Dear Carolyn: My widowed-for-20-years father is having an “accidental” child with a woman my age. He is an extremely poor communicator (I got that particular gift from him), and repeatedly denied he was even dating this woman when we asked him, point-blank. I would say he has Asperger’s, if that were still a thing. We are all scattered around the country and he revealed this to us when this woman, who we barely know, was already about five months pregnant.
At first I was just shocked, but now I feel so uncomfortable and disappointed. Uncomfortable because this woman is my age, and disappointed because my children (and future nieces and nephews) have not only been robbed of a grandmother, but now a fully involved grandfather as well. In an unfortunate coincidence, I am pregnant with his first grandchild. I had been looking forward to my father becoming a grandfather for years because I thought it would help heal him emotionally from the devastating death of my mother.
My siblings and I are all very unhappy and suspicious at this turn of events. While we were never that close to begin with, I feel like we are all even more distant with our father now.
How should I behave with him? Is it selfish for me to feel so uncomfortable and disappointed? How do I explain this to my future children?
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People are who they are, no matter how badly you want them to be someone else. The more you embrace this, the better this or any outcome will be.
And here’s part of who your father is: an adult having a child with a fellow, consenting adult. So?
You want a Norman Rockwell grandpa for your kids, of course, probably everyone does, along with some glue for your disconnected family.
Understandable, but — where is reality here? The hopes you had riding on your dad were so unmoored from fact and history that you’re the primary agent of your own disappointment.
To my eye, these future children were robbed of a “fully involved” grandfather the moment your generation was born to this particular dad. Label it Asperger’s or a jar of pickles, and the point remains: Your dad struggles with human interaction — and no grandchild was ever fixing that.
Meanwhile, investing in false hopes of a cuddly father turned your attention away from appreciating or drawing out the good things he is able to provide.
Bright side, these self-inflicted injuries can be healed. It’s jarring but ultimately liberating if you let old notions go — like an emotional catapult.
Healing requires that you land in reality, though: Your father, again, is who he is — relationship and secrets and awkwardness and babies and all. And, the main things you have in common right now are poor communication and babies on the way.
This adds up to awkwardness, sure, but how you cope is up to you. You can avoid your dad, or take deep breaths and raise your child alongside his. You can dwell on the age of the baby’s mother, or just approach her as a peer. You can open yourself to what your dad offers, or be consumed by what he doesn’t.
As for telling future children? “Grandpa was sad for a long time after Grandma died, but in time he met someone new.” Why editorialize when a simple truth will suffice.
Dear Carolyn: My parents are divorced, my dad left my mom for another woman 10 years ago. My mother and my stepmom have never met. My father and mother do not speak to each other.
In a few months we are planning to throw a bridal shower for my brother’s fiancee. The shower will take place at my mother’s home and will be small and informal. My question is, is it rude to not invite my stepmom? Help!
With parents a decade into not speaking thanks to an extramarital affair, it seems perverse to nibble at a question of guest lists.
They will have to face each other eventually. They owe it to everyone not to hold this first meeting on a day that involves a guest of honor. Please, not. While guest etiquette varies by culture, surely we can agree that a guest’s paramount obligation is to refrain from becoming a sideshow.
It’s also not ideal, of course, for you to get any more deeply involved in your parents’ drama than you’re required to as host.
So try staking out the middle: “Mom, you don’t deserve this, but it’s inevitable: I’m worried that you and Stepmom will meet for the first time at one of my or Brother’s celebrations. How should we handle this?” Dad gets the same request, minus the sympathetic preamble. It’s no guarantee, but it is a start.
As for the shower: A small, informal one needn’t include your stepmother, but if it does, I suggest not serving pies, projectiles or anything warmed on open flames.