How we refer to our parents is shaped by them when we’re first learning to speak. If they only use their given names, as toddlers we’ll do the same.
If they use mom and dad or mommy and daddy or mama and papa, that’s what we’ll use too.
As we age, we may adapt based on our own preferences.
Most kids will drop terms like mommy and daddy once they reach a certain age. And many a parent has found themselves being called mother and father by an angry teenager.
But what if it’s the other parent that changes the form of address?
Is it cause for concern?
A dad found himself in such a conundrum, so he turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for a sanity check.
“AITA for not wanting my wife to refer to me by my first name when talking to my kids?”
The original poster (OP) explained:
“My wife recently started using my first name when referring to me to our preteen kids, as in ‘Steve’s gonna pick you up from school tomorrow’.”
“I asked her not to when I first heard it, saying, ‘I don’t really like when you use my first name to the kids. Can you say “your dad” or “dad”?’.”
“She said, ‘Steve is your name, I don’t see the problem’, but I eventually got her to see things my way.”
“A couple months go by, and I had heard her say it periodically, like ‘Steve can pick what to have for dinner’.”
“Finally today she did it again, and I said, ‘babe, I know we talked about it before, but can you please use “your dad” when talking to the kids?’ and she said ‘it’s totally subconscious, it’s not like I mean to. You’re probably going to have to remind me again like 50 times’.”
“At this point, I said that’s not really acceptable. If you hear me and respect my wishes, it doesn’t need an excuse or hedging, you can just say OK.”
“She started getting upset, yelling, and said I was being difficult and should just accept that she can’t control it.”
“I didn’t think it needed a big discussion, and finally diffused the situation by saying sure, I believe you’ll try.”
“It just sounded like a cop-out for no reason, setting us up for the same discussion some time down the road.”
The OP added:
“She said she’s been doing it for years. More like six months maybe, but we’re talking maybe ten times over the last six months.”
“I’m thinking, it sends a shiver down my spine, I think I’d notice. That was actually the first thing that set this off, ‘So you’re saying I’m lying to you??’.”
“It’s just that I addressed it, then ignored it, and now when I address it again she had an excuse, then an affirmation that it’s probably not going to change.”
“I didn’t think that was good enough.”
“She says it’s an honest mistake. I’m not really mad at it, just would prefer different. I never once had any adult in my childhood use my parents’ first names unless they didn’t know either of us.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
Redditors couldn’t agree.
Some declared OP was not the a**hole (NTA).
“Well why does she suddenly need reminding your dad? I mean, she used to call you dad.”
“Could get petty and refer to her by her name, but I suspect that’s not going to go well. Maybe something bigger is going on?”
“You’re NTA, but there is something not right here.” ~ Ecstatic_Media_6024
“NTA. She’s spent all this time referring to you as ‘dad’, but now it’s ‘Steve’ and she says it’s subconscious, and she can’t help it? That’s not how people’s brains work.”
“I get that it’s now a habit, and perhaps it is very hard for her to remember, but that does not explain why she started in the first place.”
“It’s like she is trying to create distance between you and the kids. Perhaps she is having insecure feelings about her relationship with the kids?”
“Have you been having issues or disagreements with her lately? Especially about the kids?”
“Have you asked her WHY she started calling you your first name instead of just telling her to stop? I would if I were you.” ~ nucleusambiguous7
“You need to sit down and ask her why she has all of a sudden decided, after however many years you’ve had these kids, that she is going to refer to you by your first name to them.”
“This is very odd. Like she is disassociating your relationship to them.”
“And she is unwilling to change.”
“Something happened, or something is coming to a head.”
“Have a clear and open discussion. Stop letting her dismiss this and get concrete answers. NTA.” ~ Shmoesfome
“My parents have been divorced (not even amicably) for over 25 years.”
“My parents still refer to each other as ‘your mother’ and ‘your father’ and not by one another’s names when talking to us.”
“It’s weird she’s calling you by your name in front of your kids. NTA.” ~ Stunning-General
Others felt OP was the a**hole (YTA) making a mountain out of a molehill.
“Wait, this has happened just a handful of times, less than twice a month? Her calling you by your name that she uses when she talks to you and introduces to people by?”
“YTA. It is completely natural, to momentarily slip up and not call you by your title of ‘dad’ and calls you by your given name.”
