New face challenges veteran

Tara Bussjager

Q: For most of their lives my husband has fulfilled the father role for my daughters.

Their father died when the oldest was 2 and the youngest 1. Considering he has never had any biological kids of his own, he's done a great job and has taken on the job in every way. The kids have always referred to him as "Dad" to everyone — except him. For some reason, they refuse to call him Dad to his face. But when they talk about him to anyone else, it's "my Dad this" and "my Dad that." It hurts his feelings — and we have talked to them about it, but they never seem to have a reason for it. They act like we are making a big deal out of nothing. What do you make of this?

A: Of course the first thought is that they may feel an allegiance to their biodad and calling anyone else Dad may not sit well, but they were so young when their biodad passed away, we doubt they remember him first-hand. Most likely their true memories are linked to yours through comments about pictures and special occasions you all attended.

We know you may be looking for some deep psychological reason for this — were your daughters secretly scarred and as a result will never truly bond with someone else as Dad. Possibly, but more likely it sounds as if they have bonded so well that they just don't see what the big deal is, and that's the reason they have no answer when you try to pin them down. It may simply be that it's easier to refer to him as Dad when they speak to others.

They aren't singling him out by referring to him as their Bonusdad or their stepdad — he's their "dad." It's a descriptive term. They could say, "and then Bill said ..." but that could open a whole can of worms with their friends. "Bill? I thought he was your dad."

And now they are telling their whole life story and they may not be into spilling their guts each time they talk to someone new.

Referring to him as Dad, as in "My dad said..." is perfectly predictable. As you have mentioned, he's taken on the role in every way — what else would they call him when describing him?

To us it sounds like a matter of convenience, and your husband may be looking for something that he already has.

Although this is the type of thing that can eat at you in the wee hours of the night, we suggest it's time to count your blessings.

You found a great guy who accepted your children and loves them like his own — and they have accepted him so well that the word they use to describe him is Dad.