Friday, June 23, 2017

Marrying your stepchildren... part three

I probably shouldn't write about this again, since it tends to attract people who feel the need to chastise me for my opinions.  I'm going to do it anyway because it's on my mind.  And since this is my blog, I feel alright in writing my thoughts here.

Yesterday, the Today Show featured yet another story about a man who "proposed" to his girlfriend's daughter.  Some readers may remember that I'm not a fan of guys who "propose" to their potential stepchildren.  For some reason, it's always men doing this to women with little girls.  Although I'm sure there are cases where potential stepmoms "propose" to their potential stepsons (or stepdaughters), I have yet to see a case like that featured on a media outlet like the Today Show.  I have also never seen a potential stepfather proposing to a potential stepson.

Anyway, this time it's Grant Tribbett doing the proposing to his girlfriend, Cassandra Reschar, and Cassandra's 5 year old daughter, Adrianna.  According to Reschar's account on The Knot's How He Asked, after popping the question to Cassandra,

“Grant got back down to propose to my daughter,” Reschar wrote. “He said, ‘Adrianna, can I be your daddy, to promise to love and protect you for the rest of your life?'"

Meanwhile, Cassandra's friend, a professional photographer, took pictures of the touching event.  Cassandra shared the photos on The Knot and then the Today Show picked up the story.

Not surprisingly, there was a flood of comments on the Today Show's Facebook page from people thinking this was "the sweetest thing, ever".  There were lots of memes and gifs depicting happy tears.  People were posting that this is what a "real man" does.  I understand why people think this is very touching, although I personally don't agree.

I've noticed these "proposals" to kids usually involve jewelry or a special gift of some sort. What little girl wouldn't want a new necklace or ring, especially if it's "special"? It certainly makes it easier to excite the child and get her on board with the new family dynamic, right?  It also strikes me as being more than a little bit manipulative.

But my main beef with this trend is that it promotes a fairytale "happy ending".  Fairytales generally have no basis in reality.  Let's face it-- unfortunately, a lot of marriages don't end up lasting.  I'm not saying Cassandra and Grant won't stay together.  I'm simply saying that it's definitely not a given.  There could come a time in the future when they'll split up.  If they split, what will become of Grant's promise to Adrianna?

Perhaps Grant intends to legally adopt Adrianna.  If he does, then maybe he really can keep his promise to love and protect her forever.  If he doesn't adopt her and this couple splits, there's a good chance he won't be able to keep his promise because he won't have any rights to a relationship with her.  Hell, even if he does adopt her, there's a chance he won't be able to keep his promise, although with the legal rights that come with adoption, he stands a much better chance than he would without them.

I shared this post on Facebook with the comment that I must be one of the few people in the world who thinks this annoying trend of men proposing to their stepdaughters-to-be is a bad idea.  I also commented that I didn't dare share my feelings about this on the Today Show's post, because I knew it would only invite a hailstorm of people shaming me for not being caught up in the romance of the moment.  But-- here's the thing.  A parental relationship, especially one involving steps, is not the same thing as a marriage.  Moreover, a man asking for a child's permission to marry the child's mother and/or "be their daddy" is disingenuous, especially when it involves special jewelry or another type of gift.  

What if the child says "No, I don't want you to marry Mommy."?  Will the couple really take the child's feelings into account?  Will the adults actually allow a child to overrule their decision to get married?  Although sometimes kids are absolutely right when they have misgivings about their parents' choices in partners, the fact is, it's not the child's decision.  In the vast majority of cases, they have no control or say over the situation and it's wrong to make them think they do.  

This particular story makes me think that Adrianna's biological father is not in Adrianna's life now.  If he's not in the picture and Cassandra and Grant are serious about letting Grant "be the daddy", I hope they plan to make it legal.  If Grant is truly going to be Adrianna's daddy, then he will need the legal authority that comes with that responsibility.  That way, if the couple later splits (and I'm not saying they will-- just saying that divorce is VERY common), Grant will have legal rights and responsibilities toward the child.  He has a better chance of being able to honor his commitment.

