Internet commenters were quick to offer advice to one man who detailed his plans to adopt one of his wife’s children, but not the other.
In a viral Reddit post published on r/AmITheA**hole, Redditor u/adopterdadd1652 (otherwise referred to as the original poster, or OP) described his excitement to adopt his 8-year-old stepdaughter and explained why he thinks his 15- A year-old stepson would prefer to be left alone instead.
Titled, “[Am I the a**hole] for not wanting to adopt one of my wife’s children?” the post has received more than 6,500 upvotes and 1,100 comments in the last 11 hours.
“[My wife] has two kids from a previous marriage, ‘James’ and ‘Becky,'” OP began. “I met them both after 6 months of being with my wife and we all moved in together after a year.”
A few weeks ago, the original poster said his stepdaughter asked him to adopt her, and he happily agreed.
“I thought it was incredibly sweet and I was very moved,” OP wrote. “I’ve cared for her since she was very small and she thinks of me like her dad so I of course said yes.”
After agreeing to adopt Becky, the original poster said his wife immediately began researching the proper legal processes and issued a request of her own—to adopt her son.
“My wife said to me that if I adopted Becky I also needed to adopt James,” OP wrote. “I am absolutely not going to do that…he’s never liked me and has no interest in bonding with me.
“He won’t come on one-on-one days out with me…will barely speak to me, doesn’t want me to come to his school sports, doesn’t want me to know about his life,” OP continued. “I’m not his dad [and] I’m not sure he even really thinks of me as a stepdad but as his mother’s husband.”
Despite the commonly used challenges associated with combining separate family units into one, stepfamilies are more prevalent in the United States than ever before.
Last year, Smart Stepfamilies reported that a whopping 40 percent of married couples with children live within blended families, in which at least one partner was accompanied by a child from a previous relationship.
Data published by Pew Research Center also revealed that 16 percent of children in are a part of a blended family.
Of those children living with a stepparent, stepsiblings or both, just 5 percent are ever adopted by a stepparent, according to researchers at Iowa State University.
However, stepparent adoption remains the most common form of adoption in the US and can bring about a major positive change for both children and parents.
“Adoption tells the world that you are a permanent family,” the Gladney Center for Adoption asserts. “Don’t underestimate the ritual and ceremony—making your stepchild legally yours is a huge deal.”
“There is something incredibly special about no longer putting the ‘step’ in front of ‘parent,'” the center assures.
For stepparents who feel disconnected from their stepchildren, like the original poster, the decision to adopt can be a difficult one.
But throughout the comment section of the viral Reddit post, Redditors were adamant that perceived disconnect is not the be-all and end-all it appears to be, and encouraged the original poster to speak with his stepson about the prospect of adoption.
“You need to ask him if he wants to be adopted,” Redditor u/TinyRascalSaurus wrote in the post’s top comment, which has received more than 12,000 upvotes. “If he says no, let him know he can change his mind at any time.”
“Sometimes treating kids fairly means meeting different needs,” they added separately, receiving another 13,000 upvotes. “For your daughter, that need is to be adopted. For your son, it may be space and time to process things.”
Redditor u/Balorio, whose comment has received more than 3,000 upvotes, echoed that sentiment and shifted focus to the original poster’s wife.
“I’m gonna say [not the a**hole] here,” they wrote. “Your wife isn’t looking at the whole picture here. James was more grown up than Becky and was unlikely to form the same bond.
“James is old enough…to be treated like an adult in some respects, and adoption probably isn’t something a 15 year old cares about,” they continued. “Your wife needs to talk to him and not treat him like he and Becky are the same age/have the same bond.”
In a separate comment, which has received nearly 700 upvotes, Redditor u/jrm1102 posited that the original poster is within his rights to have doubts about adopting his stepson, but still needs to handle the situation as sensitively and compassionately as possible.
“[You would be the a**hole] if you go through with this without asking James,” they wrote. “You are the adult and you do need to be the bigger person.”
“It’s fine for James not to want to have a relationship with you, but you would at least need to talk to him about this,” they added.
Newsweek reached out to u/adopterdadd1652 for comment.