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DNA donation leads to important disclosure

Q. I was conceived via sperm donor and my parents, who are very private, never told me.

Via a DNA testing site, I was able to figure out the identity of the sperm donor and wrote to him. I knew to be prepared for any possible outcome when I reached out, but was pleased to learn of a good health history, and intrigued by his warm openness to getting to know me and my family. We’ve agreed to proceed slowly, which I think is healthy and in general a positive outcome.

My concern is regarding my parents, with whom I speak frequently. I’m not angry with them, and want to respect their privacy and the choice they made not to tell me, and I worry this news may negatively impact my relationship with them.


I also have teenage kids who (currently) know none of this!

What are your thoughts?


A. This is a momentous discovery, and you are right to approach this thoughtfully. I see the challenge for you occurring on two levels — first involving disclosure, and second (and I assume more challenging) involving this new relationship you seem interested in building with your DNA donor.

I assume that as a daughter and a parent, you could understand that this new relationship might prove confusing — or threatening — to your folks.

Meet with your parents in person. Tell them you’ve done DNA ancestry testing (like many other people), and that it revealed this surprise about your DNA. Thank them sincerely for taking this step to bring you into the world, and convey your deep love for them. Tell them that you appreciate their privacy, and ask if they’d like to tell you anything at all about the process.

I think you should then sit on this for a bit and let them absorb the news.


If they ask if you’ve connected with your DNA donor, tell them the truth — that you have and that you’ve communicated about your health history.

I would caution you not to refer to your DNA donor as your “biological father,” and I would not disclose the relationship you seem interested in building until more time has passed.

You may have DNA-related siblings, and a slew of new contacts and relationships to sort out, but the one with your parents should be paramount, and you should strive to be respectful and reassuring to them.

This is a teachable moment for your children, and the lesson you should convey is that life is beautiful, complicated, and surprising. Leading with honesty and love is the best any of us can do.

Q. I’m in my 30s. My boyfriend and I have been dating exclusively for about four months and I just celebrated a birthday.

Due to conflicts with work and out-of-town guests, we were unable to see each other during the week of my birthday. I know he isn’t great with remembering dates. However, all he gave me was a card — no gift or taking me out for dinner.

I am not a materialistic person who needs someone to shower me with gifts, but I at least think it’s nice to do a little something, even if it’s a belated bouquet of flowers.

Am I overreacting? Should I be bothered?


I am afraid to bring it up at the risk of sounding petty.


A. Your boyfriend is actually good at remembering dates. He remembered your birthday and gave you a card. I hope you expressed to him that this gesture touched you.

The beginning stages of a serious relationship are when both parties convey their values and preferences. I do think you might be overreacting, but you are also trying to arrive at a balance in a fairly new relationship.

You could say to him, “Thank you so much for remembering my birthday. That meant a lot. Would you be willing to also take me out for a belated birthday dinner? I’d really like to celebrate with you.”

Q. “Worried” has an alcoholic sister who is a nanny and drinks on the job.

I could not believe that you neglected to advise Worried to look into attending Al-anon meetings!


A. Al-anon.org is a valuable “friends and family” resource for people affected by a loved-one’s drinking.

Worried was most concerned about her “ethical and moral obligation” to inform parents of her sister’s risky behavior while working as a nanny. I thought it was most vital to address this.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.