I'm in a situation where I became pregnant with the wrong person and decided to raise my child by myself. Since before his 3rd birthday the biological dad disappeared and hasn't had anything to do with him.

I married his step father when he was 4 and he just started calling him dad and on it went. He was a terrible dad and always treated my son like he was an inconvenience or irritation. So after 4 years of a very unhappy family, my son seeing a dad that drinks too much and is aggressive and mean and other issues, I walked out. Now he is pretending to be the world's greatest dad. By spending 4.5 hours a week with him. He won't take him overnight which is fine but he has now done stuff like dropped my son home in the evening in the dark without walking him in or making sure I am home.

I saw his car pull off as I came down the street. He didn't pitch last night to take him for dinner as was planned last week and confirmed on the weekend. He is in a new relationship which is fine. But I feel that he is going to give my son less and less attention as this goes on. So I feel I need to talk to my son about this. And explain that my ex isn't his father. But really struggling to figure out the best way to do it. I don't want my son thinking there is something wrong with him because his dad keeps dropping him or forgets about him.

2 Answers 2


This is a tough situation and a tough question. You have a lot to think about. The question I, in return, pose to you is what do you have to gain by either telling him or not telling him? When you tell him, what do you hope to gain? How will this benefit your child?

Here's my suggestion, albeit radical and against the premise of the question:

Don't tell him or at least let him come to the conclusion by himself. For all intents and purposes, this man, whether you like it or not is still being a father or attempting to be a father to a child that is not his biological child and that he knows is not his biological child. In my book, that's still pretty good.

Leave your child out of this. He has a father figure. If you tell him now that "hey, the guy who has been around and that you've been calling dad for the past 5 years isn't your biological father and your biological father left me a long time ago", your child gains nothing. In fact, he'll probably lose something.

If this is something you truly want to do, involve the step-father. Both of you need to sit down and talk to your (and when I say "your", I mean the both of you) son together.

As far as the situation where your ex drops your son off without confirming you're home:

If something is irritating you with your ex, please communicate this with him. If he didn't care, he wouldn't keep coming back. Confirm plans and times when he will drop him off so you can be home to greet him. Communicate, communicate, communicate! It's key.

  • 1
    I feel the same way, so +1. I mean, "Your father doesn't spend time with you because he's a bad father" is far better than, "Your father doesn't spend time with you because he's not your real father. Your real father wants nothing to do with you." There might be a time when the child discovers this for himself, and that's why my thoughts about this are muddled. I haven't got a better answer. Aug 1, 2018 at 16:41
  • Some kids, the response will be a shrug - Jeff Bezos was more concerned about having to wear glasses than finding out his "dad" wasnt his biological father. In contrast, many years back the discovery rocked my neighbors sons entire world. You won't know until you tell him, and he will find out some day.
    – pojo-guy
    Aug 4, 2018 at 14:23

I recommend telling your son about his biological father for the following reasons:

1) It's inevitable that your son will find out, and likely very soon. If you want to maintain a good relationship with your son, it will be best he finds out the truth from you, rather than someone else.

2) You have said yourself, and I quote...

So after 4 years of a very unhappy family, my son seeing a dad that drinks too much and is aggressive and mean and other issues, I walked out.

I do not believe that a person who drinks too much, and is aggressive and mean, and has demonstrated careless, irresponsible behaviour can be a good male role model, or carer for your son.

To answer your question directly...

The best way to tell your son, is compassionately, but directly.

It may be upsetting for him, or perhaps not, but I absolutely believe he has a right to know.

You've done the correct thing, by removing yourself from an unhappy (potentially abusive) relationship. You should do the same thing for your son.

Your son may be trying to put up with this mans faults, because he believes he is his father. It may actually be a relief for him to find out the truth.

An absent father is better than a bad father.


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