Teen Excluding His Half Siblings From Memory Book Backed: 'No New Family'

A post about a father who told his son that he "expected better" after the teenager made a family memory book to honor his deceased mother has gone viral on Reddit, where it received 11,000 upvotes at the time of this writing.

In a post shared on Reddit's AITA (Am I The A******?) subforum under the username Some-Year-8211, the 17-year-old son said he and his two younger siblings (a 14-year-old sister and 13-year-old brother) lost their mother eight years ago. Their dad got remarried and his new wife Rose has an 11-year-old daughter. The couple also has two kids who are 4 and 2, respectively.

The poster said he "secretly" created a family memory book with his two full siblings, which they kept hidden in his room "for years." They did not include their stepsister or half siblings "in making it and keeping it going and not in photos or memories or anything." He and his full siblings wanted to "have something just for us, no new family involved, where we could remember mom..."

A page in a photo album.
A stock image of a page in a photo album showing an image of two young kids kissing a woman on her cheeks. A post about a teenager who created a "secret" family memory scrapbook to honor his deceased mother has gone viral on Reddit. iStock / Getty Images Plus

The teen said in an update at the end of the Reddit post that his father and stepmother "were going to destroy the book because Rose found this post but I was able to save it. I can't speak for my siblings but I am done with dad after this."

Were the parents' reactions to the teen's secret family memory book understandable?

Ruth E. Freeman, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), told Newsweek: "There are best practices when it comes to creating stepfamilies and they do not include invalidating kids' emotions about their absent bio parent."

"They deserved the support of the adults in their lives to help them process what is the greatest loss a child can endure," she added.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA): "Under the best conditions, it may take two to four years for a new stepfamily to adjust to living together" and "the most difficult aspect of stepfamily life is parenting."

Research has shown that older adolescents (those aged 15 and older) require less parenting but "may have less investment in stepfamily life," the APA says. But kids under the age of 10 tend to be more accepting of a new adult in the family, "particularly when the adult is a positive influence."

The Redditor said his dad got remarried six years ago and "it was not easy" for him and his two younger siblings, who were "sad about dad being married and the changes that had happened."

So he got a scrapbook, and around once a month his siblings would sneak into his room to put photos in the book and write memories we had of their mother.

"I'd share the stories I remembered of mom, since as the oldest I remembered her best and remembered the stories about her I'd heard," the poster said.

The teen didn't tell his dad about the scrapbook because he "knew he wouldn't love that we were doing it."

Several weeks ago, the book was discovered by Rose, who told them it was "a really unfair thing to have in the house and how mean it was to do something like that without all the siblings involved."

Rose said they should never have made something that "would hurt feelings," adding that "it hurt her too." She claimed that "she tried to make us all one family and we made sure never to close that divide in the last six years."

'One of the Worst Losses That a Child Can Experience'

Freeman is the founder and president of Peace at Home Parenting Solutions. She said the latest post is "a tragic story illustrating the challenges of creating a stepfamily."

These children suffered "one of the worst losses that a child can experience" and they came together to do something that many children's grief programs highly recommend. They created a memory book to look back on their mom and help them remember her in as much detail as possible, she explained.

"These are clearly creative and deeply compassionate kids that worked as a team that sadly had to be in secret," Freeman said. "It is the surviving parent's responsibility to help their children keep the memory of the deceased parent alive, to support the kids to express authentically any feelings or thoughts they have about that loss.

"And those feelings don't just go away after a certain amount of time. At significant transitions and other times in their lives, they will miss their bio mom and should always feel free to express those painful emotions," Freeman added.

Two women looking at photo album.
This stock image shows two blonde women smiling while looking at a photo album. "It is the surviving parent's responsibility to help their children keep the memory of the deceased parent alive," a licensed clinical social worker told Newsweek. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Don't Force Kids to Be a 'Happy Dream Family'

Biological parents and step-parents often have a "dream" about how they want their blended family to look and it's common for parents to impose this on all their children, which can be "hardest on the [biological] kids from the first marriage," Freeman said.

Even without the experience of a deceased parent, kids can feel sad about second marriages and the introduction of a stepparent.

"Unfortunately, adults don't recognize the legitimacy of those feelings of loss and they don't see that someone is being foisted onto the kids who didn't choose that person," Freeman said.The kids in the Reddit post "should not be pressed into acting like the happy dream family that the adults want to create."

The three full biological siblings experienced "tremendous loss" and the 17-year-old is "facing yet another loss, that of losing the trusted relationship with his father," she said.

Freeman warned: "All of these losses and the insistence that authentic grieving be suppressed are likely to have a negative impact on that young person's development, making these losses even harder to bear."

'You Have Every Right to Hold Onto the Memories'

Several users on Reddit shared messages of support for the original poster.

In a comment that got over 27,000 upvotes, user type1error said: "...This hurt was created by your father's wife who is older and should know better. There is nothing wrong with trying to keep your mother's memory alive in a scrapbook. Your father and his wife chose to blend their families. You did not and you have every right to hold onto the memories of your life before your mother died. NTA (not the a******)."

User gjwtgf agreed, commenting: "Step mother has gone out of her way to make this a bigger issue. OP (original poster) is NTA," in a comment that got over 6,000 upvotes.

Redditor Mmoct said: "Yep OP is NTA in fact I think it's amazing that at such a young age he was looking out for his siblings and trying to keep their mom's memory alive in such a beautiful way. The dad, stepmom and stepsister are all AH [a*******]...family can't just blend together seamlessly, especially when the kids are still grieving their mom..."

Stormtomcat said: "We see so many instances of blended families where the parents just expect the blending to [magically] happen...here OP did a wonderful thing for his siblings, starting at 13 years old! It brought them comfort and helped them cope. What did father and Rose do, except live together and make more babies?"

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