I’m a grown man, happily married (more or less) for the past 15+ years to a confident, professional woman who has many, many good and admirable qualities. We have two kids, a boy and a girl, in the tweenager range. Both are beautiful and wonderful beyond description. I’m a very lucky man.
A couple of years ago, my mother revealed to me and my brother, that in the years before she met my dad, she had had a relationship with a married man. As a result, she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, and had given them up for adoption. The girl, now a woman with her own grown son, somehow tracked my mom down and wanted to establish a relationship. Her own adoptive parents had both passed away and she was no longer married to the father of her son.
My mom was thrilled to welcome the daughter and, by extension, the son she had given up years ago back into her life. I was less sure of my feelings but was happy to see my mom be happy. However, my wife has never been comfortable with the revelation. As parents, we have been careful about what our children have been exposed to. By openly acknowledging my biological half-sister and half-brother, eventually we will need to explain the nature of my relationship to them. It’s one thing to provide a moral compass for your kids so they know what kind of behavior is expected. It’s another thing to introduce them to an uncle and aunt who’s background you can’t explain easily without getting into facts of life about their grandmother they may not be ready to fully understand and put in context.
Now I’m feeling trapped. My wife has been unmovable on the topic and is dead set against any relationship. My mother (who lives far away and we see infrequently) has taken every opportunity to bring my half-siblings into her life – including them in every family occasion. I’ve met my half-brother – he lives near my mom and he has been at a couple of the holidays at my folks’ house. The kids have met him, too. However, I have a *large* family (50+ cousins) so the relationship has been left amorphous for now. I have only spoken with my half-sister on the phone. She lives farther away with her son but has been out to see my mom about three times a year. As far as the kids know, my half brother is just another “cousin” who has been at family gatherings. My hints at the tension this situation has caused have been ignored by my mother. I have always tried to be the dutiful son – but I can’t do that at the expense of my family. I’ve even explained to my half-sister that I don’t have room in my life for a relationship with her. However, she remains undaunted.
Is there a way out of this? I’ve been struggling with this for almost three years but it seems hopeless. — Bio Hazard
The first thing you need to do is figure out your own feelings in regards to your biological half-siblings and your mother’s past. You say that when you found out them, you were happy for your mother for welcoming them back into her life, but you were less sure about your own feelings. I wonder if, three years later, you’re any more sure. If you aren’t, then the source of tension in your life is actually a little more in your control than you think it is. Because if you’re ambiguous about your feelings, then of course it’s going to be difficult for you to take a stand in this familial situation. Instead of deciding for yourself what kind of relationship you’d like to have with your half-siblings, it’s easier to let your wife or your mother decide for you … except they have differing viewpoints, which complicates things. So, get to the bottom of your own feelings through counseling and then take a stand, deciding for yourself what you want the status of your relationship with your half-siblings to be.
Your wife doesn’t have a right to dictate the status of your relationships with family members. That’s absurd! And she only remains “unmovable” on the topic because you aren’t trying to move her. You aren’t trying to move her because you’re ambiguous about what kind of relationship you even want with these new family members. And if you can’t be sure what kind of relationship you want, then how can you know what sort of relationship you’d like your children to have with them? Figure these things out and then push for what you want.
In the meantime, I don’t see why there’s any rush to decide anything. If you’ve never even met your half-sister, and you live far enough away from your mother and half-brother than you’ve only seen them a handful of times in the last three years, why not keep up the whole cousin facade until you’ve figured out a good way and a good time to explain more to your children? And don’t think you have to give them the whole story at once. Just because you decide to tell them that they have an aunt and uncle doesn’t mean they have to know those people are products of their grandmother’s extramarital affair. Dole out the information in bits and pieces as they’re able to process it.
And, look, providing a moral compass for your kids is fantastic, but revealing that a family member hasn’t always led a perfect or pure life isn’t exactly going to turn that compass on its side. Part of teaching kids important life lessons includes the idea of redemption, and illustrating that people make mistakes but that those mistakes don’t have to define them as people or ruin their lives forever. One of the very most important things you can teach a kid is that people are still lovable even after making mistakes — that just as you love your mother despite decisions she may have made many years ago that you don’t agree with, you love her as much as you always have, just as you’ll love your kids when — not if, but when — they make decisions you don’t approve of. Providing a moral compass for your kids doesn’t mean drawing them a direct map to their destiny, avoiding every potential pitfall and roadblock along the way; it means giving them tools to make smart and guided decisions and the ability to handle themselves when they don’t always succeed. It seems to me that your unique family situation provides a perfect opportunity to teach your kids that even detours and wrong turns can lead to wonderful destinations.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.
Rei September 27, 2011, 7:28 am
One: kids, especially ones as old as tweens (who probably already know the facts of life) are able to grasp a lot of weird things. Just tell them that your mother had an affair with a married man, which is not a good idea, but she ended up having twins and giving them up for adoption. They’ll get it and probably won’t immediately jump to, “Gee, I should have an affair with a married man too!” I know in my life, all the weird details about my father’s family that my mother shared me with me as soon as I started asking questions didn’t mess up my “moral compass.”
Two: your wife sounds like a nutter. She’s banning you from interacting with family? That is super-controlling and I’m pretty sure it’s some form of abuse.
MissDre September 27, 2011, 8:43 am
I don’t see why he would need to bring up the fact that Grandma had an affair. Just say, Grandma had two babies before she was ready to take care of them, but she loved them and wanted the best for them so she gave them to a family who could give them what they needed.
I don’t think somebody else’s affair is a 13 year olds business.
camille905 September 27, 2011, 9:03 am
Emma September 27, 2011, 9:14 am
The grandmother seems willing to let her grandchildren know at least some of the nature of the relationship. You don’t have to let the kids know that the man was married, at least at this point, but letting them know about the relationship between the LW and the half-siblings doesn’t seem like a problem. Kids are willing to accept a lot of things, and if they find out at a younger age, I think they will be able to deal with it better. This isn’t something that’s going to scar them.
Your wife is being controlling and judgmental. If you want to have a relationship with them, you need to have a long conversation with your wife.
Rei September 27, 2011, 12:39 pm
I think it would just be best to lay out the whole situation for them. It would probably answer a lot of questions they have, such as, “Who was the father?” “Why couldn’t she keep the children?” “Why didn’t she marry the dad?” “Why didn’t he keep the children?”
Also, I think it would be better for them to know straight out than for everyone to act like it’s a big secret and for them to find out about the whole situation from someone else, or from the LW’s wife. (Totally serious about that one. I imagine she could really mess with the children’s perception of their grandmother.)
Maybe I’m horribly wrong and everyone else thinks I’m a total idiot or something. Who knows.
MissDre September 27, 2011, 2:16 pm
As a child, I can’t imagine even caring who the dad was or why Grandma didn’t marry him. Especially since we live in a time where it’s really quite common for women to be single parents or women to give up children for adoption. The kids are nearly teenagers. I’m sure they have friends at school who have single parents. It’s not like it would be a confusing shock for them. They aren’t gonna be like, “What?? You mean people have babies when they’re not married??” They are not inquisitive little 4 years olds.
Seriously. Grandma’s sex life 40 years ago is nobody’s business. Just tell the kids that Grandma had a baby before she was ready and had to give up the baby for adoption. And tell them to be happy for Grandma that she has found her long lost children that she has always missed and loved.
Rei September 27, 2011, 4:10 pm
Then we must have been very different children, because when I was a child I liked to know everything, especially if it seemed secretive. One of the best ways to make me angry was to not fully explain something to me because it “wasn’t my business,” or, “you’re too young.” Even as a tween. I’m not saying it would be a confusing shock for them; I’m just saying they could have some questions and it’s better to have it answered now in a respectful fashion than later in a who-knows-what kind of fashion than later, I think.
I’m just remembering when I was younger, those would be kind of questions that I asked, and I knew all about single-parentage and people having babies out of wedlock.
Roxy84 September 27, 2011, 4:32 pm
Well, it doesn’t hurt them to learn that sometimes things AREN’T their business. No need to lie, but “who was the father” can be answered with “a friend of your grandmother’s”, and the others similarly. If they press for details or get mad, it’s a great time to teach the lesson that sometimes it’s not polite to ask questions when someone has already told you as much as they want to. At 7 they may not be able to grasp that, but at 10 or 11 (which is the range I assume from ‘tweenager’) they should be learning that.
fast eddie September 28, 2011, 8:43 am
Your not and idiot Rei and you bring up a good point. Being prepared with answers to the questions will obviously come up now and in the future will make those events far less traumatic. This wife wants to live in denial but her kids have to live with the reality that they have newly discovered family members. She’s begging for a bruising when they find out that she denied them the opportunity to connect. Everybody loses if the husband caves.
