Do you have ‘fake’ uncles and aunts? Are there other things your kids feel misled on?

My 9-year-old has just discovered that Uncle A is not really a blood relative and just his dad’s college roommate. He’s very upset and feels very misled that Uncle A is not really his uncle.

I remember being really upset to learn that my mother colored her hair. I was probably 8 or so, and I remember crying when I found her coloring her hair one night.  I felt very misled about that. (My kids tells me when I need to color. No confusion there.)

Do you call friends uncle or aunt? Do your kids get they aren’t really their blood relatives? Do they care? Are there other things, like the hair color, that your kids feel misled about?

57 comments Add your comment


January 18th, 2013
6:39 am

I think there are things like this that we tell kids that are just easier for the age that they are at the time. There comes a time when they start to figure things out, start asking questions and you have to come clean. Parents have done it for eternity.

We do it with Santa, Easter Bunny, Elf on the Shelf, clowns, mascots, everything.

Voice of Reason

January 18th, 2013
7:56 am

My dad’s best friend, to this day, I still refer to as Uncle John. My parents never sat me down to explain that he was not really related to me, they never felt the need. By the time I was old enough to understand that he was not really related to me I was also old enough to understand how it would be easier to explain to a child that he was.

My wife and I have never referred to our friends as aunt or uncle so-and-so. It’s not like we made a conscience decision to do it like that, we just never did. So my kids are not aware that this happens.


January 18th, 2013
8:00 am

Yup. My parents college friends were Aunts & Uncles to us.

My kids have “fake” Aunts & Uncles, friends I’ve had since my teenage years. It’s no biggie, and no they didn’t cry when the found out they weren’t blood related. We have two families. Our blood family, and the family that we choose, our friends. I have about 10 friends who have remained extremely close since we were teenagers…matter of fact, we are planning a “Family” trip to Gatlinburg next month with them.

mystery poster

January 18th, 2013
8:07 am

I didn’t even call my real aunts “aunt.” My mom is the oldest of 5, and the youngest was only 4 when I was born. No 4-year old wants to be called “aunt.”


January 18th, 2013
8:24 am

We lived next to some wonderful people in Texas whom we named Granny and Papa, when our son was born. I also lived with an older lady, during college, whom I called Grandma. She walked, as my Grandma, at our wedding. She was thrilled. I thought it was an honor to include these people. Never thought it would cause a problem.


January 18th, 2013
8:24 am

We say “chosen” instead of “fake.” My dad’s closest friend and his wife have been a wonderful aunt & uncle to me my whole life (I’m in my 40’s). Yes, I always knew they weren’t biologically related to us, but we all treated each other like family. Besides, my mother and one of my cousins are adopted, so my Gram and Gramps weren’t biologically related to me, either.

Football Widow

January 18th, 2013
8:30 am

When my friends and I were growing up, we called each other’s parents Mom and Dad. It wasn’t fake, just an extension of family. My kids all have aunts and uncles who are not blood relatives, but they use those titles because they love them like family. The other reason is that we don’t allow our kids to call adults by their first name, so you are either Auntie So-and-So or Miss So-and-So. Miss or Mr. is used for acquaintances, while Auntie and Uncle is reserved for those that are close to us.


January 18th, 2013
8:45 am

Regarding “other things” : some parents allow their children to think they are made of money. In my opinion. They HAVE lots of things but most of them have been purchased with a credit card or are being paid for on installment. When our kids were smaller, they would fuss about all the things their friends had. We did not have those things. We explained that we had the things we could afford and tried not to buy things we did not need. Every family chooses what they want and need and everyone’s wants and needs are different. Perhaps it is good to wait to have something. You might appreciate it more!


January 18th, 2013
8:52 am

Mayhem is soo hot.

We go together like peas and carrots.


