Found my son's father after 26 years
April 12, 2007 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Okay, this is an enormous issue and I'm not finding any resources out there for help. I recently found my son's biological father. My son is 26.

I met his father (who I will refer to as "B") while stationed overseas; we were both very young. I was 22 and he was only 18. We were together just a few times...during a period when my then boyfriend (who I'll call "M") and I had broken up. When I found out I was pregnant, the staff physician made an error regarding how far I was into my pregnancy. He thought my uterus seemed a little "large", even though this did not fit the time frame I truly believed I became pregnant. This is a huge thing, because it meant that my boyfriend was the father. I always had a gut feeling that the doctor was wrong, but after my boyfriend and I got back together, he wanted the baby, and he wanted to get married. So I guess I let wishful thinking take over, and just went into denial about the baby's paternity. I wanted to do what was best for everyone, so the wishful thinking wasn't necessarily "bad".

I returned home to the U.S. while "M" finished his stay overseas. I never told "B" that I believed the baby was his. I didn't want the child to be rejected, plus there was the confusion regarding the dates. Anyway, the baby was born "a month overdue" according to the date the doctor had given me. It turns out that I had a large baby. However, he was NOT overdue. The day he was born matched my estimate exactly. A baby born a month late would have had distinctive signs and problems, which my son did not have. By then, my boyfriend (fiance, atually) was very much into the future we planned. I didn't want to shatter anyone's dreams. Consequently it took several months for me to tell him that the baby was not his biological son. I should say that, when I first learned of my pregnancy, I was doubtful about "M" being the father. He knew I'd seen someone else during that brief breakup. This was not the product of "fooling around behind his back". We eventually divorced, but prior to that, I had a daughter by "M".

From a very early age, my son has known the truth about his paternity. I was never able to find his real father...we didn't have the internet way back when and I just didn't have enough information to locate him. I raised my two kids as a single mother and my son and daughter couldn't have been loved more by any mother. The kids dearly love each other; we've always been a close-knit trio. A few months ago, I was stunned to find my son's biological father via a website for class reunions (I knew where he was born, so I followed a hunch).

I sent an email to "B", telling him about how life has been in the 26 years since I saw him; I told him about my two kids, and I informed him that my son was his child. I was worried about what the response would be, if any. He wrote back the following day, overjoyed. What a shock! He saw photos of my son and there was no doubt in his mind that he fathered this young man. I offered DNA testing; I am certain what the results would be. This man is married with three kids--my son's half siblings. "B" told his wife everything, and eventually told the kids (ages 11, 17 and 21). Everyone received this with open arms...I could never have imagined such a welcome. I write regularly to his wife (feeling it's less threatening this way) and we've become great pen-pal friends. "B" has written to his son, and my son has written back. However, my son's response to all of this has been less than enthusiastic. He was a little bewildered at first, as was everyone else...but over the past few months the reality has soaked in.

My son's father really wants to form a relationship with my son. He wants to meet him, but of course he wants to take things a step at a time. He's ready and desires to talk to my son by telephone. The problem is, my son is slow to answer the emails and has taken a defensive posture about talking to his father. He has even expressed anger that I didn't speak to him prior to contacting his father. My stand on this, is that I didn't know if there'd ever be a response to my letter, or maybe his father wouldn't accept the news; I didn't want my son to experience the pan of such a "rejection". It was after "B" told me how lucky and blessed he felt to have another son, that I told my son. Thus, I hope it's understandable why I didn't consult with my son first.

This man never knew about our son. It was not his "fault" that he didn't get to know his son. He was not a "deadbeat dad". I never, ever intended to defraud anyone; I acted on what I was told by a doctor, and also by what I felt was best for everyone involved. My son has told me that this shouldn't really be any of my "business", but what he fails to see is that I've wanted to find his father ever since he was a toddler. This is very important to me. It is important to his father, and his father's wife, and to his three half-siblings. I understand that he feels awkward and self-conscious about all of this; I also appreciate that this is a process. What does trouble me is the way my son has told me I am meddlesome and that this is not my business. I spent my adult life raising my children. I put my everything into being a good mother. It has been almost a lifelong dream to locate my son's father. I believe that even though it took a very long time to find his father, I found him nonetheless.

