Parenting adolescent children can be challenging.
Stakes are high for teens going through many physical and emotional changes, and being reprimanded is the last thing they need whenever they feel like the weight of the world is closing in on them.
This is true of any child, whether they are biological or adoptive.
One father tried to diffuse tension with his adopted 15-year-old daughter with an egregious dad joke, and it backfired big time.
So the father took to a subreddit thread to ask readers if he is the a*****e for his retort to his rebellious daughter.
"My step-daughter, Madeline, was about a year old when I married her mother, Jessica. Madeline's father died before she was born.
"Madeline is currently 15, and she's rebelling for almost everything. She did something bad, so while picking her up, I set a punishment up for her."
"Then she said 'You're not my dad. I don't have to follow you.' Honestly, I got a bit hurt from that. But I understand that she didn't mean it, and that she'd probably change."
"I just replied 'I'm still your legal guardian for the next 3 years, and as long as your in my house, you have to follow my rules.'"
The OP's response was reasonable.
But the next conversation was not so smooth.
"That happened about 2 days ago. So our family was going grocery shopping, when Madeline said 'I'm hungry. I need food.' I decide to be extremely cheeky and say 'Hi Hungry, I'm not your dad.'
"My son just started to laugh uncontrollably. My daughter was just quiet with embarrassment. And my wife was berating me 'Not to stoop down to her level.'"
"I honestly thought it was a funny dad joke. And my son agrees. So AITA?"
The responses were mixed.
Some saw the humor in his retort.
"ESH, but that was one hell of a joke and I congratulate you for it." – Im_Space
Some called him out as an a*****e.
"YTA. That is not something you say to your kid. She wasn't quiet with embarrassment, she was quiet in hurt and insecurity because her dad just confirmed something she has probably worried about her entire life, that he doesn't see her as his real kid."
"She will now always feel or wonder that you don't see yourself as her dad, all just so you could make a dumb joke." – larrieuxa
"Since you're not her dad, that joke was more of a faux pa" – buvet
This user said that Madeline, being a teenager, knew what she was getting herself into with her comment and was pushing his buttons.
"Daughter is old enough to know what she said and how she said it was meant to be hurtful. She did it to get a reaction. OP chose to politely tell her how the world works and then decided to make a joke of it instead of being a d**k and writing her off like many people would have. Good job." – onelegsexyasskicker
But teenagers always say and do things they regret later.
Weren't we all guilty of this at some point?
"Do you not remember being a teenager? I said s**t I didn't mean, that I'd never say today all the time. Just about everyone I know did." – Aikeus
"Preteens and teens can really suck. It takes a big person to be a real parent, especially through these stages, whether it's through being a biological parent, adoptive, foster, legal guardian, etc."
"We all have our breaking points into being a sarcastic a****e. It's what you do with it after the heat is over." – juicemagic
"I'm gonna go against the grain and say NTA because this joke lets her know that her comments stuck with you and that you won't just 'forget about it and move on.'"
"My stepdad did something similar when I said the same thing to him. I asked him for help with something a day after the fight and he said 'sounds like a job for your dad' and walked away. It helped me realize that what I had said really hurt him." – Zemilyxi
Those who are adopted shared similar anecdotes and their regrets for past transgressions.
"I'm adopted and I never used the 'you're not my real parent' phrase but I did used to say when my parents were annoying me 'boy am I glad I'm not biologically related to you.'"
"Feel really guilty about it now! But my parents would just shrug it off. If either of them ever said 'back at ya' or similar I would have been crushed." – trogdorina
"I still joke with my parents about how we're not biologically related."
"I did pull out the 'you're not my real parents' ONCE, as an angsty teenager. I still feel bad about it to this day." – merdub
This parent with an adoptive child shed some light on the familiar exchange.
"Thank you for posting this. I'm also an adoptive parent, and I absolutely got the 'you're not my real mom' thrown at me when my kids were younger. It was a punch in the gut, but I kept my cool."
"I can't remember my exact response, but it was something like, 'I am and I have the paperwork to prove it.' I know these things are coming from a place of pain and insecurity. They want you to feel what they are feeling, and they need/want that parental security reinforced."
"So, OP's joke made me wince. I just can't ever joke like that. While I think my kids are pretty secure at this point when it comes to our family structure and their place in it, I would never want to make them question in it."
"This situation is a bit different, but knowing teenagers, she's likely to hold on to this." – igotbooks
Hopefully, this is not the case for the OP.
In an update, he apologized to Madeline and explained for all intents and purposes that he really was her father.
"I'll probably give a full update later but here is what happened so far. I go to my daughter's room after dinner and begin talking with her."
"'Hey. I'm really sorry that I hurt you by the words I said. And I am really your dad. I changed your diapers, I met your boyfriend, and I plan on helping you through college. And plus I'm legally your dad, so we're stuck together. But seriously, I'm going to love you like my daughter even if you don't think I'm your dad.'"
"Then I hugged her. She did start to cry. I assume that's good."
Fingers crossed, dad.
Next Father's Day will be telling.
Does dad need some help with their jokes? The book A Daily Dose of Dad Jokes: 365 Truly Terrible Wisecracks (You've Been Warned) is available here.
Have you listened to the first season of George Takei's podcast, 'Oh Myyy Pod!'?
In season one we explored the racially charged videos that have taken the internet by storm.
We're hard at work on season two so be sure to subscribe here so you don't miss it when it goes live.
Here's one of our favorite episodes from season one. Enjoy!