Kerrycontrary September 27, 2011, 10:25 am
Yeh I think that Tweens could easily grasp this situation. I’m sure some of their friends even have wacky family situations of their own that they’ve heard of. If you do decide to expose this to your children, include the necessities and hold off on the “affair with a married man” part until you feel it’s appropriate. I mean if your kids were 5 or 6, yes this may be beyond their comprehension. But if they are 11 or 12 they understand more than you think. Plus, you don’t want one of your other 50 cousins revealing this information at a family function before you get a chance to tell them yourself.
Nadine September 27, 2011, 7:57 am
The first thing that struck me about this is that the affair with the married man is the LEAST important thing about this scenario, especially from the perspective of YOUR family. I mean, your mother didnt cheat on HER husband, your father, and she did the right thing in adopting out two children who may have had more complicated lives if she hadn’t. Now she is able to welcome them back into her life, and they are mature and balanced enough to slide right on into a large family.
Your kids surely don’t need to know the affair part until they are much much older, if at all. All families have little things they don’t speak about, to make daily life easier. As far as your kids are concerned, their grandma had twins before she met their grandfather, and wasn’t able to look after them, so gave them to another couple who became their parents. Standard adoption story, really. If the pre-marital sex story is the one your wife objects to telling your kids, well she better make sure they never watch television, read a book, or look at billboards. Or go to public school.
About figuring out your own feelings, I’m with Wendy. Take your time, as long as it is your own time, and not anyone else’s. Your kids will be ok.
PondLily September 27, 2011, 8:07 am
I didn’t realize before I replied that the mother wasn’t married to the LW’s father when she gave birth to the twins. I completely agree with you that the way to approach it is to say that she wasn’t ready to be a mother and gave them to a family that could better raise them. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing scandalous or awful about that. In fact, it shows her maturity about the situation that she was able to do the right thing.
I’m not sure what the wife finds so horrible about that. Has she never made any mistakes of her own?
Nadine September 27, 2011, 8:20 am
This is why I assumed she was either very, very conservative about her views on pre-marital sex (in which case, since the outcome was adoption I just give up on her) or she had issues with her mother-in-law previously anyway and is looking for an excuse to drift further away from the family. Obviously this is speculation, and I hope there is another reason that was not made too clear in the letter, but it upsets me that someone’s partner cannot see the good in this story.
MissDre September 27, 2011, 8:47 am
I was wondering this too… whether or not the wife had existing issues with her MIL. I realize that the LW may be struggling with his feelings about having two half siblings that he never knew about… but why would this upset the wife so much to the point of banning a relationship? I don’t get it. It’s ridiculous and controlling.
She may have her own viewpoints on pre-marital sex but what the LWs mother did like 40 years ago isn’t really anybody’s business to judge, and the wife should be supportive of the confusion the LW is going through.
PondLily September 27, 2011, 8:02 am
Every family has its own unique blend of secrets and proverbial “skeletons in the closet” and sheltering your kids from your family’s own is not doing anything to strengthen their sense of morality. If anything, I think the lesson is in how to overcome those situations that aren’t ideal, and how to accept people and love them, mistakes and all. By dismissing your half-siblings for something that was beyond their control, you are limiting yourself and your kids from relationships that perhaps may be enriching and enlightening. As a middle school teacher, I’ve seen my share of family issues, and yes, you would be surprised how much kids will take for granted in regards to their own family situations. The important part in raising them is not providing an easy, issue-free existence, but guiding them through those times that are learning experiences with the emphasis on acceptance and love.
Show by your example and welcome your half-siblings into your family as your mother has. Your kids will be better people for it.
Budjer September 27, 2011, 8:25 am
Are you the parents that homeschool your children to protect them from the dredges of society?
Really this isn’t that scandalous of a story – the married man issue need not be brought up till your kids are much older. I think it’s extremely ridiculous of your wife to ban these relationships seemingly because they occurred out of wedlock…? I really hope they don’t judge you for it if you ultimately decide to have these relationships because I would certainly feel judged by your wife if I was either of your half-siblings.
Decide what you want (which I’m hoping is the inclusive route) and sack up.
I’m curious why you weren’t happy to find out you have stable and healthy siblings you never knew about? Especially since it happened before your father was even in the picture.
CG September 27, 2011, 8:48 am
ITA! The whole time I was reading this, all I could think was that this is the proverbial “mountain from molehill” situation. Just keep letting the kids think your half-sibs (who I hope the LW decides he actually wants a relationship with!) are long-lost cousins and don’t tell them the whole story until they’re in high school. The end!
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 11:41 am
Ugh, thank you. I didn’t know if it was because I’m in a bad mood today or what but this is the dumbest thing ever. First of all, wife has a say in what her kids are exposed to, no matter if we or the MIL think its no big deal so why is everyone jumping on her for that? Secondly, and more importantly, why the hell does she care about 2 people her children will likely see for -1% of their lives. Why explain anything? This is such a non-issue. The LW doesn’t even know what he wants but is upset his wife does? Idk. LW, be glad you consider this your biggest problem and move on.
MissDre September 27, 2011, 8:59 am
LoL. Your first sentence reminds me of the friend I had in high school (yes, high school) who was not allowed to come over to my house because my parents were divorced and I had a single mother. I guess they thought that setting foot in the home of a divorced woman would defile her.
Once I slept over at her house and we watched the movie Armageddon, and her father had the remote and fast forwarded through every scene where Ben Affleck kissed Liv Tyler and every scene where there was any yelling. We were 15 years old and her father would not let us watch two people kiss in a movie.
honeybeenicki September 27, 2011, 9:05 am
I went to college at a private Lutheran school and encountered many people who had lived extremely sheltered lives like that. I’d say at least 80% of them went straight out wild after a little time in college. Drugs, drinking, sex, anything that would go against what their parents had protected them from.
-------- September 27, 2011, 3:11 pm
I have a family member who has 6 kids ranging from 2-14 years old and she started homeschooling them a few years back. They are all still socially awkward and I feel horrible for them- one of the middle kids was so outgoing and had lots of little friends at school and since he’s been homeschooled he’s taken to living his life through video games- I have yet to see that kid where he is not glued to his video game. The older kid has always been kind of awkward, but she is certainly not helping him by keeping him at home and “protecting” him from evils of school instead of letting him go work through the rigors of school himself. The poor little girl (6 kids and only 1 girl) loves her little girl friends but is so super shy because of not being forced to have that interaction. My family member puts them in sports and seems to think that is all the social interaction they need and i feel so bad for the poor kids- they never get to get away from their parents! I think it’s purely for her selfish reasons of not wanting someone else to teach her kids and she wants to “protect” them but I think she is only hurting them. Then the two younger kids who aren’t doing school yet, have to play by themselves or watch movies and don’t get “mommy” time because she is doing school with the older kids. She also doesn’t have a teaching degree and I just worry that teaching 4 kids in different grades is not easy and something will get missed. I just hope they all turn out okay!
ReginaRey September 27, 2011, 9:27 am
Haha! I think one of two things can come from sheltering your children to the extreme – They grow up socially awkward and out of place, unable to relate or interact normally with other children and adults, OR like honeybeenicki says, they rebel and go wild when they get their first taste of freedom. The kids who end up with a good moral compass, while also being socially aware and capable, tend to have parents who dole out real world lessons in a safe environment.
TaxMan September 28, 2011, 5:01 pm
I really agree with your last statement there. You need to prepare children to face anything they may face. I think many kids are being done a disservice by there parents by sheltering them so much in one way or another. All they do is give their children rose colored glasses to look at the world through, and there is going to come a point when that child is going to have those glasses shattered and not know how to cope. I have heard of parents who shelter their children from failure by arguing with teachers over grades when they clearly deserved the lower grade they had been given. Is that going to help them later? No. They don’t stop and think how that will affect their child when they get to college, don’t make the grade they want, and then can’t get the professor to change the grade. Mom and dad can’t come to the rescue then, and that goes double for when they get into the job field.
In this case I don’t see the problem with the guy having a relationship with his family. At least for now there is no reason to tell the children all the details about his half brother and sister and who their father was. All they really need to know is they are family.
thyme September 27, 2011, 1:50 pm
But I bet all the violence was ok, right? People are weird.
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 1:54 pm
Hah! So hilarious. And so, so true…
EB September 27, 2011, 10:24 am
If you ARE the type of conservative parents who don’t believe in premarital sex and are trying to convince your children to not engage in it, then why are you not capitalizing on such a great “teaching moment” ?
“Look what happened when grandma had sex: pregnancy, twin babies, adoption, a fractured family”
While I would personally use situation to illustrate the importance of using contraceptives, if that doesn’t jive with your beliefs, you can change this “cautionary tale” so that the moral of the story is abstinence.
