I recently became engaged to a wonderful woman with a 9-year-old girl who I will call S. My relationship with the child is very good and she is very supportive of the marriage. Howvever, in recent weeks a couple of questions have come up where I could use some support.
1) When we announced our engagement, S. cried with joy and without any prompting on my part told me that she was going to call me dad (her biological father is called Papa). This lasted for a week and now she is calling me by my first name again and occasionally refers to her father as "daddy" in conversation. I don't mind the shift, but should it be a concern?
2) Before we were engaged, S. asked me to be her stepfather because in her words, she liked me and almost all of her friends had dads (except her best friend). Last night in a bedtime talk she started crying about being lonely with no siblings and talking about how all her friends had siblings (her mother and her started the adoption process about two years ago, but put it on hold last year due to their moving to where we all now live). We arrange play dates and she plays with the neighborhood kids. Do only children get lonely without other kids or is she just trying to have the same family structure as other kids? If we were to have a child of our own (we have talked about it), what kind of relationship would she likely have given a 10+ year age difference?
It is to be expected that she will be ambivalent about how she should refer to you. So the 'on again, off agian' mention of dad vs first name is very normal. She'll work it out. Try not to place any pressure on her about this. Let the decision be hers, based solely on what she wants to do.
I cannot say that there are no children who, as an only child in a family, get lonely without a sibling. It is normal for children in such families to want a sibling at certain times in their lives. But it is important to regognize that children who do not have siblings do perfectly fine. If a child has a sibling who is ten-plus years younger, the relationship is not one of companionship, for obvious reasons. This does not mean that the relationship is not a close one, but it is often tinged more with a 'mentor' quality because the two 'children' do not share similar day-to-day experiences (particulalrly as the older child proceeds into the teen years).
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