Doctor Love: Step-father

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Dr-LoveDear Doctor Love,
I am a married man with a family. My family has two children; a boy aged seventeen and a girl, aged twelve. When their mother and I got married they were extremely young and I adopted both of them. Their father lives in the U.S. and has had no contact with them since the girl was just born.
Overall, our lives are peaceful and happy but there is one thing that bothers me more and more as time goes by. They have always refused to call me Dad. Instead, they call me by my first name. If someone says, “Is this your dad?” they will correct them by saying, “No. He’s my step dad.” I find this to be very hurtful, especially in the case of the girl. I am the only father she has ever known. The boy was five years old when his father left so he probably remembers him. He has actually told me that he knows who his real father is and he knows that I am only his step-father. However, the girl cannot possibly have any recollection of him. It is hard to understand why she feels the same way especially since both of them obviously care for me a great deal. They treat me just like other children treat their parents and maybe even with a little bit more respect except for this one thing. I feel that they truly appreciate the things I do for them. It would feel much better if they just appreciated that I am their dad.
My wife and I have talked it over. She says that she has never tried to influence them one way or another. She says that the girl’s attitude is probably influenced by her brother’s recollections of his father.
What can I do?
/s/ Dad

Dear Dad,
If the children willingly treat you with respect you are probably ahead of half of the fathers on the face of the earth. By the time children are twelve they are usually convinced that their parents are idiots who have no idea of how real life works. They are often not shy about showing how they feel, either.
Think of it this way. The children obviously care for you and every day with them is like money in the bank to you. There will surely come a day when they realize that no matter who is their father of record, you are the only real father they have ever known. Keep doing what you have been doing.

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