January 18th, 2013
9:09 am

No, I do have plenty of friends who are closer than family but they don’t have titles. Not because I find it offensive, I just don’t find it as endearing as some people do. My brother and sister in law however call just about every one of their friends aunt and uncle to their 2-year old. Maybe it’s because our niece is super shy and they think she’ll be more accepting if it’s an aunt or uncle? I don’t really think it’s a big deal either way.

I can’t recall anything that made my son upset because he thought we were lying to him. Hair color? Nope. Easter Bunny and Santa? Nah, he pretty much realized at a young age it wasn’t real but it didn’t offend him as far as I know.

Do your kids feel like your hiding stuff from them constantly or something TWG? I’m surprised this would be an issue unless they feel like they aren’t being told the truth (or the whole story) about lots of things.


January 18th, 2013
9:24 am

I have a good friend of 30+ years. My children both call him Uncle _______. They were told from a young age, he is not blood related to me but I always called him brother (and he called me sister) growing up. They know without a doubt “Uncle” loves them and cares about them every bit as much as the 2 blood Uncles and 2 married in Uncles.

They know most things about me except my exact weight and how much money I earn. Some things they just do not have the need to know.

(the other) Rodney

January 18th, 2013
9:52 am

Yep. I grew up with an Uncle Charlie and Aunt Pam. “Uncle” Charlie is actually my Dad’s first cousin, and “Aunt” Pam is his wife. To this day (I’m 42) I still refer to them as Uncle and Aunt.

As a matter of fact I relied more on them than some of my true Uncles and Aunts, partially because they were neighbors of ours and some of my true Us & As lived out of town, and partially because Uncle Charlie was a cop. :) I always knew who to call when I needed something or wound up in trouble.


January 18th, 2013
10:01 am

I sure hope you are putting enough money away for your kids’ therapy…..


January 18th, 2013
10:08 am

Geez — I thought having “fake” Aunts and Uncles was simply the norm. It provides a manner by which to show respect without having to always address people this close to the family as “Mr.” or Mrs.” –
I never once felt misled or betrayed by such and honestly find it odd that anyone would. Seems there has to be a deeper underlying issue at play here.


January 18th, 2013
10:16 am

My best friend is “Uncle”, but my kids have always known he isn’t a blood relative.

You cried when you found out your mom used hair color? That’s pretty weird.


January 18th, 2013
10:27 am

At middle age, I think of all of the “aunts” and “uncles” in my life as being kin. And their offspring are my “cousins”. Heck, growing up, the kids who had real aunts and uncles that lived nearby, that’s what everybody called them too.


January 18th, 2013
10:47 am

I am also in my 40’s and still call a couple of my mother’s close friends aunt and uncle. Likewise, their kids are called cousins though we know we aren’t kin. I’m from a small town in MS and it seems the whole town claimed to be related one way or another. By the time we were teenagers, we had pretty much figured out who was related by blood and suffered no lasting effects. Some of us joked that we were “country kin”.

Both of my son’s grandfathers died long before he was born but he calls a family friend Grandpa. When he was about 4, he asked me who’s dad Grandpa is and I explained that Daddy and I both love Grandpa like a father and since both of our daddies were dead, we consider him his grandpa. He accepted the explanation and life goes on. My son has a few people who he refers to as uncle and all but one he appointed himself. My pastor is my husband’s “play brother” and he has always referred to my son as his nephew. At church, my son calls him Rev. (last name) but at home he is Uncle (nickname). I have a nephew who is a 1 1/2 years younger than I but my son calls him uncle and he also calls my 1st cousin who also lives in Atlanta uncle even though he knows they are both his cousins.

It'sKinderGARTEN Dammit

January 18th, 2013
11:22 am

I’d respond but I have to go meet my “play cousin” for lunch.


January 18th, 2013
11:57 am

BTW Uncle K is not “fake” he is honorary.

I am Aunt FCM to a couple of (now 20 somethings) whose father is the best friend of my brother. This man has a new baby and I wrote him that I am Aunt FCM to that one too unless he objects. He said who wants to deny a kid more family?

