DEAR AMY: When my mother was a teenager, she gave birth to a son and put him up for adoption. I only found out about it as a child because my grandmother became quite mean in her later years and told me about it in order to embarrass my mom. My mother and I never discussed it, and honestly I had pretty much forgotten about it. Many years later, I bought one of those DNA testing kits and later got one for my mom, too. A few days ago, we both received an "ancestry sharing request" from a person the DNA service has identified as being my half brother. I asked my mom via text (I am currently living outside the country) if she was going to respond to him, but she didn't answer the question. I'm not really sure if I should push the topic further with her. Also, do I have any obligation to respond to this half brother? My gut instinct is to not respond at all. I found him on Facebook and saw that his posts were all far too political and religious for me. Thoughts?
DEAR WONDERING: Based on what you report, people in your family may have a pattern of dredging up challenging topics, and then burying them again when they hit too close to the heart — or simply become too uncomfortable to face.
One of my favorite quotes is from the poet Robert Frost: "...the best way out is always through." I take this to mean that almost any challenging situation is made better — ultimately — by going through it, rather than around it.
Yes, you could take your half-brother's social media postings as a (faint) justification to ignore him. You have the right to ignore him. But he has the right to some factual knowledge about his own biological and medical history, and you should be able to help provide that without necessarily entering into a relationship that you obviously don't feel inclined to have.
Understand, too, that if your brother's values and world-view are so very different from yours, he also may not wish to enter into a sibling relationship with you, either.
Yes, this would definitely reveal some very challenging truths for your mother. Given how her own mother treated her, she might not be able to face this reality. You could assume that when she and her family placed her baby for adoption, they did so with the knowledge that this chapter was closed — never dreaming that some day DNA would enable people to circumvent adoption contracts. It would be kindest if you contacted your mother (perhaps by phone, not text) and asked, gently and without judgment, if she would like to talk about this.
DEAR AMY: Before the pandemic, I cared for my grandson at my house. My son-in-law, "Bart," dropped him off then picked him up in the afternoon. When he came to pick up my grandson, he often had alcohol on his breath. Once I commented about the risk he was putting his son, and he minimized it, saying he had just had one drink. My daughter is aware of this. She works in the health care industry. Since they married things always have to be his way or the highway...and despite her being primary earner she doesn't seem able to change their dynamics. Help!
DEAR GRANDMA: If you resume your caregiving duties, it would be good to start off with some new understanding. Realistically, you will not be able to affect a change in the dynamic of this household, so your focus should be on the child's safety.
Be very clear and calm, and say, "I can't knowingly put him in a car with someone who has been drinking. I just couldn't live with myself. Bart, if you want to stop and have a drink on the way home, let me know and I will take him home, myself. Otherwise, I think it would be best if someone else picked him up in the afternoon. That way, it won't be an issue."
DEAR AMY: I appreciated the letter from "Shylingual," who wondered if practicing her Spanish with Spanish speakers would be offended. They just need to say/ask: "I'm practicing my Spanish. Can I speak to you in Spanish?" Or, "Will you tolerate some bad Spanish so I can practice getting better?" I can't imagine anyone saying no or being offended.
DEAR EDIE: The many responses to this question are overall encouraging Shylingual to be less shy.