It was pretty heartbreaking when I heard my son tell me, "what if I never want to meet my dad?" He was hostile toward me the last time we spoke. My son has always been a nice guy, a good son and brother. Yes, he can have a temper sometimes and has said some rather mean things but we've always made up quickly. We've always been such an open family. I am saddened by all of this. I wish this could be a joyous occasion. I wish my son could feel happiness that his father wants to know him. I am open minded and understand how this can be a difficult process, but I disagree about this being none of my business. My son's father is beginning to feel some hurt; he'd hoped that his son would have had more interest in him.

At this point, I just feel heavy-hearted. I don't feel that I can discuss this with my son anymore, not after the way he snapped at me most recently. My parents are both dead; I know life is short. Family and love are priceless to me, and I am of the opinion we can never have too much warmth in this life. Does anyone have a similar story to share? Any words of encouragement? I feel so very, very sad. By the way, my ex-husband, who knew he wasn't the biological father of my son, had an active role at first, but eventually lost interest in both children. He is remarried and has a "new" family now. He hasn't seen the kids in 15 years. The only thing he did was pay child support. I realize this could cause complications, but nevertheless, his father wants to know him, and actually has expressed feelings of love for his son, even though they've never met face-to-face. My daughter doesn't feel threatened by any of this; she was delighted to learn I'd found her brother's biological father after so many years.
posted by nurse4kitties to Human Relations (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you were thinking of everyone else (including yourself) before your son's feelings about this - why SHOULD he be overjoyed to find out that his dad isn't his real dad and there's another guy he doesn't know that wants to know him now, especially, when he's all grown up?

Consider his feelings a bit more on this, and less on your own hurt. It's ENTIRELY up to him whether he wants to meet this man or be a part of his life, and that's how it should be. If this scenario played out to me, I think I'd feel exactly as your son does.
posted by agregoli at 2:51 PM on April 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

I understand all of this. My son has known all along. He has known I have been looking for his father.

It's almost like I have watched his feelings grow kind of sour over the past three months.
posted by nurse4kitties at 2:57 PM on April 12, 2007

You're making this about you, and you're trying to make your son do and feel and be all these specific things that have nothing to do with him. You've violated his boundaries, you've dropped an enormous bomb on him, and you are not giving him time to grieve everything he thought he knew about his life and his parentage.

You have done your part, and now you have to step away - surely his biological father can understand that as well. Maybe spend some time thinking about why you had so much personally invested in the outcome. What was this supposed to fix in you that it was so important that it play out a certain way?
posted by Lyn Never at 2:58 PM on April 12, 2007

I disagree. This was not a bomb. I had no idea there would be such a quick response by his father.

I was stunned, never expecting to hear back so quickly.

And don't be so fast to judge.
posted by nurse4kitties at 3:00 PM on April 12, 2007

For what it's worth, a psychologist told me that contacting his father was the right thing.

I just don't happen to have the funds to make weekly trips to a psychologist.
posted by nurse4kitties at 3:01 PM on April 12, 2007

Lyn is right. You are making this about you. You probably have sweet memories of his biological father and the times you had together. To your son, however, this man is a complete stranger, and to expect him to great his biological father with the same kind of warmth that you obviously have for the man is completely unreasonable.

What you've done, however accidentally, is tear your son's comfortable world apart.

Why did you even feel compelled to look for your adult son's father if he didn't express an interest in doing so himself? He is a grown man and you should have let him do it himself if he wanted to instead of forcing the issue on him.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:05 PM on April 12, 2007

I don't think you have done anything wrong.

I have an adult son myself. My perspective is, you did the legwork-now it is up to him. He needs time, and space, and he needs not to feel pressured by his mom, his biodad or anyone else.

I suspect if everyone just backs off a bit, at some point he will himself choose to make contact. But the cold hard truth is, at THIS point it has to be his choice. You and biodad have to understand this and give him space.
posted by konolia at 3:05 PM on April 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

All you can--and should--do at this point is leave the decisions up to your son. He's a grown man, after all.
posted by yellowcandy at 3:06 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think it is meddlesome to contact your son's father. This is something that is a part of your life too, it does not belong to him alone. What does belong to him is the choice about what he will do now that the father has been found. It doesn't matter how many people want him to have a relationship with the father, it is still his decision. Pressuring him won't help things come out how you want.
posted by yohko at 3:10 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're very empathetic to care so much about your son's biological father and his family, and it's lovely that they've approached the situation with open arms.