So basically, I see this situation as “win-win”; your kids get to know your half siblings AND grandma’s ordeal will most likely scare them into rocking the purity ring for a year or two longer than they might have otherwise.
* quotations denote sarcasm
Budjer September 27, 2011, 10:31 am
Liked for use of purity ring.
honeybeenicki September 27, 2011, 8:26 am
My mother had a daughter when she was in high school and she gave her up for adoption after she turned a year old (there were many other things going on in the family, including my mom losing both of her parents by the time she was 15). My sister is now back in our lives and has been for about 5 years and she is very much part of the family. I knew about her since the minute I could start asking questions about who the little girl in the photo album was and couldn’t wait to meet her one day.
Anyway… the moral of my story is – it may not work out in every case, but it seems to be working great in your mother’s life. If you have never given up a child for adoption, you have no idea what it feels like – especially if you go on to have more kids later. My mom once told me (when I was 23) that when I was born, she had a really hard time because when I would cry and she would try to go to me, she would suddenly get very sad because I wasn’t my sister. It is such a difficult thing to deal with for anyone.
And to address your specific problems – Wendy is right. You need to figure out how YOU feel about this. Don’t think about how your wife feels or anything else but how YOU personally feel and whether you want a relationship with them. And as far as the “moral compass” for your kids… use it as a teaching tool. You can’t protect them from ever knowing anything bad in this world. You know what my mom taught me? She taught me that she made a mistake by having premarital sex as a teenager, got pregnant, and had to give her child up for adoption. She taught me, through my sister’s existence, that I should think before acting, wait to have sex until I was ready, and use protection if I didn’t wait. It is an excellent teaching tool and if your half-brother and half-sister are decent people, I am a firm believer that the more family you have to support you and for you to support, the better. That is just one more person to love and to have love you and your kids. Please don’t hold your mother’s indiscretions against your half-siblings or your children.
And always remember… it will come out eventually. Think of how your kids might react/feel if you don’t tell them and purposely keep it from them and they find out some other way (because they will). But first and foremost, you really seem to need to examine your own feelings on this.
honeybeenicki September 27, 2011, 8:30 am
And one more thing – for you, your kids, your wife and your mother – they do have support groups available. My mother attends a birth parent support group and when my sister was first in our lives, I attended a birth-sibling support group for people who were reunited with siblings who were given up for adoption. This might be a good idea for you to be able to work out how you feel about it and help you cope with whatever decision you make (as well as get objective opinions).
theattack September 27, 2011, 3:53 pm
Excellent comment. I completely agree with you!
cj September 27, 2011, 8:44 am
Yes, there is a way out of this… by completely giving up your relationship with your mother and with all of your siblings that have accepted these half-siblings into your life. If your children have other cousins, it won’t be long before someone slips and says “Uncle half-brother, Aunt half-sister, and cousin whoever.” Your kids will probably be hurt that they were the only ones not included in this knowledge, especially if they have younger cousins that knew before them.
I also don’t think you’re giving your kids enough credit here. You say they are in their teen years. My (half-) sisters have always known that our father was married to my mother first. When my youngest sister was maybe 4 or 5, one of the older ones made a comment about my parents being divorced and I said “(baby of the family) doesn’t understand divorce.” And she piped up “YES I DO! Your mommy was married to our daddy, but they didn’t love each other anymore. So they got a divorce and then daddy married our mommy. That’s why you’re my sister and so is (other sisters) even though we have different mommies.” Kids get it.
And yes, I agree with others that you need to sort out your own feelings first. But if you really feel that this story will so drastically change your kids moral compass, then that leads me to believe that you gave them shaky foundation to begin with. If you’ve raised your kids well, you’ve been able to teach them that people make mistakes in life, but they shouldn’t be persecuted forever for it. If you don’t want to reveal the part about your mother’s affair right away, then don’t. But use this as a lesson to teach your children about the proper moral compass. “Grandma had children that she couldn’t take care of, so she loved them enough to give them up for adoption. It must have been a very difficult decision for her, but sometimes the right choices in life aren’t easy.”
honeybeenicki September 27, 2011, 9:11 am
I agree that kids understand a lot more than we adults tend to give them credit for understanding.
silver_dragon_girl September 27, 2011, 9:22 am
Yes. And also, with “50+ cousins,” there’s a good chance they have already heard rumors about the new people, or even know everything outright.
justpeachy September 27, 2011, 3:46 pm
This is a very good point. From personal experience, I know that there are relatives in the woodwork of my family tree that I have never met that we don’t talk about in my family for a variety of reasons, including first marriages and infidelity. My parents have never talked to me about them (and I am 24 years old now, fully capable of understanding). The only reasons I know about them are from overhearing phone conversations or aunts and uncles slipping up and talking about them. We don’t talk about things in my family, but once it’s out there and kids know, it’s so much better just to tell them the majority of things so they don’t assume the worst about people.
silver_dragon_girl September 27, 2011, 9:08 am
Ok, not to be harsh, but how is it the LW’s wife’s call whether or not the LW has a relationship with his half-siblings? Something about this letter left me with a bad taste in my mouth concerning her, but I’m not sure if that’s just the LW blaming his indecision on her or not…
I guess I just don’t understand how this is a problem. These people sound kind of uptight…I guarantee that “tweenage” children know where babies come from, and all you have to tell them is that Grandma had kids before she met Grandpa, she gave them up for adoption so they could have a better life than she could give them at the time, and now they’re back in touch. You can even make sure to explain to them that they’re not obligated to treat the new people like “aunt and uncle” if they don’t want to, but just to think of them like cousins you see every once in a while.
As for your “moral compass,” I’m not sure how anyone did anything “bad” or “wrong” in this scenario (you have no idea what circumstances led to your mother’s affair, so how about a little “judge not?”), so again, I don’t really see what you (or, as it sounds more like, your wife) are so worried about here. Worried your kids are going to go out and start having sex with married people because they think it’s ok? If anything, this situation will serve to show them the consequences of getting pregnant before you’re able to care for a possible child!
Also, telling someone you don’t have “room” in your life for a relationship is baloney. You just don’t WANT a relationship with your half-siblings because they upset your perfect life.
ReginaRey September 27, 2011, 9:24 am
Personally, I’m getting a major “helicopter parent” vibe from this LW. And I agree about the wife – I’m thinking that he has no idea what to think because his wife seems to do most of the thinking FOR him. All I know is, the only thing that fiercely sheltering your children will do is backfire on you big time. Best to give kids a controlled taste of what really goes on in life than leave them in the dark and have them go a bit nuts when they see and experience all that you’ve kept from them.
MissDre September 27, 2011, 9:43 am
Agree. I had a friend growing up who was not allowed to play with boys and she wasn’t allowed to come to my birthday parties because I invited boys from the class. Well, she went boy crazy by the time she was 13, was pregnant by the time she was 16, lost custody of her baby by the time she was 17, and had two more accidental pregnancies by the age of 21. When you completely restrict somebody from something, I think it’s natural instinct to rebel.
Calliopedork September 27, 2011, 4:14 pm
It would be awful to find a brother i’d probably always wondered about and have him tell me he didnt “have room” in his life for me just because he’s trying to shelter his kids from shit they already know. I hope for the half sisters sake he said that more tactfully.
Lindsay September 27, 2011, 9:23 am
This won’t be the first time children of this age have heard a story where someone does something morally questionable. Though I don’t think you should dump out all the details immediately (i.e., just say she had children before their grandpa, though they probably will ask with who, etc), it’s not going to be a big deal. Parents tend to think that their kids are only exposed to the things that THEY expose them, too. Which is not true. You wouldn’t believe the things that kids hear about at school, on TV, from friends, etc.
I remember how my mom wouldn’t want me to watch TV shows where teens had sex because she thought it would teach me that teens had sex (she told me they didn’t, as though I would believe that). Hearing about other things people were doing didn’t make me do them or want to do them. If I had been told that my grandma had children with a married man, I wouldn’t just decide it’s a good idea. Kids don’t think like that, something you should recall from your own childhood.
The only thing I’d warn you about is, don’t go to such extreme lengths to make the kids know that you think what their grandma did is wrong that you make her look like a bad guy. They will hear you if you simply say that it’s wrong, so you don’t need to keep on about it or they might infer that you’re trying to make them think badly of her, which is not the point.
PondLily September 27, 2011, 9:40 am
Maybe the LW isn’t worried that his kids will think that having sex with a married man is a good idea, but that they will now see Grandma differently and maybe not as “pure.”
