Dear Carolyn: My mother says she will not tell me who my father is and will take the secret to the grave with her. Is there ever any good reason for not telling someone who their father is?
If she doesn’t know for sure herself.
If he committed crimes so heinous that she fears they would change the way you see yourself.
If he was and is still married to her sister, cousin, best friend.
If revealing his name would reveal something embarrassing about her or her past choices or the circumstances of your birth.
If she promised him she would take the secret of his identity to her grave.
If he’s a sperm donor and she thinks there’s something wrong with admitting that.
Of course there are others.
Are any of these good enough to justify secrecy? That I can’t say, because that depends on you, your mom and the secret. However, it sounds as if it might ease your (thoroughly justified) anguish to try on the idea that your mother has her reasons – and that even if they aren’t good enough in your eyes, they’re good enough in hers or she wouldn’t do this to you.
Even if you ultimately don’t accept that, then at least you'll be able to say so directly to your mother as the calm result of careful thought, with the goal of making peace with it somehow – versus lash out at her in hopes of forcing the answer out of her.
This doesn’t guarantee you the truth you’ve been aching for – not even close – but it is the path to understanding each other, which is how you and your mom can avoid losing each other as you both try to find what you need.
Dear Carolyn: My stepdaughter is in her 40s, never married, no kids. She would really like to be in a relationship. But, she says she doesn’t like being around family because everyone is paired off. We invited her to a family vacation, but now she’s talking about not going because she’s the only one who is single. Other than suggesting counseling (which she has done in the past), is there anything we can do to make her feel more included?
To suggest counseling at this point would only isolate her more, don’t you think? Inclusive would be to treat her simply as good company, complete unto herself.
To that end, you can – all of you couples – shake up the groupings so that it isn’t couple-plus-stepdaughter going to the store, couple-plus-stepdaughter going for a walk, etc. Instead, a husband from Couple A, wife from Couple B and stepdaughter go for a walk. Companionship vs. companions.
And you can encourage her to bring a friend with her, because you all do.
And you can mix up your vacations. Make them girls’ weekends occasionally – the boys get their time, too, of course – and you'll all be on the same footing for a few days.
Besides being a show of good faith to your stepdaughter, these efforts to break out of couple lockstep can strengthen other bonds within the family – not to mention serve as an important lesson to kids that solo isn’t a sentence; it’s just one of many ways to fly.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.