If another family member besides your mother or father raised you, how do you think of that person?
Do you call them something different than what they actually are?
Or do you feel it is inappropriate to use a name like "mom" for your surrogate parent?
On the popular subReddit, "Am I The A**hole?," or "AITA," AcceptableNature1 had a tough question to ask when it came to the well-being of her nephew who she'd basically raised.
"AITA for letting my nephew to call me mom?"
She started at the beginning, introducing us to Billy:
"Awhile back, my brother married a woman who had an 11 year old son named 'Billy.' A year later my S(ister)I(n)L(aw) gave birth to a little girl. Two years later, she gave birth to a boy."
"Billy, who was 14 by this time, was treated like an outsider. My SIL and brother saw him as a burden who spoiled their picture perfect family. If you asked my SIL how many kids she had, she would say two."
"Billy started acting out. He got involved with a bad group of kids and started getting into trouble. He started failing all of his classes. He eventually got into drugs and was suspended from school. My brother and SIL were fed up with him."
With Billy getting older, the original poster, or OP, saw an opportunity:
"I asked my brother if Billy could spend the summer with me and my husband. We have a hobby farm and I thought maybe getting away from his life for awhile could help him some. Well, they were more than happy to get rid of him (my SIL's words)."
"It was kind of rough the first few weeks. He had a lot of anger issues. But my husband kept his hands and mind busy doing work on the farm. And we both made sure that he knew he was loved and wanted."
And the pattern of Billy's behavior remained consistent depending on who he was with:
"By August, he was a totally different kid. He wanted to keep living with us but my SIL insisted that he come home. After two months, he went back to his old ways due to his parents indifference. They ended up sending him back to us and he lived with us throughout high school."
"He ended up being an A/B student and kept with a really great group of kids. He got involved in baseball and got a scholarship to a local university. He's 22 now and is in his last year of school. He's engaged to a really great girl."
So after feeling like his parents didn't parent him, he reassigned parents in his brain:
"When he was 16 he started calling me Mom and he started calling my husband Pops. He never really had much to do with his mom and he had nothing to do with my brother. He saw them on holidays when the whole family came over. His mom has tried to have a relationship with him the past few years but he has avoided her."
Then came the trouble:
"On Christmas, SIL was over and for what ever reason, she opened my desk drawer and found a birthday card from Billy where he said 'To the best mom ever. Thanks for loving me and giving me a chance'."
"She was devastated. She ended up texting Billy, confronted him and asked him if she would be presented as mother of the groom at his wedding. He told her that he no longer considered her his mom and wasn't even sure if he wanted her at the wedding at all."
While Billy made his feelings clear, OP's sister-in-law and brother are putting pressure on the OP to make things right on their behalf.
"My SIL is now insisting that I make it clear to Billy that I am not his mother and that he is not to refer to me as such. My brother is also very upset with me. Even my parents are pressuring me to do what SIL wants for the sake of peace."
"Honestly, I consider Billy to be my son. I count him in with all of my children. I feel like telling Billy not to present me as mother of the groom could possibly be misinterpreted as me saying that I don't feel like he's my son and I don't even want to take a chance of that happening."
"If he decides to present his real mom as mother of the groom, I will 110% support him. So AITA for not respecting my SIL's wishes?"~AcceptableNature1
Anonymous Redditors put in their two cents on where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH - No A**holes Here
Immediately, the support came pouring in from all directions.
"NTA. She didn't even consider herself his mother. You saved this kid from a lot of rough stuff he probably would have gotten into, and if he sees you as his mom, he should be allowed to call you that." ~thescooobygang
"OP, you and your husband are wonderful human beings. You took that boy out of a miserable home where he was treated like dirt on the ground, and you gave him love and kindness and a life worth living."
"Your son knows who showed him the love of a mother. That wasn't the woman who gave birth to him, it was you. You are his mother because you actually loved him and treated him like a son."