Your son, however, is an adult, capable of making his own choices in this matter. What's more, he is entitled to his feelings -- all of them -- about this new upheaval in his life. If he feels wary, upset, worried, or weirded out by all this, then that's how he feels. He suddenly has a new family that "want" him, even though he didn't express any particular desire to find them in the first place. He's obviously pretty unnerved and conflicted over this, probably for a variety of reasons.

The bottom line is that it is unfair to try "make him" feel something he doesn't feel, and to try to manage his choices according to the feelings you'd evidently prefer him to be having right now. This is his biological father and his set of half-siblings, and it's up to him to decide how to proceed. You've opened the door. Your only role now is to love and respect him enough to let him take the next steps at his own pace.
posted by scody at 3:10 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

You seem to be responding to many of your son's feelings about this situation by "disagreeing" with them. Stop doing that.

He feels like a bomb has been dropped in his life. He feels like he's not ready to meet his father, and doesn't know when he will be ready. He feels like you and his father are putting pressure on him. He feels conflicted and scared and confused and angry and upset. Whether you believe he'd be better off feeling some other way is irrelevant. Whether his father or a psychologist or God Himself agrees with you is irrelevant. These are his feelings, and he has to work through them.

It's not that this is "none of your business." Of course you have a vested interest in the outcome of this situation. But telling him what to do, and especially telling him how to feel, is not going to make this any easier for him, and it's definitely not going to make him feel or think or act the way you want him to. Let him be. Stop talking about this with him for a while. Give him some time to digest this. Try to get back to the close relationship that you've always had by treating him and speaking to him the way you did before all of this happened.

Over time, he'll come to terms with this in his own way and make his own decisions about what he wants to do. But he's an adult, and he's dealing with a tough situation, and you need to let him make his own decisions. Most importantly, you need to support him in what he's thinking and feeling, not tell him how you think he should feel.
posted by decathecting at 3:13 PM on April 12, 2007

Your son did not choose to have a father. You've forced this on him. He was happy with his life the way it was. He was happy with his single-parent family. You said this much himself. Now you've turned everything over and thrown this father at him that he is not sure if he even wants.

You should have stopped as soon as you had found the father and asked your son about this. The risk of the father welcoming or not welcoming him should have been his to take. He may have wanted you to send off the first email anyway, he may not have, but you did not respect his feelings and he's now resenting you for it.

If he chooses to never get in contact with this man, it will be his choice and you should not get upset with him about it. If "B" is upset, you'll just have to explain the situation. It's your fault for not considering that your son may not react exactly the way you wanted him to. This is not about you, this is about your son.
posted by schroedinger at 3:13 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

You are asking people to be "fast to judge" by posting your question at all.

You cannot possibly know and/or understand what your son is feeling right now. So he knew all along about his biological father, and that you were looking for him. Now it's reality, and that's a whole other thing. As agregoli and Lyn Never have said, this is about your son, NOT you. It's his decision - if he never chooses to talk to or meet his father, that's his business, and tough crap for you.

Your son feels differently than everyone else involved in this. So? That's his right. You can't make him overjoyed, or even willing, to meet his father.

But if you want to drive your son further away, keep pressuring him to be happy about this.
posted by clh at 3:15 PM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

I picture you saying this to your son:

"Son, I know this has come as a shock to you and I'll understand if you aren't ready to deal with it. I only want you to know that I contacted this man because I felt you deserved to at least have the opportunity to learn more about your biological father. Now that you know, we don't have to discuss it again unless you bring it up first."

Then tell him you love him and not speak of it again.
posted by OpinioNate at 3:16 PM on April 12, 2007 [6 favorites]

I hate to say this, but he's right. His feelings or how he handles this isn't your business any more. He's your son, he always will be but he's not your little boy any more. He's a man, an adult. Period full stop. Now if you are asking for advice, I would have to say, treat him like a man, like an adult. Be there for him, but otherwise butt out.

I'm sorry if this is harsh, I know a lot of advice on askme is, but sometimes parents have to know when to gracefully play a more peripheral role in their adult children's lives. He knows the situation, he can take it as slow or as fast as he wishes, or not at all. And that is the way it should be. if I were in his situation, the more you pushed and talked about it the more I would pull away and clam up.