Nadine September 27, 2011, 10:36 am
I understand this, but if he holds off on telling the kids the details until they are old enough to understand, they will be old enough to have a more complex view of the world anyway.
coralmonster September 28, 2011, 12:39 am
I get why this is a big deal for the LW, but why for the kids? My family has a similar situation except that my Grandad did the dirty on my Grandma, got another woman pregnant, left her, and now has a whole separate family who live in the same city as us. My Mum’s family has had no contact with him since (this was not his choice, sadly). I was told about this gradually – of course I wondered why I had no Granddad on that side, and wanted to know if he was dead, for starters. Mum just told me the basics until I was old enough to understand, and that was fine. When I did find out, I didn’t immediately run off and start having affairs! In fact, once I saw the emotional impact it had on everyone involved (including my Mum, who has always felt ‘abandoned’), it showed me the fallout from that situation and taught me a lesson.
artsygirl September 27, 2011, 9:29 am
My grandmother was an army nurse during WWII and came back pregnant. She met and married my grandfather when my aunt was 3 years old. My aunt never had contact with her birth-father and always considered my grandfather her dad since he was the person who raised her. I found out this piece of family history when I was in middle school and it barely made a blip on my radar. Kids are flexible and willing to accept people – it is adults that have the problem. Sort out your feelings and decide what place you want your siblings to have you in life. Also do not let your wife bully you about this, it is not her choice to make.
ReginaRey September 27, 2011, 9:43 am
You’re so right – kids are very open-minded and accepting. They only become closed-minded and unwilling to accept other people when their parents make it clear that they expect their children to adopt THEIR beliefs.
JennyTalia September 27, 2011, 9:50 am
Very true. Kids don’t really understand what the big deal is, and the longer the truth waits, the bigger deal it becomes. This is a prime age to tell them – when they’re old enough to understand but young enough not to be hurt/impacted.
ReginaRey September 27, 2011, 8:37 am
Yeah, I’m with Budjer on this – I’m not sure why it’s causing such contention and scandal. While knowingly having an affair with a married man is surely not right, your mother did what she thought was best. Your half-siblings certainly aren’t to blame for their existence, or for wanting to have a connection with the family they never knew. What I’m not so sure I understand is why you, and your wife, are so hesitant to make any connections with them.
If it’s because of having to explain the situation to your children…I hate to inform you that your children probably know and understand a lot more as tweens than you’d like to think. At 12, I knew what many sexual acts were, I knew people cheated on their spouses, I knew prostitues existed…etc. YET, I had solid parents who made an effort to parent me well and teach me valuable lessons…so I never had sex til I was 18, I’ve never cheated on anyone nor been involved in an affair, and I’m certainly not a prostitute. You have the power to shape your children for the better, and as Wendy said, you can use this opportunity to teach them a lesson.
I don’t understand what’s so wrong with saying, “Your grandmother had twins years before I was born, and wasn’t ready to be a mother, so she gave them up to loving couples who wanted to become parents.” If they then ask about the father, you can explain that she was in a relationship with a man and that the relationship didn’t work out. Your children aren’t 5! They understand where babies come from, I assure you. And they know that not all babies are conceived in wedlock. While that may scare you, you still have the ability to shape their morals positively.
And lastly…I still don’t understand why this is such a point of contention for you and your wife. Are we missing something? Are you mad at your mother for mistakes she made when she was much younger? Are you taking that out on your innocent siblings? Are you upset that she omitted your siblings existence for so long? And why is your WIFE more upset than you are?? Personally, I think you both need to calm down a bit and be happy for your mother – she seems to be thrilled to get to have a relationship with your half-siblings, and perhaps you should learn to see the good in that a bit more.
MissDre September 27, 2011, 8:50 am
silver_dragon_girl September 27, 2011, 9:10 am
Seriously. If I were this guy’s wife, my entire opinion on the matter would be, “whatever you feel comfortable with, hon.”
EB September 27, 2011, 11:13 am
you may not be a prostitute… but “office slut” was my first impression of you.
just sayin 😉
ReginaRey September 27, 2011, 12:12 pm
Hahaha! So many of you thought I was the poster girl for office slut for about 10 minutes…that was embarrassing.
LSS86 September 27, 2011, 12:45 pm
I can’t understand why everyone seems so bent out of shape about the situation. It would be nice to have gotten some insight as to WHY the wife is so adamantly against including the half-siblings in her family’s life. Does the LW even know why his wife is so against it? Does she want to shelter her kids from the fact that the grandmother had an affair with a married man, or just that she had children out of wedlock? There are different levels of forcing your children to grow up in a cave, what is the LW really dealing with here?
Also, I’d like to point out that the LW KNOWS his wife is in the wrong. How did I come to such a conclusion? His letter follows the form of the typical advice column letter. “I’m married to a wonderful woman who has a ton of amazing qualities and I love her so much, but…” Any time you start out a letter by trying to convince everyone that your SO is amazing, it’s because you know that what you’re about to write is a clear indication that your SO is not amazing at all.
JennyTalia September 27, 2011, 9:48 am
Does your wife have a vendetta against your mother? It doesn’t seem like any of these people are a bad influence on your children, and she’s just being a stick in the mud. I understand not wanting to encourage your kids to have illegitimate children with married people, but they don’t need to know all the details. They don’t even really need to know it was out of wedlock. All you need to say is that Grandma had children before you were born, and she could not properly take care of them at the time and therefore gave them up for adoption. There is nothing shameful about that. Your wife is creating drama where it doesn’t belong, and putting tension on both your relationship with her and with your mother.
wendyblueeyes September 27, 2011, 9:49 am
My grandmother’s story was that she and Grandpa got married at town hall, but she felt bad about it and they got remarried 3 months later in the Catholic Church. We found out after her death that the whole “Town hall” myth was to explain away the fact that my mom was born 6 months after the wedding. While the story was interesting, it did not change our feelings about Grandma. Like Mom said,”Who cares? She could have aborted me”. With that spin on it, we realized that Grandma and Grandpa were honorable people who faced up to their predicament in the best way possible. Miss you always, Grandma and Grandpa.
Nadine September 27, 2011, 10:40 am
Yeah when I was a teenager, my mum let slip that my great-grandmother ‘may or may not’ have been fourteen when she married my great-grandfather due to to being pregnant. Although this totally grosses me out, it was another time, another place, and did not turn me into a raging sex fiend the next day.
soandso September 27, 2011, 11:05 am
My great grandma got married at 16 with the permission of her parents….to a 32 year old! I still think it is weird but when I first heard about it I wasn’t scarred for life.
ape_escape September 28, 2011, 3:45 am
haha! I like the “Town Hall myth.” Kinda cute.
amber September 27, 2011, 9:53 am
I’m confused as to why you have to divulge exactly how your mother became pregnant. Your children even if sheltered are not stupid, I’m sure if you explained (leaving out the affair) that she had to give up the children because she wasn’t able to take care of them then that they would understand. Why is your wife so against meeting them and having a relationship with them? I think like Wendy said it seems like you’re still unsure and I think that’s fine, to still be thinking things through as to how you want to deal with it. But, don’t confuse that with people not allowing you to have the relationship you want.
JennyTalia September 27, 2011, 10:00 am
I would like to add that when I saw the title I was very excited to read about the juicy piece of gossip… and I am just underwhelmed by the “secret”. Like, that’s it?
silver_dragon_girl September 27, 2011, 10:13 am
I was expecting a 10-year affair with a renowned politician, at the very least…
honeybeenicki September 27, 2011, 10:59 am
It was very anti-climatic, wasn’t it? I was definitely expecting something way different like silver_dragon_girl said an nice affair with a politician or maybe a serial killer or an infamous bank robber or something.
LSS86 September 27, 2011, 12:31 pm
I was expecting that the long-lost daughter turned out to be his wife. Now THAT would be a secret!
Budjer September 27, 2011, 1:11 pm
New Letter: “Should I tell my kids they are incestuous by-products?”
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:39 pm
6napkinburger September 27, 2011, 2:21 pm
Pinky September 27, 2011, 4:34 pm
My mother was kidnapped by aliens before she married my father. She gave birth to human-alien hybrid twins that have tentacles and shoot laser beams from their eyes. Should I tell my kids?
Meredith September 27, 2011, 10:27 am
To reiterate Wendy’s point-I think it’s a major disservice to your kids to shelter them from situations that might not pass your moral compass test. Explaining situations like these is a perfect way to teach right and wrong to your children, how people can change, and that good things can come out of a bad situation. You can’t pretend these types of things don’t happen. If you do, your kids are in for a RUDE awakening whenever you CAN’T shelter them from the “real world” once they are older. Both of my parents had family members who made questionable life choices and they slowly revealed them to my sister and I as we aged. For us, it served as examples of what can happen to you if you make bad decisions, and how you can turn your life around even when it seems hopeless. We were not traumatized in the least by these revelations, and I can say knowing these stories helped keep me on the straight and narrow!
