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Dad Stunned When His Estranged Ex Suddenly Reappears And Demands A Say In Their Son’s Life

Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

When a parent walks out of their child’s life, that’s an undeniably terrible experience. But that does not give the remaining parent the right to do whatever they want, just because they stuck around.

Socially, two negatives do not make a positive, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor RunBackTheWholeThing had mixed feelings when the mother of his child came back into the picture.

When she started critiquing his influence on their son, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if he had done something wrong.

He asked the sub:

“AITA for letting my friends help me raise my son?”

The OP needed help raising his son.

“My son is 5, I’m 23. His mom and I had a one-night thing and it resulted in a pregnancy.”

“His mom pretty early on just checked out, went ghost, and I was left to raise him alone.”

“At the most desperate point in my life, I asked my friends if they could just help me handle this. Everyone has stepped up and I’m so grateful, blessed, and thankful.”

The OP’s friends helped with his son.

“They pick him up from school if I can’t, they watch him if I can’t be home. Otherwise, they mostly just come over and hang out and chill with us.”

“He’s like a little wind-up toy to them sometimes.”

“For example, a few weekends ago, a bunch of people were over and one of my buddies convinced my son to go over to this girl I’ve known pretty much my whole life, and ask her if he could ‘take her to heaven tonight.’ She thought it was pretty funny and everyone had fun with that.”

“They play explicit music around him, which, I’m fine with because I’ve put necessary boundaries in place.”

The estranged mother reappeared and had concerns.

“His mom is now back and wants to be involved and she does not like that my friends and I are raising him.”

“After essentially introducing herself to her own son and seeing my son around my friends and I, she told me that now that she’s ‘feeling good enough,’ she wants to be in his life.”

“She said, as a result, my friends need to go away because they’re horrible influences, in her opinion.”

“My view is that she really has no leg to stand on since, whereas she left us high and dry, my friends were there for us.”

“AITA?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some said the OP’s negative influence was worse than the mother’s absence. 

“YTA. Are you raising him in a frickin frat house?!”

“Your friends aren’t helping you raise your son, they’re helping you f**k up your son. He’s not a toy. You don’t teach him to solicit sex from women because it’s funny. You don’t encourage him to drink half a bottle of chocolate syrup. You don’t play inappropriate music around him.”

“You didn’t abandon him. Congratulations, you did the absolute bare minimum. That doesn’t give you an excuse to be a s**tty dad. If you were going to be a s**tty dad, you shouldn’t have been a dad.” – cbeth54

“In one of your comments, you say your kid’s biggest boundary is not to talk about anything that goes on in your home. Are you serious??”

“That is what abusers tell their kids, so can you imagine if this poor 5-year-old lets something slip…you know, because he’s only FIVE… and a teacher asks where he heard that? And your son says, Daddy told me not to tell? You would have a storm of s**t rained down on you.”

“And it sounds like for good reason. It’s great to have friends help out by babysitting or getting him after school, but he’s not their party favor. Honestly, that is awful parenting.”

“His mom is his mom, so you need to work something out with her. Both of you need lawyers, parenting classes, and you need to grow up. ESH.” – columbospeugeot

“When I was little my dad used to feed me lines to go say to women he thought were hot and constantly tell obscene jokes to/around me. On one hand, I’ve never been uncomfortable talking to strangers (I’m great at ice breakers).”

“But it took me a long to realize that that isn’t how you treat people. Gross jokes and pickup lines at inappropriate moments aren’t how you make friends. It took me a lot of learning to develop actual people skills because I was used as a parrot for some truly dumb s**t.”

“OP and his friends need to grow the f**k up – they’re raising a child, not a frat brother.” – notunhuman

Others agreed but said the situation was a solid ESH. 

“ESH. She’s AH for ghosting, you’re an AH for allowing inappropriate content and allowing your son to make sex jokes at 5 years of age.”

“I scoff that you say you’ve established ‘boundaries’ because it absolutely doesn’t feel like it.”

“Enacting a ‘don’t tell’ policy isn’t a boundary. It’s grooming. Let your child be a child. He isn’t your buddy and he isn’t a toy for your friends.”

“And regardless of how you (or we) feel about it, she has legal rights to the child. Your best bet is to hire an attorney and file for custody.”

“Also, you allowed your friends to convince your 5-year-old son to chug a bottle of chocolate syrup for fun? Holy actual f**k. YTA.” – Pretend_Low_8491

“You’re not an a**hole for having help, you ARE an a**hole for thinking the example you gave is an okay thing to have a kid do/say.”

“The mom is an a**hole for disappearing then reappearing— but in this case, it looks like she was right, they sound like awful influences.”

“ESH” – Inspector_Ancient

One Redditor had hope for the family, though.

“Let’s look at this in a glass half full way instead. This baby was an unplanned mistake, but they didn’t abort him, they didn’t give him up for adoption, and they didn’t leave him with grandparents to raise. In the end, they chose him.”

“OPs are always going to make themselves look better and the other people look worse on AITA. We don’t know why mom wasn’t around. She said she was feeling better and wants to be in her child’s life now.”

“Was she physically or mentally ill? Homeless and unable to care for a child or be contacted? Was she in an abusive relationship? Was she struggling with addiction or alcoholism? Did her parents want her to distance herself from this ‘mistake’ and move on?”

“Was she trying to get an education in a different city to better her life? Should this baby never have his mother in his life because she made mistakes? She has had years to grow up and wants to be better.”

“I am also giving the benefit of the doubt to OP. Yes, he needs to grow up and act like a dad instead of the 18-year-old he seems to be stuck as.”

“I believe he is leaving out that these friends are all drinking, smoking cigs and weed and maybe more drugs, cussing and talking about inappropriate things around this little boy, not keeping him on a proper sleep schedule, and not feeding him as healthily as he could be, which is obviously not okay.”

“But he is little enough that if his parents have grown up, they can change. His life can change. I believe that.”

“It is not too late for any of them and, based on why we know, nothing is so broken it cannot be repaired. We don’t need to be vindictive or eternally condemn anyone.”

“This man asked for help before when he needed it, which was the smart thing to do, and really he is asking for help now. Maybe he is needing someone to tell him it is okay to tell his friends to get in line.”

“It is the season of forgiveness and hope for all mankind. OP, be the man and father I know you can be. It is time. Put your child’s needs before your own and work with his mom to be the best coparents you can be. Doesn’t he deserve that?”

“In 13 years, when your son is the age you were when he was conceived, you can have taught him better. I want you and him and his mom to proudly take a picture together at his high school graduation when he is happy, healthy, and successful and think back to the early days and what a rocky start you had and see how far you all have come. I believe in you both.”

“NAH” – QuoXient

While the OP was defensive of himself and his friends, the subReddit had mixed feelings. It was true that the mother had walked away for unknown reasons to the subReddit, but that does not mean the child could be raised inappropriately in exchange.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.