A step dad who feels like a fifth wheel...Please help!! - FamilyEducation
A step dad who feels like a fifth wheel...Please help!!
06/20/2008 at 13:40 PM

I am new here and any help that you can give me would be greatly appreciated.  I have two sons, ages 8 (Michael) and 5 (Cole).  I divorced my ex when Cole was 1 month old and Michael has no memory of ever living with his dad.  I met Pete when Cole was about 6 months old, and we moved together when he was about a year.  We completely function like a family and the boys know no other way of life.   

Their father is a complete loser who has no job, no home, no phone and no vehicle.  Calls maybe 2 x a month, and takes them on court appointed weekends, when it is convient for him.  He pays no child support, and that is ok with the friend of the court because he has been applying for SSI due to a "hurt back" for the last 4 years.  He is an alcholic and has serious addictions to Rx meds, thus the reason for the divorce.

The issue came up last night when he did call, and both boys went running.  Pete had a complete breakdown and said he will never be anything to those boys, he is just "Pete", while their loser father is "father of the year".  I tried to explain to him that they are excited to hear from him for two very big reasons.  #1 who knows when he will call again and #2 because when he takes them it is candy and pop all weekend, stay up all night, and no rules whatsoever. He is more like a cool uncle than a father.  We are their parents and they do not get excited anymore when I come home than when Pete comes home.  Because they know we are the reliable ones and they don't have to show excitement.  They know we will be there no matter what.  Last night, Pete actually told me he has been wondering if he made a mistake getting involved with me.  He will always be a fifth wheel.

I don't know what else to say or do to get him to see that he means the world to those boys.  He is the only father figure they have ever known and ever will know unless their bio dad gets treatment.  I am at a loss for words because I see it so clearly, and he just doesn't.  Michael asked me earlier in the school year, when friends ask who "Pete" is, can he say his step dad.  He told me that he made a father's day card for Pete in daycare, but the glue wasn't dry so he couldn't bring it home.  Well, it unfortunately never made it home and now Pete says he thinks that was BS.  It wasn't and I know it wasn't.  I don't know how to get him to see how important he really is, and any insight into how he is feeling would be greatly appreciated.

This is a tough one. Your boyfriend has to realize that all children just want their bio-parent to love them and care for them. He just cannot take it personally. If he cannot handle the reality of this, he needs to move on. It is not the children's fault and they must not be blamed. Yes, he can always be a "fifth wheel" if he choses to be, but he can also be a friend and very important person to both of these boys if he choses to step up to the plate and be the parent these boys need.

Sounds like Pete needs to grow up a bit and not go off on hissy fits for things like this. Children can be very mercenary and if the time spent with their bio dad is all candy and do as you please, then of course they will get excited about it. They will realise soon enough what a loser he is. I went through similar with my youngest. Dad would fail to turn up to take him for the weekend after arranging it and my son would get so upset and inevitably take it out on me. I stopped telling my son when his father was supposed to be coming round. When he did take him, it was all fun and games and a lot of money spend on silly things. He did not pay any money for his son, and I could not afford to give him many treats. It took a long time for the court to sort that out. When son came home all I would get from him was that he wanted to go and stay with dad cos he got lots of nice things. Fortunately for us, I met a wonderful man when my son was 4, and we have been together since then. My son is nearly 19 now and they get on great together. My partner knew when to back off, and was able to cope when my son wanted to talk about his bio-father. He helped my son a lot to get his thoughts into order and work out his own feelings. That is what parents and step parents should be there for.