The Hammer

January 18th, 2013
12:41 pm

There is something wrong with you, Theresa, and your children (which is probably your fault).


January 18th, 2013
1:00 pm

My family doesn’t feel the need to invent fakes only to worry about how it may affect us.

who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men

January 18th, 2013
1:37 pm

I don’t see the issue here…calling a close family friend ‘uncle’ is nowhere near as misleading or disingenuous as telling your kids there is a santa clause….or easter bunny….or tooth fairey…or God.


January 18th, 2013
1:51 pm

I have plenty “nieces” and “nephews” because I have plenty of friends that are like sisters to me. I also have some “aunts” and “uncles” that are actually cousins because I am from the south and we never called anybody by their first name and I thought calling someone Cousin Diane was country and Miss was formal and not for a relaative. I doubt anyone is confused or angry at age 9 when they realize that their mom really doesn’t have 50 “real” sisters.

I didn’t feel misled but I was really confused when I was little when I walked in the bathroom and my grandmother had her teeth in her hand.


January 18th, 2013
2:06 pm

My fake girlfriend is hotter than yours…


January 18th, 2013
2:09 pm

I agree with Mayhem and others that people we choose to have as family are just as important as those that are actually blood related. In some cases I am sure people are actually a lot closer to these honorary relatives than their blood kin. I have always thought that it is beneficial for a child to have as many people that love them in their life as possible. This certainly includes honorary uncles, aunts, grandparents, ect. I would never see this as a problem.


January 18th, 2013
2:15 pm

I was abt 10-12yrs old when I realized my Aunt Brenda was my dad’s sister, I knew to call her Aunt Brenda but didnt understand HOW she got the “aunt” title ;), I have plenty of Uncle’s that were my grand-dad’s friends from church, calling them Uncle was out of respect, it was either “uncle so&so” or “Mr. so&so”


January 18th, 2013
2:46 pm

Growing up, I had a few phoney “uncles” & “aunts”, but I knew they weren’t blood kin. Our kids have 1 fake “uncle” (my best friend), but they (too) know he’s not related. However, he’s better to our kids than one of their “real” aunts is.


January 18th, 2013
2:59 pm

I wouldn’t worry about it unless you are having your child call a succession of men “daddy.”

I never had any “adopted” kinfolk but my kids have an Aunt Louise who was a fellow teacher with me way back when. Their lives are richer for having her.

I did mislead one of my children successfully about her dad’s activities. She figured it out in her 20s and was astounded, but what could I do? It wasn’t something I wanted her to know about.

Harmless identifiers

January 18th, 2013
3:46 pm

When I was a kid my mom worked with several woman who she referred to as my Aunts and their husbands I called my Uncles. My mom had one brother, no sisters, and they did not speak to each other. When I was old enough to understand how sisters and brothers of your parents were your uncles and aunts I asked her about these women. She told me exactly what the truth was and I was fine with that and continued to call them Aunt so and so, etc. No big deal.

My dad had 8 brothers and sisters most of whom I rarely saw as they lived on the other side of the country. My mom’s approach created a sort of extended family that I otherwise would not have had. And since she always lied about her age and plenty of other things, I just took this “deviation” from the truth in stride.

Harmless identifiers

January 18th, 2013
3:53 pm

Catlady – best comment of the day.

I wouldn’t worry about it unless you are having your child call a success of men “daddy.”

I would also add it is a problem if everyone of your kids calls a different man “daddy,” and also a problem if you are single and your child is calling a different guy “Uncle so and so” every week.


January 18th, 2013
4:11 pm

catlady, far from even calling them “daddy,” but even being exposed to so many men in the first place in such a way. it’s like, oh forget that you have a child to bring up, just go ahead and focus on YOU and your insatiable, lusty needs. then you wonder why the kid ends up acting all out, disrespectful and troubled.


January 18th, 2013
6:33 pm

The word “daddy” has no meaning among some folk. Who’s yo’ daddy?


