Background: My boyfriend has three boys with his ex-wife, ages 6, 8 and 10. They have been divorced for about 3 years now and separated at least a year before that. She is now remarried and has another child, and one on the way. The boys live with their mom and stepfather. The stepfather is a good guy and has eagerly taken on the role of father/stepfather. Now, my boyfriend has the boys one or two days per week. He tries to be very active in their lives. He would have them more often if he could, but he is in the military and he works a lot… He has them every chance he gets.
Problem 1: The boys call their stepfather “dad.” According to my BF, the stepfather has encouraged, if not insisted, that they call him dad. When the boys come over our house, when they talk about their stepfather, it will often be, “Our dad… um, I mean stepdad.”
I acknowledge that these boys spend most of their time with their stepdad, and he is very much a second father to him. But is it appropriate for them to be encouraged to call him “dad,” when their real dad is very much in their lives?
Problem 2: The boys have my boyfriend’s last name, let’s just say “Smith.” Their mom, stepdad, and half-brother have the stepdad’s last name, let’s say “Jones.” Recently, when signing up for a swimming test, the instructor asked the middle child for his name, and he replied “[firstname] Jones.” My BF said, what’s your last name? and child replied, “Uh…” then they talked and he said that he wanted his last name to be “Jones.”
Now the kid in question is a troubled kid, and often misbehaving, and my BF doles out a lot more discipline* than their mother does. (The kids are spoiled rotten at home, and have almost no structure/discipline). So this middle child often is resentful and pouty towards my BF. So I partly attribute him saying he wants to used stepfather’s last name as a way to hurt or rebel against my BF. He does that sort of thing a lot.
However, I also feel strongly that the idea got into his head to use stepfather’s last name because he has heard it talked about at home. I think that his mother would much rather the kids have her new last name, because she is kind of bitter towards my BF. And I think she has said things in front of the kids to this effect, which I think is wrong - you should never ever say anything negative about the other parent in front of the kids.
I can understand the difficulty/awkwardness of having your kids have different last names and all that. But it just strikes me as so disrespectful/hurtful to the kids’ real father. I think it really hurts him inside.
So what do y’all think? What have your experiences been if you are a kid of divorce with a stepparent, or if you are divorced with kids and remarried?
*No, not physical disclipline, but things like time outs from video games, TV or the computer for hitting his brothers or lying, etc.