“You’re lucky she didn’t call you by another family member’s name, because have you heard of the phenomenon where we mix up the names of people we love. Guess, what the people who do that the most are moms.”
“YTA, for making a big stink about her infrequently using your given name when talking about you to your children.” ~ Expensive-Lie1127
“You’re perhaps not exactly being an a**hole… Just an idiot.”
“If your name’s Steve, then people—besides your kids, but including your wife—call you Steve, not ‘Dad’.”
“You’re not her dad.”
“But this is AITA, you came here asking for a judgment, and JAI (Just An Idiot) is not an option. So: YTA.” ~ Redundancy_Error
“YTA! Seriously TEN TIMES in SIX MONTHS?????”
“That’s not even twice a month.” ~ Blacksmithforge3241
“Your kinda the a**hole, you said yourself they were preteens, which means that they are not kids anymore. It is not as bad as if they were 7. YTA.” ~ TerraBoomBoom
“Eh YTA, she’s just saying she might make mistakes sometimes. That’s a human thing, it doesn’t have to be malicious.”
“You know she’s trying because it happens less often now. Part of marriage is giving the other the benefit of the doubt.”
“I’d hope that if I was breaking a habit for my spouse, they wouldn’t see it as disrespect if I needed some of their support.” ~ nemesiswithatophat
“As a teenager, I would have MUCH RATHER heard my mother refer to my dad with his name instead of calling him dad or daddy consistently for the whole 35 years of my life.”
“Once your kids are grown, knock it the f’k off. They know who their father is. Using his name isn’t going to change that.”
“Soft YTA.” ~ Melodic-Advice9930
But people also made the case there were no a**holes in this situation.
“I’m going with NAH. It’s annoying that she slips up, but it’s also not crazy that she thinks about you as a person with a name.”
“Your kids are growing up, I’m guessing, and she’s going out of manic mom mode where she constantly translates the world to them.” ~ tessherelurkingnow
“NAH – Steve, why do you need this label so badly? You’re the father of your kids, yes? They call you dad, right? What’s the f’king problem here.”
“I also feel like this is soooooooooo one sided and a lot is being left out.”
“I don’t think there’s any ill intent from his partner.” ~ No_Introduction538
“Am I the only one who thinks this is ridiculous? I wouldn’t feel even half as strongly as you do about this, nor would I care.”
“I seriously can not fathom why it’s an issue.”
“Your kids call you dad, don’t they? It’s not like she’s telling your infant children to call you by your first name instead of dad.” ~ Celestiiaal0
“Based on the comments, it doesn’t even seem like this happens very often. Just a couple of slip-ups every now and then.”
“Some folks here are jumping to conclusions about the wife, but it could be as simple as: she’s talking about him a lot more often (say, at work) and she slips up at home every now and then in the same way that kids occasionally call their teacher ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ by mistake.”
“The kids aren’t suddenly calling him Steve, and it doesn’t seem like the wife is implying that they should. Seems like an odd thing to get upset about, but *shrug* NAH.” ~ Apostrophe_T
“NAH. OP, you are in an adult relationship.”
“If your kids still call you ‘dad’, WHY DOES IT MATTER????”
“You need to ask yourself why it is so important that your adult wife, who knows and uses your real person name, is not allowed to do that around your kids?”
“I can see your complaints about her not respecting your wishes about something she only recently started doing, but I also understand where she is coming from that it shouldn’t matter.” ~ Straight_Western4096
“I’m leaning towards NAH.”
“When there’s a sudden change in behavior, it’s tempting to think the worst. But have you considered that your wife might simply be using your first name more often than she used to for some reason such as calls with teachers or family members?”
“Maybe she’s been talking to a friend who asked, ‘How are Steve and the kids?’ She might respond with, ‘Steve’s fine’, or, ‘Steve’s a bit upset because I’m not calling him “Dad” to the kids’. This could be reinforcing the habit of using your first name.”
“So, while I understand that you’d prefer her to refer to you as ‘Dad’ when talking to your kids, it might not be as easy for her to switch back as you think. It’s not necessarily about disrespect; habits can be hard to break.” ~ IHaveAVennDiagram
This father’s feelings are valid, but even he doesn’t think his wife is doing it maliciously or deliberately.
So where do they go from here?
Hopefully they can find a way forward where both parents feel validated.