He says "What if I never want to meet my dad?" Well if that is his choice so be it, what is it to you? Why is this such a big thing to you that you are losing perspective on who this affects the most.
posted by xetere at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2007

I think a phrase that will come in very useful when talking to your son is "We can do this when you're ready." :)
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 3:22 PM on April 12, 2007

I, for one, think you had as much right as anyone to contact B, but it certainly would have been better for your relationship with your son if you have approached it as something you pursued either jointly or for yourself, but not "on his behalf." He is a grown man, he wants to act on his own behalf. And regardless of how it was approached, now that you have the result you dreamed of, your excitement is putting pressure on him. I agree that this news is an emotional bombshell for him, near impossible to know how to deal with from his perspective. You've established the kind of contact you personally sought with B, now tend to the needs of your son, whatever they are.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:26 PM on April 12, 2007

The fact that you slept with someone does not obligate your son to develop a relationship with him after 26 years. This is entirely his decision - if he does not want it, you should not be putting any pressure on him. It's obvious you desperately want your son to talk to this guy, and whether you realize it or not that's putting a lot of pressure on him. Let him go at his own pace, if he wants to meet him at all. If he doesn't, accept that decision.
posted by chundo at 3:28 PM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

You seem to be responding to many of your son's feelings about this situation by "disagreeing" with them. Stop doing that.

Chiming back in to agree with this assessment. I was raised in a household with parents who "disagreed" with my negative or painful feelings all the time -- often when I felt angry or sad or hurt, I was told that I didn't have the right to feel those things ("you're depressed? What do you have to be depressed about -- we're sending you to one of the best colleges in the country so that you can have a better future!"). I was told that I should either feel something else ("cheer up!") or, if that wasn't possible, suppress my feelings entirely ("stiff upper lip!").

Trust me, this made me angry -- very angry -- that my parents (who I know love me very much) could so often not seem to simply accept me (much less comfort me) in times of hurt. Please, do not fail your son this way: accept him AND his feelings without imposing your agenda, beliefs, or expectations on top of them.
posted by scody at 3:32 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

The role your ex-husband has played is also very important. As a two time child of divorce, I can testify to major abandonment issues that preclude my desire to pursue some familial intimacy. While you think you've located "the father he lost," in fact all this may serve to do is remind him of the hole in his heart created by the many-faceted loss of the man who he thought was his father, and long ago sealed up never to be filled. He might feel freakishly ill-equipped. ymmv.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:32 PM on April 12, 2007

Were I in your son's shoes, I would view the fact that you had re-established contact with my biological father as a mildly interesting piece of your personal trivia.

Adults have the prerogative to establish and maintain relationships of their own choice. I have no ties with any of my parents' friends, and I would be incensed if (say) my father pushed me into forming some kind of bond with one of his long-time golfing buddies. Another example: I've got 40-odd cousins who live 3000 miles away -- I don't even know all of their names, much less have conversations with them. My mom never pushed me to send them Christmas cards.

How and whether your son chooses to have any kind of relationship with his biological father is entirely his choice, and you should not pressure him into it, nor 'nag' him about it, for lack of a better word. The sentence "I talked with your father again last night and he'd really like to see you when he comes to town" should never pass your lips.

I am of the opinion we can never have too much warmth in this life

This is a common opinion, but not universal. Many people, myself included, prefer to keep a core group of close friends and family. There have been other AskMe questions in the past where people talk about how they don't have the time or energy to add additional people to their network. For me, a long-lost blood relative wouldn't get to "jump the line".
posted by solid-one-love at 3:40 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've had people thrust upon me during my life and it sucks to no end! There may come a day when your son feels like checking out his dad. The means are there now, but don't force the issue.

This is not a "joyful reuinion" for you son. He's spent his entire life developing coping mechanisms for living without his bio-dad. That will not be changed over night. Even though he's 26, having this thrust upon him could really damage him.

Your job as his mother is to support him and love him for whatever decision he makes. You probably feel pretty well spanked after reading this thread, but you live and learn.

And let "B" know that the kid has some trepidation and to back off with e-mails and stuff. Good luck, and I hope this works out well for all involved.
posted by snsranch at 3:43 PM on April 12, 2007

The less you encourage him, the more likely your son will be to open the door to his biological father. Right now he might be feeling pressure because them man wants to communicate with him; not reciprocating can feel like "doing the wrong thing" when you know you're disappointing someone. There are plenty of inner conflicts that could be affecting your son amidst all this. The possible changes in his relationships with his lifelong dad and with you are a big enough deal, and it might seem overwhelming to contemplate letting this other man into his life.

