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A Son With Three Dads
My question is about a son with three dads.
Soon I’ll be picking my step-son up at the airport to spend his Christmas vacation with his dad, my husband, who left his mother for me, a gay man, ten years ago.
My hubby’s ex married a man who has been an extremely generous and good step-father. I’ve briefly met my step-son four times, but since they live in Orange Country, CA, we rarely see him. Not that my husband hasn’t tried.
When I greet my fourteen-year-old step-son in the airport baggage claim area, I’ll want to hug him, but I don’t know if that’s appropriate.
We’re also squeamish about whether my husband and I should sleep in different rooms? The second of our two bedrooms has twin beds.
My husband won’t be home from a board meeting in Dubai until late that night and I’m having to deal with this entry into fatherhood solo.
–The Third Dad, Manhattan
Hey, dad, hold back. Test the waters with your step-son before going forward.
- Stretch out your arm first to shake hands.
- If your step-son is sporting a smile, and is genuinely warm and happy to see you, try the less intimate half-hug (where you reach one arm around his shoulders, rather than both arms -- as though you're posing for a photo).
- Then there's the bro-hug that is especially quick and physically reserved. It's the hug that made Obama so popular.
- Whichever, don't linger. Let go.
Make it all about your step-son's father to start.
- Let him know what to expect.
- Say something like this, "Your dad's been looking forward to your visit. He won't be back until late tonight, so we'll order pizza and hang out watching TV until he gets home. He'll be happy to see you."
Your step-son will be groggy from the flight and may become silent as a shy defense.
- Don't ask him a lot of questions.
- Don't ask him to made any decisions aside from what he likes on his pizza.
You don't want to be overbearing.
- Make it clear that he and his dad will be sharing a room. Show him his room and suggest that he choose either bed.
- During the course of his visit, facilitate having father and son spending blocks of time together alone.
- Don't let the worst outcome be that your step-son becomes depressed. A morose fourteen-year-old is hard to get to know.
Be yourself, dad, but keep tuned to your step-son's body language.
- If he touches his ears, he doesn't like what you're saying.
- If he places his hands near his eyes, he doesn't like what he's seeing.
- If his hands are on his forehead, nose or chin, he's either contemplating his life or wondering where to the find the cookies and milk.