From your half-siblings’ perspective– It’s hard enough to be put up for adoption when you’re a child, then to have your adopted parents die, THEN to have members of your biological family act like you have the plague just because of the extramarital relationship their parents had. What in the world did those (now grown) children do wrong? Nothing! They were born into this situation, they didn’t choose it.
LW–it’s really not your wife’s place to make this decision (as Wendy and others have said), it’s something you have to decide for yourself. I think life is too short and family is too precious to ever tell someone you “don’t have room for them in your life”. Wow, what a hurtful thing to say to someone who is reaching out to her family for love and acceptance, but that’s just my opinion. Good luck, I know this has been a difficult thing to deal with and I do hope you will make the decision to include these people in your children’s life. There is no such thing as having too many loving family members!
Ktfran September 27, 2011, 10:44 am
All of these about overprotctive parents reminded me . . .
Growing up, my dad was adamant that my sisters and I weren’t allowed to watch sex on tv or in movies. However, we were allowed to watch violence. Really mom and dad? Please explain that to me. I knew what was going on in Pretty Woman, as all my friends had seen it. I even stayed with an aunt and uncle for a long weekend and they allowed me to watch Dirty Dancing.
Anyway, I learned about sex through friends. Not my parents. I never rebelled. I was responsible when I decided to have sex. But I wish my parents were more open about that kind of stuff. LW – talk to your kids. They’ll appreciate you more for being open and honest. I promise.
Also, LW, I’m curious to know what your brother thinks about this new development. Have you talked much to him about it? Maybe talk to him more instead of your wife. And as everyone has said, the half siblings are innocent bystanders in this. Don’t begrudge them because you’re mad at your mom or your wife is super controlling.
honeybeenicki September 27, 2011, 11:01 am
My stepkids’ mom is like that. She doesn’t let them watch certain things because of sexual references, but then lets them watch pretty much anything violent they can find. Not just movies either – TV shows, extremely graphic documentaries on the History channel, etc.
Ktfran September 27, 2011, 12:23 pm
I know. It’s crazy. I don’t get it. Maybe I’ll ask next time I’m home what their thinking was on this.
Other than a few, strict rules, my parents were pretty normal. We’re all very close and none of their girls, including me, had wild and crazy years. But I can see how it could easily have gone that way. Thank goodness they were more open in other areas. Just not sex.
thyme September 27, 2011, 2:18 pm
Because murdering people is totally cool, but sex is bad bad bad. Duh.
Princess Bananahammock September 27, 2011, 11:19 am
Wendy seemed to focus on the LW figuring out what relationship he wanted to have, and pointed out that he could teach his children about forgiveness by not vilifying their grandmother. But all I could think was that you are teaching your children to be immoral if you are teaching them not to accept your half-siblings simply because they don’t share your father and were adopted. That isn’t your siblings’ fault and you are teaching your children an abominable lesson by not accepting your siblings.
You can’t prevent your children from knowing that other people in the world don’t meet your standards of conduct. Informing your children of your siblings’ existence does not mean you have to approve of what your mother did. You can tell your kids that she made a mistake and use it as a way to further your moral teachings to your children. But, jeez man, your moral compass is way off if you think hiding this from your kids is more importance than showing love, compassion, and acceptance towards your siblings.
ele4phant September 27, 2011, 11:22 am
LW – Your children will find out about their Aunt and Uncle one way or another. Family secrets hardly ever stay secret, and you have a very large extended family. Someone will slip up and tell them eventually. And when they do find out, what they will learn is that if they do something you or your wife don’t approve of, you will not accept them. Is that the lesson you want your kids to take away? Your mother made a mistake decades ago, don’t contiune to judge and punish her. People can be redeemed and forgiven. Include compassion in your children’s moral compass.
JennyTalia September 27, 2011, 11:46 am
You’re absolutely right, they will find out one way or another. And if you keep sheltering them this way, they will carry the “heavy burden” of this “big dark secret” and too be wondering if they should share with their children that Great-Grandma was a “whore”. Or you could just be open and accepting and everyone is happy.
lk September 27, 2011, 11:55 am
“Include compassion in your children’s moral compass.”
I agree. It really seems like the LW is focused on how “wrong” the backstory is, but in my opinion the most “right” thing would be to respect & appreciate the new members of their family & help their children to welcome them as well.
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 12:20 pm
Lately, compassion and christianity does NOT go hand in hand. Seriously. Has anybody been watching the tea party debates…
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 12:30 pm
Okay, now it looks like I can’t conjugate verbs… I so hate we can’t edit our own post here….
Slamy September 27, 2011, 12:21 pm
Christians have compassion for other Christians. Duh. 😛
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 12:19 pm
Ugh. The wife of the LW is a real piece of work. Such a typical “good” Christian — meaning she is ANYTHING but. Nope, she is neither Christian. Nor Good. Instead she sounds like a raging controlling bitch. (Have a great life with that, by the way.) Meanwhile, this is all mute as there is absolutely NO need to bring up the affair as so many have said. Just say that she had children before she was ready to and wisely decided to put them up for adoption and be done with it. For the love of God, this is so freaking obvious — I honestly don’t know why the LW can’t figure it out. Then again, I don’t know why I keep expecting conservative Bible beaters to actually be intelligent as clearly that is rarely their strong suit.
ele4phant September 27, 2011, 12:32 pm
I did find it telling that he opened his letter saying he was “happily married (more or less).” Maybe the deeper issue here he eventually will need to work out has more to do with his own marriage then his mother’s past and his children’s values.
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 12:39 pm
Yeah, I caught that, too. Is he trying to convince us? Or himself? The phrase “many admirable qualities” so, so implies that she also has many that are anything but.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:03 pm
Who said she was a Christian? Just curious, because I missed that part in the letter.
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 1:13 pm
It’s more than obvious from the context of the letter. Obvious to pretty much everybody here except you, I guess.
thyme September 27, 2011, 2:04 pm
I suppose they could be conservative members of another religion, like Islam or something. But I doubt it. If it were any religion other than Christian, it probably would have gotten a mention in the letter.
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 2:10 pm
It’s really the whole tone of the letter. Also, the western religions that would typically take such an issue with this situation is, well, the “Good Christian.” And I don’t mean all christians either. No, instead, I mean the holier than thou “Good Christian: types that have truly done all they can do give their faith a very bad name…
Slamy September 27, 2011, 12:21 pm
A+. My thoughts exactly.
Calliopedork September 27, 2011, 4:31 pm
i dont remember anything about the lw being bible beating or christian. I personally think we shoul all avoid generalizing any group. The lw and his wife are being intolerant but thats no excuse for insulting an entire religious group just like its not okay to insult any other group based on your experience with some members.
redessa September 27, 2011, 12:25 pm
When my mother was about 32 yrs old, she learned of a half-sister. This sister had been fathered by my grandfather but he was not part of her life and when her mother married, Aunt J’s step-father adopted her. Aunt J was young enough that she didn’t remember and only found out about the adoption as an adult. At which point she searched out her biological father’s family (my grandfather had passed away several years earlier so she never got to meet him).
I was about 9 or 10 yrs old when this all came to light. And I was brought right along with the rest of the family to meet her for the first time. She had children close to my age and I got some new cousins. My mother and her siblings all had different feelings on the matter of this unknown sister but for me, it was not that big of a deal. Sure I was curious about the circumstances and my mother was very straightforward with me about it. I was old enough to know people sometimes had babies without being married. My biggest issue was that my grandfather had been enough of a tool to abandoned this woman after finding out she was carrying her child. And yet with all of this right there in our own extended family, my parents still managed to raise me with very conservative values (ie: I did not have sex before marriage).
I really think the LW’s wife (and by extension he himself) is making way too big a deal out of this. Children are adaptable and teachable and much less shocked by the things we think we’re protecting them from. If you’ve done your job in teaching them your values, by the time they’re tweens, kids should be able to handle the idea that not everyone shares their values – or can make mistakes even if they do – without it shattering their own sense of right and wrong.
LSS86 September 27, 2011, 12:26 pm
I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand the problem here. The kids are tweens, not 6 year olds. You don’t have to tell them your mother had an affair, just that she had kids she wasn’t able to take care of. They’re old enough to understand the concept of adoption and half-siblings. Unless you’ve been keeping them in the basement for their entire lives and never exposing them to the outside world of course. In fact, they’d probably be EXCITED to know they have an aunt and uncle they didn’t know about before. Where, oh where is the part of this situation that’s a big deal?
_jsw_ September 27, 2011, 12:41 pm
Also, of course, if they were 6 year olds, they’d absolutely not care in any way about why they now have a new aunt, uncle, and cousin. Same if they were 2. Or 12. Or 28. I can’t think of an age at which they’d decide to be upset over this revelation of new family.
