Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: When I was in my late 20s in the 1990s, I dated a woman for several months before I broke it off. A couple of years ago, my current girlfriend asked me whether I regretted never having any children of my own. She asked whether I was sure that I didn’t have any children I didn’t know about. I could only think of this one woman. She had a child from a previous relationship and said she put on the birth certificate “father unknown,” even though she knew who the father was. I did a little searching and found out she had a son who was born several months after we broke up. I saw pictures on social media and if you compare pictures of me at the same ages, we look a lot alike. After a lot of thought, consultation with my attorney and information from an investigator, I contacted her. She was defiant and angrily stated that there was no way he was my child. The boy turns 18 this month and my attorney said it would probably be best if I waited until after his 18th birthday to contact him in order to avoid legal conflict with his mother. My questions are: Should I contact him right after his birthday? Should I wait until high school graduation this spring? Or should I leave well enough alone and do nothing?

— Wondering in Indiana

DEAR WONDERING: Doing nothing doesn’t seem to be an option. You have consulted a lawyer, an investigator, friends, the child’s mother and now me. You are going to do something, and it is your right to make this inquiry.

It might be best to wait until after high school graduation. Your lawyer will suggest the best way to do this — possibly via registered letter — but do not do it through social media.

Beforehand, clarify your intentions — are you offering financial support, family health history, friendship? Tell him about yourself, details about your own background. Tell him the dates of your relationship with his mother. Say you have contacted his mother about this but do not criticize her in any way.

Be open to whatever reaction he might have (most likely, no reaction for quite some time). Give him all of your contact information and encourage him to get in touch. Understand that this will rock his world. Be calm, mature and understanding while he sorts things out on his end.

DEAR AMY: I made a three-course dinner for my husband, son and myself last night. While I was preparing to serve the third course, my husband stood up and without saying anything, went to the fridge and got himself a bowl of yogurt. I felt this was rude and disrespectful. He disagrees. We need a referee!

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— Angry

DEAR ANGRY: Your husband and son live in the house and they have a right to reach into the fridge. However, in the most peaceful and happy households all members treat one another not like cooks and bottle washers, but at least as well as they would treat an honored guest or host.

Would your husband jump up in the middle of a meal and serve himself something not on the menu if he were being served at a friend’s house? Presumably not. Would he be happy if his son did the same? I don’t think so. Is he modeling appropriate behavior? No, not at all.

If he wants to continue to be served nice three-course meals, he should be more polite when he decides to supplement his dinner, saying, “Honey, thank you so much, but I’m craving that cherry-berry yogurt I saw in the fridge. Mind if I also help myself to that?”

DEAR AMY: In response to “Woman Who Wants it All” about timing a pregnancy and a career, I’d like to suggest that she consider part-time employment when her children are young. I was a fairly new teacher when I had my first son and was able to find a part-time position. It was the best of both worlds! I continued to develop my career while educating my own children emotionally and academically. When my district required me to return full time, my husband took a year to work part time to spend time with our children.

— Woman Who Had It All

DEAR WOMAN: Your husband’s willingness to share this parenting pleasure with you is a vital component to your success. Well done.