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Widowed Mom Outraged After Her Brother-In-Law Taught Her 3-Year-Old Son To Call Him ‘Daddy’

The loss of a spouse is traumatic.

When there are young children, the surviving spouse often wonders how they’ll keep the deceased spouse’s memories alive with their child.

But what if a family member decides to replace the deceased spouse?

After facing that scenario, a 35-year-old widow wondered if she overreacted so she turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

Redditor Aita33A34605 asked:

“AITA For Not visiting my in-laws after my brother-in-law (BIL) told my son to call him Daddy?”

The Original Poster (OP) explained:

“I lost my husband a year ago in a car accident. This was the most devastating thing that ever happened in my entire life and I gotta say I lost dear ones before this tragedy.”

“And it’s a completely different kind of pain.”

“I have a 3-year-old son that my in-laws help take care of. My mother-in-law, sister and brother-in-law have been supportive and helped a lot.”

“My brother-in-law would literally spoil my son with new toys and clothes and they do a lot of activities together.”

“My brother-in-law is divorced and he’s been coming to my in-laws house all the time.”

“I’d have either my mother-in-law or brother-in-law babysit my son while I work. My job requires me to go on trips between 5 days to two weeks, depends on my circumstances.”

“And I had my first business trip after my husband’s passing three weeks ago. My brother-in-law offered to look after my son while I’m gone and I thought nothing of it but was a bit worried since my late husband was the one to look after our son whenever I’m away.”

“I called every night to check in on him and things were going well. I returned a few days ago.”

“And I went straight to my in-law’s house where my son was. I spend the day there talking to my brother-in-law about what they did and such.”

“I was playfully asking my son if he had a good time and he told me that ‘daddy’ took him to see the ducks at the park and I paused after I heard him call my brother-in-law ‘daddy’.”

“He did it again while my brother-in-law was talking to him. I was confused.”

“My mother-in-law was just looking at me but said nothing. I asked my brother-in-law and he said it was nothing.”

“But my son kept saying daddy ’til the evening.”

“I was so mad I corrected my son many times telling him that this his uncle is not daddy.”

“My brother-in-law got mad and told me to let my son call him whatever he wanted. I confronted him about teaching my son to call him daddy and he admitted he did that.”

“He argued that I wouldn’t have a problem if I let my son call some stranger daddy. I yelled at him and told him to stop whatever he thinks he’s trying to do and to respect my boundaries.”

“He walked out immediately avoiding discussing it any further.”

“I was also mad at my mother-in-law as she was seeing all of this and not doing anything about it. I took my son and went home.”

“My son still says daddy and it hurts every time because he hasn’t used this word since his dad’s passing. I told my mother-in-law I won’t be visiting any longer and she started texting me saying I can’t do that and I have no right.”

“She said that I was being ungrateful for the people who supported me and I should stop being mean and using my son to get them in line.”

“Demanding that I visit with my son.”

After some comments, the OP added more information. 

“The trip was three weeks ago. It’s my first since my husband’s passing. He passed away a year ago.”

“I’m sorry if anyone got confused by that. I just haven’t been myself lately I’m sorry.”

“I thought I should mention this in case it is relevant—my brother-in-law’s ex-wife had a stillbirth in 2018 and they got separated months after.”

Redditors weighed in on the situation by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors decided the OP was not the a**hole.

“NTA. That’s his uncle, not his dad. It’s great that your son can count on his uncle for a father figure, but if your BIL keeps insisting on him calling him ‘daddy’.”

“He’s either trying to replace your husband, or he’s a creep. Either way, your BIL was wrong to teach your son to call him that.” ~ brownies671

“OP edited to say that the brother-in-law and his (now) ex-wife had a stillbirth two years ago.”

“Think it’s pretty likely he hasn’t processed that trauma completely and is trying to replace the child he lost with OP’s.”

“Still creepy, just not that sort of creepy.” ~ FlyOnDreamWings

“Holy sh*t NTA! Your in-laws are way out of line.”

“How in the world does your BIL think he is entitled to be called daddy now?? That man has issues.”

“And so what if you started dating again? That does not mean your son has to call that man dad.”

“Is there any way you could have your family help to take care of your son? I would not go over anymore if BIL was there.”

“And maybe not even go over at all, because your MIL is enabling your BIL to do this to your son.” ~ chimkennuggets4life

“There’s also a huge difference between her entering into a relationship with a man and her son eventually calling him dad if they got married or something, versus her BIL assuming that role in her and her son’s life. Super creepy.” ~ JayRock_87

“Assuming the role without the mother knowing and against her will. It’s just so f’king bonkers.”

“Imagine sitting with your late brother’s wife’s child and start telling him to call you daddy, behind her back!” ~ makkafakka

“My stepdad met my mom when I was 7, and I made the decision on my own at 14 to call him Dad.”

“It should absolutely be a private decision made by that immediate family and no one else. This is so messed up!” ~ spidersandcaffeine

“NTA at all, and you really need to look into grandparent’s rights in your state and consider lawyering up in case MIL tries to get visitation with your son.”

“I’d consider sending an email to both BIL and MIL to document the situation, especially to note that BIL taught your son to call him ‘Daddy’, not that your son called BIL that on his own and to note how emotionally distressing it is for your son to be confused and manipulated like that.”

“Also, even if your son did start calling BIL ‘Daddy’ on his own, both BIL and MIL need to respect your parenting decisions, including your decision that BIL should be known as ‘Uncle’ to your son. If they can’t respect your parenting decisions, they can’t be around your son.”

“I’m not saying you should go scorched earth with BIL and/or MIL, just saying you should get your ducks in a row in case things go south.”

“Also, everyone here is grieving and people do weird things when they’re mourning the loss of a loved one, so I would try to de-escalate the situation first.” ~ Blondi_brownie

While everyone in this situation is grieving, the OP set clear boundaries with her in-laws and they responded with anger and disrespect. Reddit agreed the OP is right to create physical boundaries between her son and her in-laws if they refuse to respect her wishes.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.