LSS86 September 27, 2011, 1:27 pm
Ok, you’ve got a fair point there. I guess the question though is: is the wife worried the kids won’t understand the situation or that they will?
L September 27, 2011, 12:34 pm
If you want a relationship with your half brother and half sister, tell your wife that. I think you’re torn because her reaction and your mom’s reaction were so different. I get it. Just have a heart-to-heart with YOURSELF first. What do YOU want out of this? Do you want to reach out to your half siblings? This may sound harsh, but honestly it’s not your wife’s family so she really needs butt out and just be supportive of what YOU want out of this. It sounds like their intentions and your mother’s intentions are good. It’s not something where they’re trying to infiltrate your family; they genuinely WANT to develop a relationship with your mother, you, and the rest of your family. Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Like others have said, the whole truth doesn’t have to be exposed.
_jsw_ September 27, 2011, 12:39 pm
I am unsure what the LW expects to be the positive outcome of not telling his children immediately. As others have said, the kids will find out. They will find out, and they will know their parents knew and hid the fact from them. I am unable to see any positive result from this.
There is nothing whatsoever “Christian” about hiding family members who had the gall to be born out of wedlock (why did they allow themselves to be conceived? Heathens!). There is nothing “Christian” about expecting others to be perfect and refusing to accept actions that go against that expectation. There is nothing “Christian” about raising children in an environment that never tests their moral compass nor provides them with examples of people who have not led Biblically perfect lives (related: the lives of most in the Bible were far from perfect).
There is absolutely no defensible reason to not include the new-found family members. None. Any proffered reason is simply an excuse. The LW does not need to open his home to the new half-siblings and vacation with them annually. But he’s being a complete ass if he continues to deny their existence. And the LW’s wife? She has absolutely no stand in this except for the one the LW is giving her. Informing your kids about new-found relatives – who were born before you were – in no way casts a negative light on you or them. Sure, it makes Grandma seem less than perfect… but it’s important to note that at least the LW’s mother is doing the right thing. The LW should follow suit.
amber September 27, 2011, 12:46 pm
It really bothers me when people call themselves Christian and then equate how Christian they are with how perfect their lives are and how ‘good’ they are. Like keeping your kids in a bubble will help or you trying to be perfect will keep them from having knowledge of anything you deem unsavory. And really if anything this is the perfect oppurtunity as parents for them to sit down and talk about some difficult topics with the kids.
_jsw_ September 27, 2011, 12:57 pm
I think the key is that truly Christian – or Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, etc. – people will embrace the love for others in those philosophies and will act accordingly.
Good people are good people, and the shape of the symbols in their houses of worship (if they have one) are irrelevant.
On the other hand, religion also provides a strong draw to those who need order in their lives, those with addiction-prone personalities, and those who need an excuse for an us vs them mentality (and an “us” to belong to).
It is the latter group who are the problem, and it has nothing to do with what religion (or lack thereof) they espouse. They simply use their beliefs as an excuse to vilify those who are not like them.
Unconscionable actions have occurred in the name of religion, but those acts had nothing to do with core tenements of those religions. They were just excuses to do what the people wanted to do that enabled them to argue they were justified in so doing. In this case, there is no religious bases for shunning the half-siblings. Moral codes are just being used – ironically – to defend an uncaring gesture.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:07 pm
This is great.
amber September 27, 2011, 1:14 pm
I agree, what you’re saying is very true. I identify myself as Christian and so I get upset when people do things in the name of Christianity that are so not in line with the values I learned from my faith. But, like you said it does come down to people. And how those people use their beliefs to defend what they do. And it is truly sad to me that someone would choose to cut someone out of their life all because of the actions of someone else.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:05 pm
I agree with this completely, so don’t rip me apart but I have to ask…where in the letter does it say she’s Christian, or any of them are?
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 1:10 pm
The LW didn’t have to say that they were Christian. Why? Because her holier than thou/judgmental attitude makes it so obvious that she is. Liberal, intelligent people would simply NOT have this sort of reaction… End of story.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:14 pm
Oh right, I almost forgot that the only judgmental people in the world are Christians. Thanks for your highly intelligent and accurate response and for reminding me why I avoid your absurdly JUDGMENTAL posts. Are you a Christian too? UGhhh
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 1:23 pm
Oh, I may be judgmental, but it’s to a far different set of standards. I judge people when they are acting wrong of doing wrong things. Such as a wife demanding that her husband keep his half siblings away from their children simply because they fall outside of her shockingly narrow view of morality due to how they were conceived. And frankly, I think that kind of abject bitchery is more than deserving of such judgment.
Let’s be honest here, lets_be_honest… if you REALLY think I would ever judge the innocent children of slightly less pure relationship — moreover HOLD that against them… Then clearly you have already been ignoring my posts all along.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:29 pm
That was not my point. Spin away.
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 1:33 pm
Really? Oh, I’m sorry. What was your point? Oh, wait. Was it to personally attack me once again as you always do? Something that is, frankly, getting rather tiresome.
amber September 27, 2011, 1:16 pm
I agree with bgm here, her attitude and his language choice when discussing the issue tend to make me believe that they are. It could be that we’re all wrong and they’re not, but I think that more than likely that is the case.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:19 pm
amber, im not saying he didn’t make her sound judgmental. its just news to me that the only judgmental people in the world are christians. thats just a really ignorant blanket statement. i’ve met a lot of ignorant people in my life from all religions, etc.
amber September 27, 2011, 1:25 pm
i think i was thinking they were Christian more from his language choice, not soley on the fact that she was judgemental. The fact that they talked about a moral compass, being careful of what the kids were exposed to. I understand that non-Christians obviously have and do have the same thoughts on these subjects but something about the tone of the letter made me think that there was a faith based reason for them not wanting to have a relationship with the family. Which I said I could be totally wrong, I just got that impression from the letter.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:36 pm
Fair enough, and I appreciate your acknowledging that that’s just how you read it and that you “understand that non-Christians obviously have and do have the same thoughts on these subjects.” Seems silly to me to say any one group is judgmental. That alone is judgmental. You know? Anyway, thanks for the mini-debate.
Calliopedork September 27, 2011, 5:02 pm
Agree, they could be a whole host of religions.
Budjer September 27, 2011, 1:17 pm
sorry Mark, but that is lol-worthy….there are inconsiderate, judgemental, and scaringly stupid people on both sides of the political fence.
bittergaymark September 27, 2011, 1:25 pm
Yeah, but they judge people in far different ways. See my comments above. We also don’t ever hold the sins of the mother against the children… Which is precisely what we are talking about here.
Budjer September 27, 2011, 1:39 pm
Yea – but in the day and age where 11 year olds in even small town areas are giving each other head in the back of the school bus I wouldn’t jump to the religion conclusion right away because that thought is enough to make any potential control freak mother work over-time on judgemental actions of “preventing” potential child corruption…
I will concur that the probability of finding judgemental people increases if you look at religion though…I just don’t think we have enough information to peg that in this case.
_jsw_ September 27, 2011, 12:49 pm
“I’m a grown man, happily married (more or less) for the past 15+ years to a confident, professional woman who has many, many good and admirable qualities.”
I think the opening sentence exposes as much about the root of the problem than the rest of the letter.
People who are happy with their spouses almost never qualify the happiness in such a way, nor do they mention the fact they have positive qualities in a manner such as that. Yes, almost no one has a 100% perfectly happy marriage, and almost no one has a spouse with absolutely zero positive qualities. We just don’t normally feel the urge to mention these things, and especially not in an opening sentence.
The key dynamic here is likely the wife and whatever issues she has with her own past, with the LW, and/or with the MIL. The wife is the one restricting the access, I think, and the LW is excusing it with his reasoning.
I’m not going to blame the wife, since I have no idea whatsoever what the past is with respect to her, the LW, and the LW’s mother. But I think the key here is that the wife doesn’t want the kids to know, and the LW does not want to further rock the boat by going against her will.
MissDre September 27, 2011, 12:58 pm
I see where you are coming from, however, I once wrote into Dear Wendy and was completely blindsided by all the negative assumptions that commentors made about my boyfriend (none of them were true and after a lot of reflection I am still baffled by the negativity). So as someone who reads a lot of Dear Wendy, the LW may feel the need to clarify straight up that they are happy in their relationship. Especially because if you leave something out, then send in an update, people jump on you for not clarifying in the original letter. It’s sort of a lose/lose situation.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:22 pm
Very, very good point MissDre.
JennyTalia September 27, 2011, 1:54 pm
I agree, it’s lose/lose on defining your relationship as happy or leaving it out. I feel like if you say you’re happy, etc, you’re just trying to convince yourself. If you leave it out, then it seems like your relationship is solely negative. Can’t win, so I try to ignore that part of the letters.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:57 pm
I get why some commenters say ‘you’re trying to convince yourself’ but what I don’t get more is why someone would anonymously write in and lie. How do you end up with good advice then? But I’m sure it happens.
