Q. Fifty-five years ago, when I was young and stupid, I had a child out of wedlock and placed the baby up for adoption.
Fast-forward to now. I am married to a different man and have a 48-year-old daughter and a 38-year-old son. I have two grandchildren. My husband knows about my indiscretion, but it never comes up in discussion.
Sometimes I struggle with the question: Do my adult children have the right to know that they have a half-brother somewhere? My gut tells me no: “Let a sleeping dog lie.” “Why open up a can of worms?”
I know my husband would definitely be against telling our kids about this. We are elderly people and just want to live peaceful lives.
Did I just answer my own question? I’m wondering what you think.
A. As long as you see this long-ago pregnancy only as a mistake, an indiscretion, or something that resulted from your own stupidity, you won’t have any motivation to tell the story.
And as long as you see this truth as a “sleeping dog” or a “can of worms,” rather than a story about actual human beings, then yes, you will keep a tight lid on it.
I see this as an important and very rich part of your own personal history.
Alas, I cannot answer your question for you. Yes, I do believe your children have the right to know about a sibling. Not knowing anything about you — or them — I’d like to think that your children might be shocked but would ultimately be very understanding about this long-ago choice.
The child you gave birth to might also be searching for his own biological relatives. Yes, you have the legal right to deny him this knowledge, but should you?
I do know this: The ubiquity of household DNA testing kits is forcing a lot of stories like yours out into the open. A simple dab of spit can reveal all. You can either try to control the narrative now or deal with family members down the road who would be shocked by the story, and also dismayed by your silence.
Like that long-ago choice you made, this one won’t be easy, but maybe you’ll choose a brave uncertainty over peace and quiet. It really is up to you.
A counselor would help you to sort out your thinking, and also find the right words to say.
Q. My brother is a widower and a single dad. His wife died two years ago due to cancer and he is raising his 9-year-old daughter.
He is now starting to date again, and met a nice girl on a trip to another country. Even though they don’t live in the same place he is very invested in the relationship with his girlfriend. Whenever he is not working, he talks with her over the phone and video calls.
I’m very happy for him, but now, due to this, my niece is complaining that my brother is not giving her any time. She says he spends day and night on the phone and is not spending time with her. I have shared some time with them over the weekends and, sadly, my niece is not exaggerating.
I really don’t want to get involved, but I would like my brother to realize that my niece is missing their father-daughter time. I would also like for her to understand that it is nice for him to be in a relationship.
How can I help them? Do you have any suggestions?
A. You should talk to your brother about this. Ask him to be more aware of the amount of time he is devoting to this new relationship.
Given that they are conducting the relationship remotely, hours spent on the phone would be very alienating to his daughter. He needs to be present for his daughter — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
You should also offer to spend as much time as possible with your niece. Yes, you can explain to her that it’s a positive thing for her father to embark on another relationship, but no grieving 9-year-old is going to embrace this concept.
Q. “Nervous” wrote about how his mother-in-law interferes with their parenting — over FaceTime!
The woman isn’t even in the room with them and they allow her to control them!
SCRATCHING MY HEAD
A. An overwhelming person doesn’t need to be physically present to make themselves heard. I hope these new parents draw some very firm boundaries.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.