January 18th, 2013
10:35 pm

Wait till they find out my girl friend doesn’t exist.

Harmless identifiers

January 18th, 2013
11:18 pm

Don’t know if this is true, but I heard that Mama Mia is becoming a popular musical for school productions. What sort of message does that send – a woman who was screwing 3 guys at the same time and now doesn’t know who her child’s father is? Sounds like the perfect musical for the government schools here in the Atlanta Metro area I suppose.

Dr. C

January 19th, 2013
9:32 am

We never did anything like that.. even didn’t do the Santa Claus charade. Kids are grown now and I don’t think they were marred by missing out on believing…


January 19th, 2013
11:18 am

lol first world problems.

I’m pretty sure “fake” uncles would have been preferable to the real ones I was stuck with, so be careful what you ask for.


January 19th, 2013
12:07 pm

Harmless and anonymous: I agree. I have even had kids refer to the man in the house as their “mother’s CURRENT boyfriend”–how sad is that? Too many people putting their own wants above the welfare of their kids.

About 12 years ago I was teaching 5th grade. I had a little girl who seemed so sad, and I found out she rarely saw her mother. Her dad was gone, and her mom had her taken care of by the school and a babysitter. I asked the mother to come in, and she told me how she had to work 2 jobs so she could never be with her kids while they were awake. I told her how sad her daughter seemed, and that I was concerned because she was going to be going through some real changes and needed her mama. Mama agreed to try to find more time. Just then, the class came in and I asked the girl to show her mom to the front door (the mother had never, in 3 years, been in the school enough to make her way there). When the little girl came back, she was smiling and seemed happy. She told me, “I am going to get to spend time with my mother this evening. She is taking me out on a date with her boyfriend!” Apparently, mom had time for dating but no time for the daughter. I see too much crap like that. But, I digress.

Another bad one: A third grade boy was a very mixed up kid. One day he came in, more agitated than usual, to say that his mama’s boyfriend had left and not given them any money to buy food. So mama went to the food bank, but there was a long line and she didn’t want to wait. So that evening she took them to the park and met a man who said he would buy them food if he could spend the night at their house! The boy was upset because all the man bought them, after staying the night, was some Ramen noodles!!! I went through the roof!

We can laugh about some of this, but for many kids, it is no laughing matter.


January 19th, 2013
5:25 pm

We have a real grandma and grandpa that are fake. One phone call to their grandkids once a year on their birthday and used gifts sent for bdays and Christmas. Our neighbors are better “grandparents” to our kids.


January 19th, 2013
9:31 pm

my kids have aunts and uncles who are my best friends. i have kids who call me mom who i did not give birth to but tried to give them the love and guidance they didnt find at home.
i dont find anything wrong with it…only if its a procession of dads or moms or uncles who parade through the bedrooms…not good for anyone.
catlady your stories are heartbreaking.


January 19th, 2013
11:27 pm

One thing we know for sure by now is that Manti Te’O had a fake girlfriend. I just don’t want to be around him when he finds out there is no Santa Claus!

A Fake Aunt

January 20th, 2013
9:09 am

When I was growing up this was done out of respect. My kids had many ” fake” Aunt & Uncles. My children are now 40 & 44 and when I refer to the different ones I still say Aunt—– or Uncle —–. They never felt like this was wrong. I sure didn’t want them calling them by their first name and using last name seemed to formal. Then after they got older we did go to the Mr—- or Mrs ——. My daughter who is 40 still refers to them as Mr or Mrs even tho they have told her to call them by their first name. Now my sons children call all the adults by their first names. I have seen things change from people being called aunt or uncle, then it went to Ms—-& Mr ——- to now just using the first name even as a small child. I am even called Aunt by mt first cousins daughter because she didn’t want her to just use our first names. Long live the fake Aunts and Uncles!


