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Guy Torn After Young Nephew He Adopted Asks If He Can Start Calling Him ‘Dad’

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We know that all families have their complications, their secrets, their rough spots.

But it’s still concerning when a child has to be adopted by another family member.

It leaves us with questions, admitted the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor potetopotayto was in one of these positions when he chose to adopt his nephew.

But when his nephew began to ask to represent him as his father, the Original Poster (OP) wasn’t totally certain how to proceed.

He asked the sub:

“WIBTA (Would I Be the A**hole) if I let my nephew call me ‘Dad’ because he’s ashamed of his parents?”

The OP raised his nephew as his own.

“Five years ago when I was 21, my brother and his wife were sentenced to more than 20 years of prison.”

“This left their then 2-year-old son, ‘Danny,’ in my care.”

“Due to the circumstances, I was given his full custody, and I have also legally adopted him since.”

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s my kid.”

“However, I got him when he had begun talking, and he called me ‘Uncle OP,’ and I never addressed myself in any other way to him.”

The OP had to have a tough conversation with Danny recently.

“Three days ago, he came back from school in tears (we just started sending kids back to school here), and he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong.”

“I thought he was bullied or something like that, so I called his teacher to ask what’s up.”

“She was cagey at first, but then very apologetically told me that the class was supposed to write about their parents.”

“Some a**hole kids teased him because he refused to tell them why he wrote about me instead of his mom and dad.”

“I talked to Danny and managed to get the rest of the story from him.”

“During it all, he said something along the lines of, ‘Why can’t I just call you dad?'”

The OP had mixed feelings about that.

“Now, that might be just him venting, and I’m taking this way too far.”

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the sound of it.”

“But also, I’ve been trying really hard to at least keep him aware of his parents’ existence.”

“I always write Christmas cards and take photos of him on his birthday to send to his parents, and I keep him involved in it, even if only to write his name at the bottom of the letter.”

“Neither of us are enthusiastic about it, but I want to be able to say that ‘we tried,’ if that makes sense.”

Really mixed feelings.

“If he had asked to call me ‘dad’ because that’s genuinely how he sees me, I would’ve said yes in a heartbeat.”

“But he didn’t. It was less a genuine want and more out of shame of his parents—which I get, really.”

“It’s hard to be sympathetic knowing what they did, but he didn’t, and if I had any say, he won’t for a long time.”

“I know I wouldn’t be the a**hole if I let him call me whatever he wants out of love, but would I still be justified if I let him call me ‘dad’ out of spite for his parents?”

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 suggested letting the nephew call him whatever he’s comfortable with.

“NTA. I don’t really think that it’s spite though, he’s still very young, might be worthwhile having that, ‘Buddy, if you wanna call me dad, that’s your choice and I would definitely be okay with whatever you decide’ talk if you’re down for it.”Far-Honey

“I think OP is trying too hard to not be seen by others as taking over. But his bio parents are not in the picture for the choices they made. Your son should make his own decisions as to whether he wants to keep contact (and continue the dysfunction) or move on with a ‘normal’ life.”Training-Ad-6774

“If you consider how a 7-year-old defines ‘dad,’ then OP is his dad. Dad is someone who loves me, takes care of me, makes me dinner, plays with me, takes me to school/soccer/piano, dad puts me to bed… etc.”

“Calling OP dad doesn’t mean he doesn’t also consider bio dad his dad as well – more that he wants to honor OP’s place in his life.”

“Also, why should he have to share with the other kids that his bio parents are in jail? He shouldn’t feel like he has to explain it because he lives with his uncle.”Laurenkath62

“I suspect that the kid has been wanting to call him dad for years — because OP has literally adopted him, and is his dad in every way except sperm donation — but OP’s insistence on maintaining the connection to kiddo’s birth parents has probably made the kid feel that his uncle would reject the title.”

“This decision doesn’t have to be motivated by either spite or love. Kids need parents. Prioritizing two absentees he only has contact through the mail is denying him that.”

“OP, drop the distance. You are the kid’s dad. Let him embrace it.”mouse_attack

Others agreed and said the hard moment may have reflected how Danny really felt.

“Yeah… it’s like at the end of the day OP just because he said it in a vulnerable, negative-emotion-fueled moment doesn’t mean that that’s not how he really feels. You need to have a talk with him once he’s calmed down.”calliatom

“This might be just what he needs! I remember that conversation my Dad (obviously not bio) had with me when I was 7.”

“At my wedding, right before he walked me down the aisle, I told him how I remembered it, and how grateful I was that he let me have that decision. It was super emotional for the both of us.”

“OP, a Dad isn’t someone who gave birth to you. A Dad is the person that’s there for you through all of life’s ups, downs, and special moments. Let him know it’s his choice, but you are ok with it!”AerwynFlynn

“I agree. I think this situation was the trigger, but it will be genuinely how he feels. He is 7, you are the only dad he knows. NAH”bookishgirlstar

“It sounds like he said it more out of frustration that he’s required to reserve “dad” for someone not in his life than it is out of spite. id let him know he can call you whatever he’d like. maybe if dad still feels like it belongs to his biodad you can use another iteration like pop or something.”Fantastic-Might-3275

Though the OP was reluctant to take the place of “Dad” in his nephew’s life, the subReddit challenged him to admit that this was what he and his nephew had wanted all along. After taking him in and raising him as his own, the OP was already fulfilling everything in his nephew’s life, except the significant title.

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.