Besides the obvious legal and logistical issues that could arise from "proposing" to one's stepchildren, I think using symbols that are traditionally intended for marriage as a way of including a stepchild is inappropriate.  I wrote this in my second post about this trend:

Marriage is not the same thing as step-parenthood. Marriage is a different relationship that involves sexual relations and a type of intimacy that is hopefully very different than the relationship a stepparent has with a stepchild. A marriage proposal is supposed to be a serious thing and one that most people hope will be special and come once in a lifetime. Stepfathers who present rings to their stepdaughters, in a way, kind of pre-empt that special moment that may come later in the child's life, when she is a grown woman. Some people might argue that these types of proposals aren't really serious. If that's the case, why film them and put them on the Internet? In fact, why do them at all?

I also think that publicizing these proposals is a bad idea because, again, there could come a day when the relationship falls apart.  Since a lot of stuff stays on the Internet forever, these types of proposals can one day lead to a lot of hurt.  

Personally, I am a lot more impressed with stepparents who commit to taking care of their stepchildren on a daily basis with no expectation of accolades or attention.  I also think that it's best when stepparents have a basic modicum of respect for the child's other natural parent, even if that person isn't necessarily a good person.  The fact is, half of the child's DNA comes from the other parent and that is a very strong bond.  Many people want to deny that DNA matters, but I have seen that it often really does, for good or ill.  

I know that people are going to do what they're going to do.  My ranting about this practice won't change anyone's mind, nor will it change the Today Show's practice of glorifying this trend.  And, for all I know, this proposal will lead to a long and happy marriage.  I do hope that Grant and Cassandra have a good life together and Adrianna gets to call Grant "Daddy" for the rest of his life (or hers, depending on who dies first).  

I hope this romantic "proposal" works out for them and doesn't eventually lead to heartbreak.  But I also think that more people should consider the potentially negative scenarios that can come up later.  What seems like a sweet, romantic, heartfelt gesture can later turn into something heartbreaking, like betrayal.  When kids are involved, I think it's best to stay grounded in reality and not indulge fairytale endings.  Adults have a responsibility to look after the best interests of the children in their care.  That means keeping it real and being honest.  These "proposals" to kids are, to me, not always honest and they're usually more for the adults than the kids.  

Lest anyone think I don't know what I'm writing about, let me remind everyone that Bill "adopted" his former stepson (non-legally).  He promised to be "Dad" to former stepson and even paid child support for him after the divorce.  That decision ended up leading to a lot of heartbreak for Bill when it became clear the relationship was entirely about money and stepson went back to calling his long absent bio father "Dad".  Now that Bill's daughters are adults (who may or may not have been legally adopted by #3), they remember that Bill is their dad.  One has even made tentative steps toward reconnection.  So much for their "everyday daddy", right?  I can't help but have this cynical perspective about these scenarios because I've seen up close and personal what can actually happen in these situations.


  1. I think it's a bad idea, too, for a lot of reasons.

    What's the deal on legally adopting children when an existing biological or legal parent has not given consent? Would the ex have had to forge something to allow it to happen, or did it happen after the girls turned eighteen? I don't even know if adult offsprings' consent is sufficient to allow adoption to happen in such cases.

    Do you know if the ex was able to have Bill's and her temple marriage dissolved (what people like to call "temple divorce," but it's really a dissolution or cancellation of the sealing, not a "temple divorce" per se.

    1. I'm pretty sure you have to have the other parent's consent or at least show that you tried to notify them if they aren't to be found. Ex got former stepson's name changed when he was a toddler. Supposedly, she did some shifty stuff to accomplish that-- it involved some kind of paperwork that showed Bill as the father instead of the kid's real dad. Then she ran an ad.

      As for Bill's kids, I highly doubt they did a legal adoption for a number of reasons (and they would have done it after the kids turned 18). The main one is that there may come a day when she will want to push #3 out and it'll be easier to do if he's not legal dad to four of her kids. Also, adoption is expensive and it's kind of stupid to do it as an adult.

      I think they may have had their names legally changed. Again, stupid, since ex daughter #2 is already married and using her husband's name.

      As for the cancellation of sealing, we heard that she was "working with her bishop" to make it happen. Bill did resign, but I have heard that doesn't actually cancel a sealing. He never got anything from the church about it. I kind of doubt she did it, again, because it served as a means of keeping #3 in line if he ever tried to use his penishood authority.


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