DEAR AMY: I was adopted as an infant, and through an agency I tried to contact each of my biological parents. I have not heard back from either of my birth parents and am respecting their decision not to contact me. I assume my contact might have come as a shock, especially to my biological father, who might not realize he had fathered a child. I am OK with not hearing from them. What I am confused about is the issue with my half-siblings. As far as I know, these siblings do not even know I exist. While part of me thinks that is unfair and that they should be able to decide on their own whether or not to communicate with me, another part of me says I shouldn’t contact them (even though they are adults like me). I don’t want to create any stress or tension in their families. Is my adoption my “secret” to share with a potential half-sibling? I don’t want to upset anyone, but family is very important to me and I know I would want a half-sibling to find me, but maybe that’s just me.
DEAR CONFLICTED: You should walk this journey carefully, and with professional, friendship, and family help and support.
You have the right to try to locate and contact any family members, and with the onset of social media, as well as companies that can decode your DNA, there is a dramatically increased interest in finding bio-relatives, even among people who were not separated by adoption.
There is no right answer here, and you are appropriately sensitive to the potential impact on siblings, but you should also be mindful of the impact on you.
Are you prepared for more silence or possible outright rejection from others who are biologically related to you? If so, then you should gingerly reach out with an open heart and mind. I hope your queries are received enthusiastically and with affection, but as you know from reading this column, families are complicated.
DEAR AMY: In one of your columns, you responded to a question from a reader by citing young boys punching girls in the arm as “flirting.” Reader responses, which have accused you of sanctioning “abuse,” expose an interesting trend. We are attaching very adult words and motivations to children’s behavior. Of course children should be taught not to hit each other, but it is not abuse. When children do this, it is because they don’t understand how to express their feelings in words. A child should not be labeled an “abuser,” but should be taught how to express him or herself in a socially appropriate way.
DEAR FAN: I agree with your take on this, and thank you.
In my childhood, I was a bit punchy when I liked a boy — so it isn’t only boys who need to be taught that punching isn’t cool.
Labeling this sort of physical contact between children as “abuse” is inappropriate.
DEAR AMY: As a clinical psychologist, I appreciate and envy how direct you can be with your readers. Regarding the letter from “Worried Parents,” I understand your suspicions about the 50-year-old man who invited the parents’ 19-year-old son (and other young men) on trips to see sporting events. However, I disagree with part of your advice. I will change the details slightly to show you why: Would you advise a concerned parent to contact and set limits on a wealthy 49-year-old man whom their 20-year-old daughter met and wants to go with on a weekend trip to New York City to shop and see Broadway shows? I doubt it. Sounds a bit more like a romantic movie plot, no? I wonder if unconscious societal homophobia (i.e., the homosexual as dangerous predator of young boys) factored into your advice. But I agree that the parents — in both cases — should freely express their concerns to their child and offer their support should the need arise. Thank you for the hours of entertaining and thought-provoking reading your column provides.
Psychologist in LA
DEAR PSYCHOLOGIST: If you think I would perceive a 49-year-old man taking my 20-year-old daughter on a trip to New York as the plot of a “romantic” movie, then you have seriously misread me, as well as described the plot to the creepiest movie, ever.
Other readers worried about homophobic undertones regarding my answer, but I’m not a homophobe — I’m a parent with an active “yikes” meter, so I can handle it.