JennyTalia September 27, 2011, 2:23 pm
What I meant to say was “it looks like you’re just trying to convince yourself.” I don’t think that people who say good things about their SO are always covering up their unhappiness.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 2:29 pm
That wasn’t directed at you in a bad way at all.
JennyTalia September 27, 2011, 2:49 pm
Oh I know!
silver_dragon_girl September 27, 2011, 1:24 pm
I see both your and MissDre’s points, but I have to say, I thought the exact same thing as you, _jsw_, when I read this.
LSS86 September 27, 2011, 1:37 pm
As did I, as evidenced by one of my comments above. If he felt his wife had valid reasons for keeping the half-siblings out of their lives, he would have stated them and not bothered to open his letter with “just so you know, my wife is awesome, even though the next paragraph is going to clearly indicate that she’s not.”
MissDre September 27, 2011, 1:46 pm
I must admit that I thought the same thing as _jsw_ too. But, I don’t want to jump to conclusions about somebody I do not know, since I’ve already been on the other side.
ReginaRey September 27, 2011, 2:48 pm
I thought the same thing, and I think you summed it up well here. The way he wrote those opening sentences made me feel that he was very much trying to see the good in his wife and potentially ignore the bad qualities that could be contributing directly to THIS problem. While it’s wonderful to try to see the good in your spouse, it’s also wrong to let a “problem” (still don’t see the problem in this situation) like this go on for 3 years! He’s said that his wife is “dead-set” against it and “unmovable.” I think for someone to be totally unmovable for YEARS about an issue that’s so non-scandalous (to us, at least) reflects a controlling, closed-minded personality. Those, I think, are the traits the LW is trying to ignore or deny…and perhaps instead of focusing on this issue, he should be focusing on making the “more or less” of his marriage fall on the “more” side. I think that would solve THIS problem, and probably others in his life.
_jsw_ September 27, 2011, 1:03 pm
I absolutely agree – and no matter what any LW says, some subset here will jump on them. People will always impose their personal lives on the letter. I do.
Hopefully, the majority will tend to react appropriately to what is written, and it’s always good when the LW responds. The subset that will hate on them no matter what won’t listen, but the majority will.
Slamy September 27, 2011, 12:20 pm
I don’t really have time to read Wendy’s whole response or the whole letter right now but all I can say: wife sounds like a bitch. Don’t ban me!
I recall when I was a kid that my friend’s dad had to reveal to her & her brothers that he had another daughter, and the kids took it well. My friend was about ten when this secret was revealed, but her brothers were much younger. Secret sister even got to come and stay for summers and the family got along well. Obviously this is a bit different, but it shouldn’t be totally up to your wife to decide if *YOUR* family is going to be in *YOUR* life. What other things does she have total control over? Hello, compromise?
AKchic September 27, 2011, 1:47 pm
Your wife cannot outright ban the interactions of family members unless they are convicted sex offenders, murderers, or other kids of unsafe human beings (i.e.: schitzophrenic drug addicts with violent streaks who steal identities and freak out and eat puppies during their “episodes”).
You need to figure out YOUR feelings on the subject. At 11-13, a kid knows the difference between right and wrong (even if they don’t do the right thing), and they can figure out that granny had kids and gave them up for adoption (c’mon, Glee dedicated episodes to something like that during season 1, even if the character wasn’t with a married man).
With my four kids, the older three have always known that there are half siblings out there (even if the 3rd one doesn’t have any half-sibs from his father, he knows his older brothers have them). Families aren’t perfect. Kids need to learn that. That’s one of the reasons the divorce rate is so high. Everyone expects marriage to be perfect, and it isn’t, so they divorce rather than work on the marriage to make it workable and adjust their expectations of LIFE.
lets_be_honest September 27, 2011, 1:54 pm
Your ending is so true. Wish more people would remember that. My mother swears that the minute you judge someone for something, that thing will happen to you. I’m guessing she believes this because its happened to her, but nonetheless, karma is scary.
ReginaRey September 27, 2011, 2:51 pm
Personally, I think the divorce rate is so high because a lot of people should never have married in the first place…though you’re right, more people should prioritize and work on their marriages.
Skyblossom September 27, 2011, 3:30 pm
I understand your desire to provide good moral examples for your children and your hesitation to show them grandma’s mistake. You can look at the pros and cons of sharing this information with your children. I think that ultimately your interests (you and your wife) are best served if you share this with your children. That way you can make the moral points you wish to emphasize as your children learn about this situation. If they hear through other family members then you won’t be able to include your own opinions. Example narrative – You can tell them that grandma had children that she couldn’t take care of and placed them for adoption. Point out that this was emotionally painful for grandma and caused her pain for years. If you tell them that grandma couldn’t take care of the babies because she wasn’t married that is the time to say that the rules of society are designed to protect you and make your life easier and that when grandma didn’t follow them it made her life much more difficult. Grandma made a bad choice that made her life more difficult and gave her lots of sadness but she also followed the poor choice with a wonderful choice to place her babies for adoption so that they could have a better life than she could provide. So, give a narrative to your children that emphasizes your values and your take on the situation and how it has affected the life of grandma.
I think that a negative of not telling your children is that they will still probably find out sooner or later but the message for that situation is that we don’t talk about certain things in our family and keep them secret. If that is the message they get from you and your wife then they will know that if they ever find themselves in a bad situation they shouldn’t go to you and your wife with it. If either had an out-of-wedlock pregnancy they would know they had to hide it from you, perhaps have an abortion to make the entire situation go away. So there are negative implications to trying to keep this secret.
I do think you have to come to an agreement with your wife because your marriage is your closest and most important relationship. It comes before the relationship with your mom and before the relationship with your newly discovered siblings. You need to talk this through until you come to a concensus that you can both live with or the strain will keep eating away at your marriage and that isn’t good for either of you or your children.
It isn’t wrong of you and your wife to want to protect your children but does secrecy really protect them or does it just lead to more secrets and to children who feel they must hide everything from their parents because that is the implicit message to secrets.
My husband and I found out a few years ago that he had an older brother who had died just after being born. He had never been told about this brother because he was conceived out of wedlock and then the parents were married. The baby was born eight weeks prematurely and so the birth was way too soon after the marriage and so his parents hid this for years. His mom finally said something because she was afraid that if she didn’t tell her kids would discover this after she died and they would come across a birth certificate for a child they had never heard of so she told them. My two kids, a 16-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl at that time, both knew immediately and it hasn’t had a negative affect on either of them. Obviously our son got the full implication of out-of-wedlock sex and our daughter didn’t. My son and I have talked about this and how the baby was an innocent but the whole situation made his grandparent’s lives more difficult than they needed to be and created alot of pain for them and their parents since they lost a baby they felt could never be mentioned.
Chilosa161 September 27, 2011, 2:31 pm
I have little patience for parents who want to hide things from their kids, especially if they are worried that the revelation will somehow confuse their “moral compass.”
Look, this is a great teaching opportunity to show your kids that families take many forms and that the past is not perfect or sugarcoated, LW. Unless you’re delusional enough to think that they will always do exactly as they are “supposed to” (which would be an impossible standard anyway), your kids could really benefit from hearing how the story came to be and how it worked out over their grandmother’s lifetime. That way *when* they make a mistake, even a big one, they can know that it is not the end of the world and deal with the consequences appropriately.
I think you need to examine your own “moral compass,” LW. What part of you is hard-hearted and refusing to let your biological siblings (who seem to want to be in your life…and what part of your wife is doing the same? Could it be that this is really coming from a place of fear? I can’t comprehend why having more family members would be a horrible shameful thing.
Why not let the kids make the decision after talking to them about the situation? Or are you and your wife too interested in shielding them and controlling their moral compasses?
ele4phant September 27, 2011, 9:37 pm
You are absolutely right about this being a great teaching opportunity. How good can a “moral compass” be if its never been tested or shown evidence that doesn’t fit the particular value system the parents hope to impart on their children. Better to challenge them a bit when they are younger and still under your guidance then to send them out into the world and 18 and hope they don’t f**k up.
spanishdoll September 27, 2011, 3:50 pm
Why does this have to be so dramatic? Your kids will follow your lead on how to view this situation, so if you don’t sell it as a scandal, then they won’t treat it as such.
For instance, before I was born, my maternal grandmother passed away in a tragic accident. My grandfather remarried shortly after to a close family friend. Apparently there was a lot of anger among my aunts and uncles about the circumstances, for many years. But, y’know what? My mother never mentioned that part of the story when I was a kid. Because she left out any drama or judgment when discussing my grandma-in-law, I never thought very hard about the situation, and it didn’t effect my moral compass in the slightest.
