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old relationship over, new one great, but...

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Three years ago, I broke up with the woman I was dating at the time, actually, she broke up with me. Her son at the time was 4, and he had gotten close to me, and started calling me "dad" a bit before that time. I never really preferred it, but she allowed it and what was I to say? Anyway, I figured after the breakup he'd outgrow it. I admit I've been important to him and wanted to remain a father figure to him, but I really think now that he's almost 8 he should start calling me by my name. Even "uncle" such and such would be fine, but I'm not his dad. He knows that if asked, but still refers to me as his dad. And his mother and grandmother don't say anything otherwise.


My family says I should have made it a "clean break" and just never saw him after the breakup. In hindsight they're probably right, but since he got so attached I didn't want to just "dump" him too. But the "dad" thing has gone too far. She (the ex) even put me as his FATHER on his school records (without my permission) so I've gotten calls about school stuff and medical records and crap I have no idea about. That's not what I meant by remaining a part of his life.


For the last three years, I've thought to myself that i really just want him to call me by my name. My new fiance knows I spend time with him and admires that, but doesn't know he calls me "dad" in fact few people do because I don't like it, and his mother was a horrible relationship for me and my family both I'd just as soon forget. It's not HIS fault his mom's a psycho, but that doesn't mean I should be his dad for life. I was never married to her even!


A month or two before the breakup he started telling me "mom says she's breaking up with you and I should call you your name instead of dad." I basically just said "really?" since I had no idea I was about to be dumped. But, after the breakup, she asked if I'd still be in his life, I said sure, but I can't be there all the time. I see him about every two or three weeks or so, and he is a great kid.


Problem is, I'm getting married and relocating 350 miles away. First off, it is going to be hard enough on my new wife if this kid is calling the house asking for his "dad" when she knows I don't have any kids. Secondly, I think it will be easier for HIM if he starts thinking of me by my name if I'm not going to be there. Sure, he'll still think of me as a father FIGURE, that's fine. I'm just not Dad. I want my own kids with my wife-to-be! They'll be my kids, not this kid.


What should I do? I was thinking of speaking to the grandmother since she is rational with me and I've confided in her before while the ex and I were together.

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I think you should talk directly with the boy, this whole emotional mess is not his doing, this is all of the adults involved doing.. so with respect to your kindness and care of this boy, perhaps it would be best to sit down with him and explain to him that you are moving, and that you will keep in touch and he may write to you etc..(it's important that you do stay in touch with him, he's only an innocent child and should not be hurt because of choices you and his mother have made) and you can lovingly tell him,

"since your almost nine years old now, and we are friends, you can call be by my name, your old enough to do that now, okay?, and just so you know I will be moving, and I will give you my email address that way we can keep in touch from time to time." AND YES, of course it would be nice if you had the cooperation of his mother, but if not, then at least go to his grandmother and have this talk with her and the boy too....


I know now you wish you had not made a choice to be victim of circumstance and let this get out of hand, but it's too late now, he's attached to you emotionally, and for his sake and the sake of your own Karma, tell your future wife exactly what has taken place, and make sure you handle this with the little boy in the best way you can, and that you do stay somewhat a part of his life, I'm sure your future wife will only find it admirable that you are putting thought and care into the well being of this child as hopefully you would want adults in your own future children's life to do the same..

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I suppose you're right. She (fiance) already knows I spend time with him, I don't think knowing he calls me dad would "upset" her per se. She may wonder why I didn't tell her but I think she'll find it admirable and also be understanding why it's hard.


I know it sounds horrible, but I just want to "move on" 100% from that f-ed up relationship I had with his mother. Doesn't mean I don't want contact with him, but being "dad" keeps me connected to her in a way I don't want to be, and I really don't think it's good for him since it's impossible for me to be the kind of dad he'd really want.

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I think this kid knows and understands that you aren't his dad. What he is doing is imagining, fantasizing to himself, that in a perfect world, he would have a dad. A normal person, who respected and loved him and cared about him, and who would be his dad. But he knows he doesn't live in a perfect world, and thereforeeee, he will never have a dad. Just this dream of a dad, that will never happen.


So, you can come along and tell him that he can't call you dad anymore. And that's fine; you've just confirmed to him that the world is even more sh*t than he thought it was. He can't even have an imaginary father-figure. The fact that you haven't told him to stop thinking of you that way has meant to him that in some way, he's not completely rejected from the world of fathers and sons. It legitimizes him to himself to some small extent. This is not a reality that he is imagining, but rather a hope, not for a relationship with you, but a hope that in a better world, he could have what other children have. That there is nothing fundamentally wrong with him; it's his situation.


I think in your heart you know that the right thing to do is leave this child alone with his dream of a father, and just get on with your life. You don't live in a perfect world, either, and hurting this little boy isn't going to make it a better one for anyone.

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I don't THINK you were trying to tell me I'm being a jerk or anything, I do care about him and I think that's obvious.


I never said anything was wrong with him. He's remarkably well-adjusted considering his messed up mother. And I do think I helped at least a little (although it was mostly his grandmother I'm sure, she spends much more time with him than I do.)


I don't want to hurt him. That's why I came here to get some opinions.

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Joe, I really admire the thought you are putting into this, it's a sign of the quality of your character, and I also can understand the wanting to "get away from the whole scenario" with his mother, the way you explained it here, is so clear, and I would be this upfront with your fiance as well...


just have a talk with the kid, and tell him he's old enough now to call you by your first name, and that you can email once in awhile to keep in touch after you move...


The less you involve the "mother" the better, she seems to take big liberties regarding others... and that's too bad, poor kid... it's always so difficult to set respectful boundaries with someone who just doesn't seem to get it, but for today, just know that you had a part in allowing the situation to happen, so it's best to take the responsiblity (you so obviously respect) and try to handle it the best way for the child...

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I haven't talked to her yet (fiance) but will next time I see her.


In the meantime, here's another thought:


I think that with me relocating, it might be easier for him to deal with if he doesn't think of me as his DAD as opposed to a "dad-like" figure. I want to make sure that he understands the distinction. He does, I think, but since it's not reminded to him I think he tends to forget it.

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Just be a good example of a MAN, then however he chooses to define or to emulate you, well that is up to him, that is the best thing you can do for any child in your life, friends kid, your brothers kid, your exes kid, or your own child... be an example of kindness, respect, honestly, caring, maturity, clarity, and be consistent.


Let him know how proud you are of him, and that he that you are happy to have gotten to know him and be his "friend" and that he's old enough now to call you by your first name, and that you know he has the strength and courage to do wonderful things in his life, and that even though you are moving away, you can be pen pals if he ever needs to write to you.... and stick by this, send him a thoughtful birthday card etc in the future, just out of respect..


You can have this conversation in a lite kind respectful way with him, and make sure he understands, and that is all you can do... with or without the whole talk with your new girl.. by the way, why isn't she up to date on all this anyway?

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She knows all except the dad part. Because it's hard to explain. I'll update her next time I see her (we have a long-distance relationship) in two weeks. She knows I'm great with kids and that is one of the reasons why (I also have a little sister) so I think if I explain it right she'll be fine with it, even if a bit "weirded out" by the concept at first.


As far as having a talk with him, others have told me basically what you have, and some have basically told me I'm a major a-hole for even thinking of having such a talk with him and that I should just let him keep doing it since it's the best thing he's got.

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