Q. My divorced 45-year-old son, who lives 3,000 miles away, has been keeping a big secret from me for a year: He has a baby daughter and I have a baby granddaughter.
I received a letter with photographs (the resemblance is undeniable) from his then girlfriend, the baby’s mother, who is a lovely professional woman with her own business. She asks nothing of me or from me. She wants me to know I am welcome to visit the baby and be a part of the baby’s life, if I so choose (which I do).
She has asked my son to tell me about the baby several times. He has refused. She felt I had the right to know. The pregnancy was a surprise to both of them. He wanted her to terminate the pregnancy, and she didn’t, so he walked out. He has nothing to do with the baby or her mother, who went through the pregnancy and childbirth alone. I do not know if he contributes any child support. Meanwhile, he has asked/pressured me three times to get rid of my generation-skipping trust ... with no personal explanation. I did not.
I thought my son and I had a close relationship. I stood by him through several years of a nightmare divorce. He is my only living child (his brother passed away at 19). The baby is my only biological grandchild. My former husband abandoned us; we don’t even know where he is. I am remarried to a wonderful man and through him I am blessed with a loving stepfamily (four grandkids).
My son has either no conscience or a selective conscience, and he is very self-righteous. I fear the choice to acknowledge my baby granddaughter could end my relationship with my son. I am sad, angry, and ashamed of him.
How should I tell him that I know?
A. You could send your son the text of this question, which seems to outline exactly how you feel, with a note in the margin: “FYI.”
I assume you plan to follow up and make contact with this child’s mother. I hope you do. This is a no-brainer. There is no need for you to try to explain your son’s behavior to the mother of the child — or discuss this further with your son until you are ready. You are both adults and you both have the right to engage in whatever relationships you want. He may eventually acknowledge the child and come around in some minimal ways, but, as the son of a father who abandoned him and disappeared from his own life, he might not ever step up.
You should assume that if you choose to acknowledge this child, your relationship with your son will be affected, but that is up to him.
Q. My wife and I have a 3-year-old son. My wife’s 17-year-old sister, “Tessa,” is currently living with us.
One day my teenage sister-in-law was tasked to watch our son, because we had an all-day personal appointment. However, we finished our appointment by 1 p.m., and upon arriving home we were shocked to find that Tessa had invited four of her high school friends over, when she was watching our 3-year-old son.
I have no issues with her friends being over, yet the fact that she didn’t ask (or inform) us has me very concerned. What say you?
A. Your concern is completely justified. “Tessa” is a teenager and is demonstrating the judgment typical of her age. But, while she might have thought that having more “help” would be good for everyone concerned, the more people around, the more attention toward the child is divided. This presents risks for your son.Tessa might not be mature enough to take on responsibility for another human; she may need a baby sitter herself.
If you plan to trust Tessa to continue occasionally watching her nephew, emphasize the absolute need for her to be completely honest with you. You should meet and approve of any other people spending time with your child.
Q. “Jealous?” was worried about a newly single female work friend of her boyfriend’s, who was driving four hours to their town for a personal visit.
You were wrong to justify her jealousy. Female jealousy has ruined many platonic friendships.
A. I suggested that this person acknowledge her feelings, and also accept the female friend’s invitation to get together in order to see if the feelings were justified. Jealousy is not confined to women.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.