Dear Amy: MY good friend just found out that her husband has a grown child he’s never known about.
This person was born many years before my friend and her husband even knew each other. He was not in a relationship with the mother of this child.
My friend is shattered. She has always been proud of her long-term marriage and their great kids, who are all doing well.
Now she believes the reality of her “perfect” family has been shattered. She can’t seem to believe the man she thought she knew could have been so sexually casual.
I have stepchildren that I enjoy, and I’d like to convince her that this is not the end of the world.
I hope she can get back to enjoying her marriage and family.
I guess I’m looking for some insight as to why this is such a big deal for her and if there is anything I can do to help her.
— Worried Friend
Dear Worried: I sincerely hope that any students returning to campus might read this letter and understand that today’s casual sex could result in a multitude of unintended consequences.
As much as any of us might understand that — in theory — previously unknown relatives might surface at any time, when it comes to family relationships, the understanding of theory and the acceptance of reality are two distinct and different experiences.
Of course your friend is thrown off! Anyone would be, but if she truly believes that this makes her own wonderful life a lie, that’s a deeper problem.
As one partner of a successful long-term marriage, she could be encouraged to see this as one more life-challenge to encounter alongside her husband.
Surely they have tackled difficulties, losses, reversals, surprises and uncertainties together before this.
Don’t try to “convince” your friend of anything, but do remind her that this situation, which landed on her doorstep so suddenly, will actually unspool and evolve gradually.
She needs to come to an understanding on her own that, put into a larger perspective, this mainly reveals everyone’s humanity.
Are she and her husband working through this with the help of a counselor?
You should suggest it.
Dear Amy: I’m a father and a grandfather to a 17-year-old grandson. I am his virtual instructor during the pandemic.
I coached children’s sports as my daughter grew up, and I’m currently a 27-year certified basketball official.
I say all of this to let you know I have a real love for children and want to always be a positive presence in their lives.
I walk each morning through my neighborhood.
My walk takes me past an elementary school, as children and their parents are walking to and from the school. I greet each person I pass with a simple, “Morning,” and continue my walk.
Some children are accompanied by their parents, others are not. I don’t stop or slow down — I merely smile and greet people as I walk by.
I give each child a wide berth, walking into the street to make sure they don’t feel threatened. Also, as a lifelong musician, whenever I see a child carrying a musical instrument, I make a simple remark such as, “Glad to see a fellow musician.”
The school guards always say hello, so I’m known in the area.
I wonder: Should I continue to speak to children without their parents present? In today’s climate, one never knows if a child, or parent, would feel threatened by a single man. I would absolutely hate to scare a child.
Any advice for a grandfather?
— Father and PawPaw
Dear PawPaw: Yes, please continue to greet children, whether or not they are with an adult.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to attempt to engage kids in extended conversations (since you’re a stranger), but you get to be the “Hello-guy” on your morning route, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Dear Readers: I recently ran a response from a reader named “Common Sense,” who stated that people who have had COVID-19 cannot become re-infected with the virus.
While I challenged this statement, saying “the jury is still out regarding how well — and how long — antibodies offer protection,” many readers strongly urged me to always point toward the science.
I completely agree! The CDC offers timely and frequently updated research and recommendations, which can outpace my publication schedule (CDC.gov).
I hope that one day, if I repeat it often enough, readers such as “Common Sense” will exercise some common sense and follow the science.
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