Language is a powerful thing. Words can start wars (American Revolution) or end them (World War I), and if they can do all that, they can definitely shape a child’s thinking. That’s why I cringed when I heard myself referred to as “your dad” for the 100th time.
“Tell your dad goodbye.”
“Remind your dad to bring back your clothes.”
“Your dad’s on the phone.”
“Give your dad a hug.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m daddy. Not “your dad.”
The phrase “your dad” diminishes my role in my daughter’s lives. It reminds me of Republicans who didn’t vote for Obama saying, “That’s your president. I didn’t vote for him.” The verbal distancing is acute, and cuts me like a knife.
Add in the fact that my daughters were taught to call their stepfather “Daddy Bill” within months of meeting him, even though at that time he had not actively parented them in any way, and had made no genetic contribution to their existence (although he was there when they were born, as the doctor who delivered both of my children). Stepdad is elevated. Dad is diminished. It ain’t right.
It’s time I have another talk with my ex about who calls who what.
Have you experienced mis-labeling by your ex or children? How have you managed it or corrected it?
Author Info: Todd Ristorcelli is co-founder of Big Blended Family, Inc. He is also the Editor of WATERSKI magazine and a competitive waterskier. He is a blended family dad with two kids and two stepkids, and loves his busy family life.