Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Will you adopt us?: Since I was 5, my stepdad has raised me like I was his own (I’m 17 now). I have two little sisters (16, 15) who also consider him to be their dad. Although we’re in our mid- and late teens, we’d like to ask him to adopt us. We’re worried he’ll say no and don’t want him to feel badly if he doesn’t want that. Is this a weird request to make? If it isn’t, what’s the best way to ask him?
A: This isn’t a weird request at all. It’s lovely and affirming and inclusive, and if your stepfather has acted as a loving father to you for the last 12 years, I think he will be deeply moved by it.
If you’re concerned about unforeseen pitfalls, you might consider floating the idea by your mother first, and ask for her advice about how to frame the question. But if your primary concern is that he’ll feel pressured or uncomfortable (maybe for financial or logistical reasons I’m not aware of), then I think you should simply state that from the outset. Tell him you consider him to be your father, that you love him, and it would be deeply meaningful to you to legally formalize your family relationship, but that you want him to feel enormous freedom to say no, and that whatever he decides to do, you’re his daughter and grateful for how he’s raised you.