Explain the situation to your kids in brief fashion, and feel free to leave out any gory details. I guarantee you that they won’t even be that curious, if you don’t blow it out of proportion. For the most part, kids could not care less about their grandparents’ sex lives!!
spanishdoll September 27, 2011, 3:54 pm
Ugh “affect” instead of “effect.”
fast eddie September 28, 2011, 9:09 am
Wait a minute, your saying my grandparents had SEX, shocking… I’d rather not imagine it and definably can’t visualize it.
Calle September 27, 2011, 6:52 pm
I kind of understand the conflict LW feels. I was adopted and my bio siblings were very aggressive in trying to establish a relationship with me. I just did not want to know them, as harsh as that sounds. While my parents pushed me to meet them, I would have used them as a scapegoat if they objected, as LW uses his wife, to stop from meeting them. I did meet them eventually and had to tell them to back off. I said I was sorry if I hurt their feelings but that I was happy with the family and friends that I had established, and that I did not want a further relationship. For some people, like me, biology does not really count for anything. It would be a different situation if I was orphaned and people kept memories of my parents alive, but that is about the only exception. People may call the LW heartless but he has to decide what makes him comfortable.
RhyanShae September 27, 2011, 7:49 pm
When I was about 8, I was at my Grandparent’s house (right across the street from my own), and I remember a woman, about my parent’s age, showing up with a little girl. They were talking to my Grandfather, and I didn’t know what was going on. So, curious little girl that I was, I ran to my mother and asked who that lady was. Turns out, my Grandfather had been married before, and had a little girl who had grown into that lady that visited. He divorced the woman, and then met my Grandmother. I remember looking at the woman, and politely introduced myself with my mother’s encouragement.
I was raised Catholic, and I can tell you, never once was that “moral compass” subverted because I learned my Grandfather had married and divorced before. As a kid, I shrugged it off. Sure, I knew about it, but it didn’t change Gramps, and it certainly didn’t make me question the man I’d grown up with every day of my life.
The kids don’t need to know every detail, but they should know. Eventually, it is going to come out. I can’t tell you how mad I’d be at my parents if they weren’t honest to me, and I found out later. It’s a lie. And, what does one’s moral compass say about them?
katie September 27, 2011, 8:14 pm
ok, i’m sorry, but people like this really annoy me.
“As parents, we have been careful about what our children have been exposed to.”
As parents, your responsibility is to teach your kids about LIFE. not to sheild them from every bad thing in the world, and freaking LIE to them to cover up something that in the grand scheme of things is really not that big of a deal… grandma killed someone back in the day? big deal. grandma was raped and beaten by her first husband and all your aunts and uncles are products of those rapes (that is a true story, btw)?- thats a big deal. grandma was with a man and gave up two sweet babies to a loving family for their benefit, and now has miraculously found them again? thats a really sweet story, the things that those aweomse youtube videos set to inspirational music is about. your grandma really didnt technically do anything wrong- she had sex. the other guy was the dirtbag who was married. she made the very hard and probably correct desicion to let these children grow up in a loving home and now by some act of god or fate or whatever you get to have these people in your kids lifes! i honestly hope you understand how amazing that is. my family is all messed up and refuses to speak to each other. both of my parents are one of 5 kids. and i have met a couple of my aunts and uncles, maybe ONCE. I have cousins and second cousins and whatever other family-related people you can have all over the world and I DONT EVEN KNOW WHAT THEIR NAMES ARE.
your getting a chance to connect to people related to you by blood. honestly, i seriously wish that I was you. i wish that I found out that i had some relatives that I never knew about who actually wanted to see me and be a part of my live. you are ruining a very awesome thing, and i dont even know how to explain how angry i am about that.
you should tell you children what happened, and you should be honest about what happened.
blackbird September 27, 2011, 8:32 pm
I was adopted, along with my sister and two cousins, and we were always aware of the fact. We were told at a young age, and as I got older, my parents added more details. At around 16, my mom told me the whole story, and I think that it helped shape my idea of a healthy relationship and life more than hinder. My birthmother was obviously abused and taken advantage of, and hearing her story taught me a few lessons that my parents never could have.
I think if your teenaged children are given most of the story, they’ll come to the same conclusions. Even though you have an already large family, I’m sure they’ll be excited to hear they have another aunt and uncle. And while I don’t know your half-brother and -sister, maybe you’re denying your children some great relationships with them (and their cousin!).
EVERY family has skeletons in their closet. They’re going to find out sooner or later; why not tell them now and have the chance to explain the whole situation, instead of keeping it a secret and having them find out when they’re older, only to resent you?
Peter September 27, 2011, 9:47 pm
my grand mother was caught out twice, in the nineteen twenties! It was only a problem for those who did not know the truth, she did her best, they were accepted as family, and it made granny human! It also explaianed some of her hang ups, which was very useful. A skeleton found in a cupboard can be frightening, but one out in the open is just old bones! This is one case were only the truth can make you free!
fast eddie September 27, 2011, 9:02 pm
You’ve got a half sister that you don’t want eh. I’ll gladly take her off your hands. I have no family whatsoever. Just me, my wife and 3 cats who will be really rich when we’re gone. Your mom gave birth and made a hard choice at the time. Now she has a second chance and isn’t about to blow it this time. These new additions to the family aren’t going away. You and your wife need to accept that for what it is quite being self centered about it.
fast eddie September 28, 2011, 8:21 am
In the bad old days people had sex nearly as often and just as young as they do today. Abortion was illegal everywhere in North and South America. Society discriminated against a pregnant unmarried woman even more then women in general. Teen mothers especially were heavily pressured to give their babies up for adoption. Thankfully society now accepts single motherhood but those that caved have regretted their decision for decades. Given the chance to reconnect with the children is a blessing beyond blessing to these women.
Shell September 28, 2011, 11:42 am
I agree with Wendy’s recommendation to dole out information to your children in pieces, over time. My parents elected to drop a family secret bomb on me when I was 22 – somewhat similar to your situation in that my grandmother had an extramarital and that one of my aunt’s was actually a half-sibling to my mother. Ideally, I would have preferred learning this earlier than 22, and I harbored some resentment towards my parents for waiting as long as they did, which I have resolved. I 100% agree with Wendy that acknowledgment of other’s mistakes/choices in life can be an invaluable learning experience for your children. I for one, was always offended by my grandmother’s harsh and judgmental nature in regard to my relationships. Upon learning this information, I now feel that she has no right to judge and I’ve become able to brush off her comments with ease. Good luck!
Glorious September 29, 2011, 7:00 am
Speaking as an adoptee, your wife needs to chill out! she has no control over your family history, and nether do you.
Just look to your Mother and how she is reacting to things,
I have experienced reunion with biological parents and I really noticed the cycles of emotions that both myself and my biological family went through.
from your Mums stand point It sounds like she is pleased with the situation as it stands, however there is a real honeymoon faze with reunions. She will have ALOT of emotional back lash to come from years of shame, deception, guilt and heart ache that WILL come to the surface, it is hard to reconcile day dream with reality and she dispite giving them up will have had an active internal expectation of what they will amount to and achieve with the “better life” she was giving them.
What about YOU and how you are feeling about these long lost mysterious children that share DNA and potential physical and character trates with? Dont be afraid that they are trying to slip back into the folds of your family structure, generally that is not the case. I would go as far as to guess that in light of their adopted parents dying, medical information would be up high up there (there is nothing like the death of a parent to make you question you mortality, let alone when you have NO CLUE as to what your family medical history is), acknowledgment is another, dispite circumstance your Mum REALLY REAALLY carried them for nine months and gave birth to them they are not faking, you share DNA… enjoy it!!! what cooler science project is nature vs nurture? you will be happily surprised by the crazy weird things you do alike dispite having no interactions, you and your children share with them.
As for your kids, nothing beyond extra presents at Christmas and birthdays really matters, you said your family is large as it is, kids adapt, its what they do. I think that perpetuating the “family secret” with just make thing worse when they DO find out through the slip of tongue of your family gossip… transparency is key.
Oothoon April 21, 2012, 5:14 am
happily married (more or less) for the past 15+ years to a confident, professional woman who has many, many good and admirable qualities.
How is her being confident and professional relevant?
“More or less” huh? This statement is screaming for a “BUT…” at the end.
MarkD May 18, 2012, 11:59 am
I agree with the substance of the advice, but am I the only one who would give more weight to my wife’s wishes? She might be wrong, but she’s my wife. Yes, I’d try to convince her that it is not a big deal, but if she were adamant I’d go along with her wishes.
Of course that will never happen, because everybody knows Japanese women are submissive and their husbands always get their way!