Thousands of internet commenters were left conflicted after one father explained why he removed his two teenage daughters from a recent family vacation.
In a viral Reddit post published on r/AmITheA**hole, Redditor u/Throwra537477 (otherwise referred to as the original poster, or OP) said he was enraged by how his daughters treated his wheelchair-bound stepdaughter and detailed the heated aftermath of his decision to end their vacation time early.
Titled, “[Am I the a**hole] for driving my daughters home in the middle of vacation after they excluded their stepsister?” the post has received more than 8,000 votes and 2,000 comments in the last nine hours.
Beginning with the explanation that he has two daughters, aged 14 and 16, and that his wife has an 11-year-old daughter who uses a wheelchair, the original poster said there has been tension between the three girls for some time, but added that the worst of it had passed.
Or so he thought.
“I thought things were getting better…but days ago, and while we were at a beach resort for [four] days, [my stepdaughter] stayed with us while the girls kept going out,” OP wrote. “During our [second] day I saw the girls getting ready…I asked them to take her with them and they were ‘unsure’ at first but then took her.”
“An hour later, my wife came to me saying…the girls left her near one of the benches and told her to wait [five minutes] ’til they [got] ice cream but didn’t come back,” OP continued. “We went there immediately [and] found [my stepdaughter] sitting alone.”
“I got so mad at them especially after they admitted ‘leaving her there,'” OP added. “I told them vacation was over FOR THEM and had them pack their stuff and took them home. Both of them were crying and pleading in the car…I dropped the girls off…then I went back and resumed the vacation.”
In the United States, 40 percent of families (married couples with children) feature at least one child from a previous relationship, according to Pew Research Center.
But while the U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than 1,300 stepfamilies are formed every day, the growing prevalence of blended families has not made combining two autonomous, nuclear units into one happy family any easier.
Very Well Family, a leading parenting website, asserts that very few blended families mesh without issues, and that a majority of them face four common issues, including sibling rivalry and a stark lack of family bonds.
Despite the parental desire for step siblings to become fast friends, preteens and teenagers often find it difficult to accept new siblings, and even more difficult to view them as anything more than unwanted roommates.
Very Well Family, along with other outlets like Marriage.com and Psychology Today, recommends that remarried parents allow children to bond at their own pace, and understand that the deep connection foresee for their kids may never come to fruition.
“Trying to force step siblings to get along is bound to backfire,” Marriage.com writer Sylvia Smith wrote in 2020. “Encouraging time together is vital, but do allow everyone their own space, too.”
“Your kids and stepkids might be able to learn to be civil and spend a little time together but won’t become the best of friends, and that’s ok,” Smith added.
Throughout the comment section of the viral Reddit post, Redditors echoed this sentiment, claiming that while both teenagers were wrong to abandon their stepsister and deserved to be punished, the original poster incited the issue by forcing his daughters to try to bond with a child they are both much older than.
“Are you sure this is because [your stepdaughter] has a disability or is it because she is the stepsister?” Redditor u/dck133 questioned in the post’s top comment, which has received more than 10,000 votes.
“Yes, leaving her there alone was bad and yes, you should have punished them for it,” they continued. “But you also shouldn’t be forcing them to be friends. Let them make a relationship at their own pace.”
“Also – she’s not just a stepsister but also a MUCH YOUNGER stepsister,” Redditor u/SnooBananas8836 chimed in, receiving more than 6,000 votes. “No 16 year old [wants] to hang out with an eleven year old.”
Redditor u/Rough_Elk_3952, whose comment has received more than 9,000 votes, offered a similar response.
“Here’s the thing: You’re being an amazing step dad and advocate to [your stepdaughter],” they wrote. “And your daughters needed punishing for essentially abandoning a young kid, especially with a disability.
“But coercing them into hanging out with [their stepsister] won’t make them bond. They’ll just resent her, even though it’s not her fault,” they added. “16 and 11 are two pretty different stages, and…I’m not entirely shocked that they feel more like they’re babysitting than 3 teenagers hanging out.”
Newsweek reached out to u/Throwra537477 for comment.