A remarried father, Redditor AITAThrowaway2542, struggled with accepting the reactions of those around him after he refused to discipline his stepson.
The Original Poster (OP) consulted the denizens of Reddit's "Am I The A**hole" (AITA) for their help in figuring out if he was truly in the wrong.
"AITA for not punishing my stepson for what he said to my daughter?"
OP began with some backstory:
"I (45M[ale]) and my ex split eight years ago. I met my current wife during our divorce and married her pretty quickly after it was finalized."
"I now live with my wife (41F[emale]) and stepson (16M) and while my ex offered 50/50 custody of our daughter (15F), I felt it better she stay with her mother so I could adjust to life with my new wife and stepson."
"So she came every other weekend before the pandemic. She's been with her mom since March."
Then he got into the origin of his current predicament.
"Here's where the issue comes in. My stepson feels threatened by my daughter when she's here."
"I'm the only father figure he's ever had and he doesn't like sharing my attention, so he's often quite rude/mean to her. We normally just assure her it's because he's insecure."
"My stepson came home yesterday cheerfully saying that my daughter said she'd never come here again. I called my daughter to ask why she'd say that."
"According to her, my stepson has been saying since school resumed that I picked him over her and that I hated her coming to visit and how everyone was so happy these months she didn't visit."
"No one wanted her there and she needed to just stay away from us."
OP was shown proof of the bullying.
"He denied it of course, but my daughter's friend filmed him at some point (got to love the age of smartphones) and sent it to me. When confronted, he got watery eyed and said he was just afraid of losing me."
"I told my daughter that I obviously didn't feel that way and he just felt threatened by her presence. She asked if I was going to actually do something about his behavior this time or if I was just going to brush it under the rug like I always did."
"I told her I didn't brush anything under the rug, but I wasn't going to punish him for being insecure about losing his father figure."
This didn't quite go over the way OP expected it to.
"She told me she was tired of his daddy issues being an excuse to treat her like sh*t and since I wouldn't stand up for her, she wouldn't be visiting again."
"I tried to talk to my ex about it, but she said I picked him over her repeatedly and never stood up for her when he treated her poorly so I don't get to play the victim now that she's fed up with it."
"I think they're both being over sensitive here, and my daughter needs to get over it and visit again, but my brother said I let my stepson boost my ego and failed my daughter by not standing up for her."
"My nephew suggested I post here. AITA?"
Redditors used a series of acronyms to pass judgement on AITA posts:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH - No A**holes Here
People were extremely unhappy with OP in the comments with an essentially unanimous judgment that OP was the a**hole.
"YTA. A major YTA. And here's why."
"Instead of wanting to get your daughter and stepson used to the idea of being around each other, you thought of yourself first and pushed her aside for weekend visits only."
"Then, you allow your stepson's daddy issues to let him basically say or do whatever he wanted even if it was at the expense of your daughter's feelings."
"You did sweep it under the rug, many times, by not punishing him. His past is an unfortunate one but instead of reassuring them both that you'll still be the best father figure to them no matter what, you decided to choose your stepson over your own daughter time and time again."
"There's a reason his ridiculous behaviour has gotten to this extent—you enabled him."
"But seriously, after reading your comments underneath, OP should consider putting both kids into therapy after this." -Thr0w4w4y-96
"His brother is definitely on to something, he does get an ego boost from the stepson and enjoys feeling so important."
"Of course he is a major AH, doesn't seem to care about his daughter and doesn't seem to realize that he probably lost her, or to care for that for all that matters. YTA, big time." -nefnef_
"YTA. You chose him over her the second you denied the 50/50 custody."
"Your 16 year old stepson BULLIES and is incredibly cruel to your daughter which you allow. You don't deserve her, she deserves far better than you."
"Great way to show your kid who your favourite is." -LittleFreakyReaper
"'my daughter needs to get over it and visit again'"
"Why should she come to your house to endure verbal abuse while you stand there with your thumb up your a**? YTA, you're proving yourself worthless as her father." -allthecactifindahome
"Stepson has feelings: 'I think we all need to give him room to feel his feelings without any consequences or expectations of decent behavior'."
"Daughter has feelings: 'I think she's being over sensitive & needs to get over it'." -baffled_soap
"Yo, YTA for sure man. You won't even stand up for your daughter when she is being bullied."
"Kid was right, you are choosing him over your daughter and I don't blame her. May her mom and God make sure she doesn't develop daddy issues." -SkrappyCoco
"YTA. You did pick your new family over her. And then repeatedly leave her needs and emotions out of the equation." -wickedlucky214
"Well said. He is so concerned about his poor fatherless stepson and doesn't realize he has left his own child fatherless."
"You aren't a hero for stepping up for one child when you are sending another one out into the world without parental love."
"His stepson isn't even wrong for being concerned that OP can only love one kid at a time, OP has shown that to be true." -No_Stairway_Denied
"YTA 100%. I can't believe a parent would let their child be spoken to like that and not stand up for them."
"She's better off not coming round to see you anymore, you think your stepson is insecure? Think how your own daughter probably feels."
"The fact he came home cheerfully telling you what happened speaks volumes. He knows exactly where he's got you."
"Your poor daughter" -Affectionate-Youth21
Some chose to share their experiences of being in the OP's daughter's situation.
"YTA. 'I felt it better she stay with her mother so I could adjust to life with my new wife and stepson'."
"So you've been an a**hole for a while. You have treated your daughter like she's a burden in your new family."
"You let your stepson bully her and then turn around and pamper him for it because of his 'insecurity'."
"You have allowed your new family to ostracize your daughter and now you think she's being sensitive and overreacting when she protects herself where you won't. I feel so badly for your daughter."
"Just for info, I was a daughter whose dad chose his new family. That began a decades-long estrangement."
"When he tried to summon me to his deathbed so he could apologize, I declined. There was nothing left to salvage." -cassanthrax
"YTA, to the point that I suspect you're either trolling or being deliberately obtuse. Your stepson's possessiveness may be the result of grief, but that doesn't make it healthy or okay."
"Stop making excuses, start addressing the problem, and get him into therapy. Then maybe you can ask your daughter for another chance." -mm172
"Oh believe me, parents like this definitely exist. My own father remarried when I was nine to a divorced woman with three sons. My mom had remarried years before."
"Up until then, we'd been fairly close but my stepbrothers quickly took full priority, my sexist father had always wanted sons."
"Visitations were a nightmare for me, but he didn't care, it was all about him and his needs and the needs of his new, more important family."
"He always put the blame on me and wouldn't listen to me, my mom or even his own mother. He made no effort at all to understand my position or how hard it was for me, and it was exhausting to deal with."
"And I wasn't the only one I knew dealing with similar circumstances." -poet_andknowit
"OP will certainly come here in the future with an 'AITA for being upset my daughter chose someone else to walk her down the aisle when I, her biological father, already offered??' post." ~ thebootydiaries
Divorces can be difficult on everyone involved, especially when it comes to custody decisions. The comments on this post make it pretty clear that it's not an excuse to treat one of your kids better than the other, though.