a few months, she started dating again. After one more year, she was ready to marry again to Andrew, who also had three daughters.

"I realized John would be part of a bigger family and have more siblings, so I felt maybe that was a good thing for him if he couldn't have his parents together," Lucas said.

What he didn't expect was how his son would react to his stepdad. He liked Andrew a lot, and he was excited to meet his brothers. And more than that, he said something completely unexpected.

"He thinks of his stepdad as his dad; I want to cry; he knows I'm his parent. I was there to pick him up for a sleepover, and he said goodbye to Andrew like that. He also hugged him tight and said he'd miss him. Hadn't he missed me too? I felt so strange,"

Lucas talked to John about what happened once they got to his house, and he found out that his son is actually used to calling Andrew dad.

"He told me his mom encourages him to do it too, and he likes to do it because he feels connected to his siblings like they all share the same parents. But where does that leave me? I didn't get married again, and he's my son. He's still my family. If I lost my wife, I didn't give up on my son. I pay for everything he needs, too," Lucas said.

He asked his wife and Andrew to come over one afternoon so they could figure out the situation. The couple didn't feel it was wrong to tell the little boy to call Andrew "dad." In fact, they thought it would be better for their new family that way.

"They just didn't take my feelings into account at all. And I'm still paying them a lot for my son every month. How is that ok? I want him to know I'm his dad, no one else. Andrew can be close to him and a good friend, but he's not his dad. I am," Lucas said.

Things are still tense for now because Lucas feels disrespected even though his wife demands constant payments from him, and his son doesn't understand why he's upset.

How do you think this situation should be handled? Should Lucas ask his son to only call him dad even if he's home with his siblings, and it's easier to refer to Andrew that way too? Is Lucas the only one who can be called dad because he pays for all of his son's expenses?

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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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