January 20th, 2013
9:20 am

You aren’t Deep South, are you? I grew up in a magical neighborhood in Alabama. Everyone looked after each other. The neighbors were our “aunts” and “uncles.” Even my first cousin and his wife were my aunt and uncle, because they had a child my age (known as my twin cousin). When my Australian husband met these folks years later, his first comment was, “You certainly have a lot of aunts and uncles.” Later, he changed it to, “Are you kin to this aunt and uncle?” Fake? Surely you jest. These people were real, and they are all gone now. I miss them. Time marches on. There are 5 children who call me aunt. When my husband died, each made a bouquet, tied on a note, laid the flowers on the casket, and the bouquets were lowered with the casket. I still think of how lovely that was for an uncle they weren’t kin to. This is a Southern tradition, one that brings us as close as blood kin.
[One last example. A neighbor who became a teacher asked to be excused early to attend my mother's funeral. The principal said no because she wasn't kin. To which my friend said, "I am more kin to my Aunt Bernice than I am to most of my relatives." The principal backed off, and there stood my neighborhood friend by my side when I needed her most.]


January 20th, 2013
10:50 am

Alice, you are my REAL cousin, but more than that, you are my dear friend as well!

Native Atlantan

January 20th, 2013
1:13 pm

Seriously — fake aunts and uncles? We only had real aunts and uncles. All other audults were referred to as Ms/Mrs or Mr. Even the neighborhood parents, who’d discipline us just like our parents, were called Mr and Mrs so-and-so. THAT is respect………


January 20th, 2013
8:59 pm

In addition to aunts and uncles, some churchgoers refer to each other as brother and sister. Is anyone offended?

Djm: sorry to bum you. Unfortunately teachers see a lot of similar stories. And yes, it is so sad!


January 21st, 2013
1:35 am

my parents never did any of that (but the world was very different than today when I grew up). We refer to some of our closest friends as ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ to our kids. They know that they aren’t ‘related’ to them, but they don’t have a problem at all.
I have cousins who have an aunt who never had kids (so those two cousins are her only niece and nephew). I refer to her as my aunt…no big deal to anyone.
I also refer to the man my mom lived with after she left my dad as my ’stepdad’ even though my parents were still married (til she died). It’s just easier than dealing with explaining the relationship when I’m mentioning something about it.
My kids are interested in all that relation stuff – it’s fascinating, I think, as they get older to understand more about it. I think it *is* tough for kids to understand that ‘aunts and uncles’ were mom and dad’s siblings – it’s very difficult for them to imagine it, because their family is all they know when they are little.
But I couldn’t see being upset about referring to people as family when they are technically not.


January 21st, 2013
7:42 am

What a stupid article. Kids getting upset because they thought they called someone aunt or uncle and then found out they weren’t, please give me a break. My children who are in college both call my best friend and his wife aunt and uncle and have since they were old enough to talk. They are probably closer to them than any of their real uncles or aunts. They call them that out of respect and love because we felt if we had to chose anyone for a relative it would be these two. They know they aren’t blood relatives, but then again when someone adopts are the adoptees supposed to not call their parents mom and dad. We just look at it like chosen adoptive aunts and uncles.


January 21st, 2013
8:55 am

I have a Grandma that is of no relation to me except in my heart. She is as real as any blood relative.
My kids have Aunties who are friends that are super close to us and treat them like family. Then they have their actual Aunts and Uncles. We just don’t see a blood relation to be the only family.

Sk8ing Momma

January 21st, 2013
12:41 pm

OMW…Really? What’s so hard about understanding that aunt and uncle can be terms of endearment? Once children know what a blood relative is (i.e. mom and dads siblings), I don’t see it too far a leap for them to understand what a “fake’ aunt/uncle is. Children are even capable of understanding great aunts and uncles…They can get that grandma and grandpa have siblings. Why does this have to be complicated?…I don’t get it. Just tell kids the truth.

Sk8ing Momma

January 21st, 2013
12:42 pm

Ooops! (i.e. mom and dad have siblings)