"NTA, and f**k your SIL."~acuriousoddity
"Not like it's incidental either. They didn't just give him a roof over his head, by all accounts it sounds like they genuinely loved him and helped turn his life around. The biological mother sudden reaction seems actually rather selfish. She is worried about her role title in his wedding rather than actually realizing how much she hurt him by not being a mother when it mattered."~zveroshka
"NTA. Billy is 22 and clearly knows who he considers to be his parents. You took him out of a bad situation and gave him a second chance, and you did it twice."
"As for the wedding, does Billy have to present anyone as his mother? If he wants to, of course, he should. Maybe he should also have an honest talk with his bio mother and your parents about how he was treated and why he considers you and your husband his parents."~wickedkittylitter
"Giving in to your SIL's demands would hurt Billy. Why would you even think of doing that?"
"She doesn't deserve a place in his life. You took him in and showed him the love she denied him. You are rewarded with the title of Mom to him. That's what HE chose. That's what HE WANTS. Don't take that from him."
"This isn't really your fight. This is between Billy and his mother. Follow his lead and support him in whatever HE chooses to do. If it interferes with your relationship with your brother and SIL? So fucking what? They are horrible people and you shouldn't want to have a relationship with them anyway."~midlifegreatlife
Though the primary need for children to be raised by other relatives comes from incarceration or chemical dependency by the current parents, childhood emotional neglect presents a unique and often silent challenge.
As OP and her husband were the only adults in Billy's life who did not neglect his feelings, removing that support from his life in early adulthood could have serious consequences.
"Nta. She basically threw her son away. And what does she expect? For him to be happy about that? Any Joe blow can become a parent, but it takes a lot of love, work and commitment and more to be mom/dad. My thought is if he is calling you mom at his wedding then everyone there is gonna know she threw her kid away and that's what's making them upset more than anything."~Sybellie
"NTA. You may not have formally adopted him, but you pretty much are his mum. Your brother and SIL are mad because people will find out how awful they were towards him. Your parents can go do one too. You and your husband showed a teenager actual parental love."~cocoaqueen
"NTA. I have a weird perspective on this. Ive been the kid in this situation (close enough) my "real" mom can suck a bag of d*cks. I don't think you should ghost your kids then get to play all G at their weddings."
"Heres what i think you should do. Tell billy you love him and have his back. Let him and his wife decide who he gets to say is his mother. If you SIL pushes you, shrug and say 'this was Billy's choice and I support Billy who is an adult and can call anyone whatever he wants' like....who cares what you say at your wedding maybe she can play super mom at her other kids weddings."~Kantotheotter
"NTA. You potentially saved Billy from killing himself with his bad habits, not to mention you saved him from a family that caused him to develop those habits. Billy is definitely happier in your care and your SIL shouldn't be begging for him back if she's the one who treated him terribly. Besides, Billy feels comfortable enough with you to call you 'mom,' and if SIL really cared about him, she would respect his wishes and let him be under the care of who he wants. You are DEFINITELY not the a**hole here."~megadudeboi
"Your son is very lucky that he had two fine relatives ready to catch him when they threw him away. He is stating his reality in calling you mom. What your SIL doesn't realize is that even if she got her way it wouldn't change things. You are his mom in every way that counts. NTA"~terrapharma
Happy Cry GIF by memecandy Giphy
The OP made a decision and came back to update us all with it:
"I have zero desire to tell Billy not to call me mom and I absolutely won't do it because I know it would destroy him and it would kill me. My SIL insists that by not doing it, I'm making it impossible for her to have a relationship with him and I'm being selfish."
"I have talked to Billy about it some. He doesn't like to talk about his mom at all. He basically just said that he doesn't see her as a mom and has for sure decided he doesn't want her at the wedding. I understand and respect that."
"Also, I just want to thank everyone who left such sweet comments. I've been so choked up reading them all."
We are glad Billy will remain supported.
"You may not have given me the gift of life, but life has given me the gift of you."