I suggest that you try to imagine things from your son's point of view, and sincerely tell him you recognize what's going on for him. "I can see how you might be disappointed/angry/confused/reluctant" and so on. And don't follow these statements with "but." He really does know you mean well, and that you are worried that you should have handled things differently in the past. The best thing you can do is lay off. It really is his decision to make, and if you involve yourself in any way, you'll be making it harder for him.
posted by wryly at 3:49 PM on April 12, 2007

Maybe he'll think about it and come to realize that this isn't really a bad thing.

I sure wish I could find my biological father. *shrug*
posted by drstein at 3:51 PM on April 12, 2007

This feels a lot like the complex issues surrounding contacting birth parents in adoption. Some kids want to more than anything else in the world, some kids could care less, some kids actively hate the idea, and there are lots everywhere in between. My DH has met his bio mom, and has had a pleasant but not close relationship with her. He is completely satisfied with that. His adoptive mom (his mom) is much more into contact with his birth mom than he is-he would be unhappy, I think, if his mom expected him to have as much communication with his birth mom as she does. DH doesn't have much angst or drama around being adopted, so doesn't feel any real need to add another close relationship with his life.

I think part of this was for you, and part was for your son. It sounds like it was all well-intentioned. You come across here as pretty defensive about your decision-making; you don't need to be. Work hard, I'd suggest, to not sound defensive with your son. You both have the right to have your feelings and choices. I'd see your son's feelings as, in some ways, a testament about how close you are and how satisfied he was with his life already-he doesn't need to add anyone else.
posted by purenitrous at 3:59 PM on April 12, 2007

This is very important to me. It is important to his father, and his father's wife, and to his three half-siblings. I understand that he feels awkward and self-conscious about all of this; I also appreciate that this is a process. What does trouble me is the way my son has told me I am meddlesome and that this is not my business. I spent my adult life raising my children. I put my everything into being a good mother. It has been almost a lifelong dream to locate my son's father. I believe that even though it took a very long time to find his father, I found him nonetheless.
I'm sorry, this must be difficult for everyone involved, but as many others have said, you need to step back. He needs to make a decision, and maybe it's not The Right Decision, but the important thing is that it's his decision.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 4:05 PM on April 12, 2007

There is an amazing This American Life segment about this very thing. You can listen to it here. (It's the first part of the program).
posted by billysumday at 4:06 PM on April 12, 2007

There is some similarity to an adopted child situation and some important differences. The similarity is that the child has a right to decide whether they want that biological parent in their life. The difference is that the father didn't voluntarily give up the child, he has a right to know his child exists. Because of this, you weren't wrong to contact him without your son's permission, on the contrary.

But that's as far as it should have gone. Contact between your son and his biological father should have occurred, if it was to occur, on a timetable both father and son agreed upon. You took this entirely out of your son's hands and continue to want to make his decision for him on this issue.

Don't do that. Let him decide.

You shouldn't feel bad about looking for and contacting the father when you finally found him. Both he and you had your own interests in doing so. And your son had a right to know you had found and contacted his biological father. And then he had a right to decide where to go from there.

You can't undo that last part, but you can change what you're doing now and proceed from that point. This will be hard for the father, but if he really wants what is best for his son—which is the primary responsibility of being a parent—then he should know to back-off and let his son work this out without being pressured.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:08 PM on April 12, 2007

You've already replied defensively a few times in this thread -- you might want to ask yourself why. And for the sake of your son whom you love, you might want to ask him what he wants and how you can help him have that. That's assuming you want to put his happiness first.
posted by anildash at 4:13 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

B is acting scary. If a man I'd never met wrote to me that he loved me I'd think he was some kind of psycho stalker and avoid him.

Sure, parenthood is a special kind of bond, but it's entirely possible that your son will not be able to empathise with this kind of attachment to an unknown person until/unless he becomes a father himself.

If your son has a partner, the partner may be very curious to meet his father. Women contemplating motherhood often have very strong interests in this direction. But right now, you son has none of his own and doesn't relate to the interests of others.
posted by kika at 4:15 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Suddenly, without his input, your son has been inserted into another family. It doesn't sound as if he's being allowed to decide whether or not he wants this himself. Would you arrange a marriage for your daughter? If any of your strong sense of family bonds and relationships has been imparted to your son, he may see this as a huge new responsibility he's not ready to take on. Let him make up his own mind on this one.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:49 PM on April 12, 2007

A lot of the above responses resonate with my thoughts as I read your post.

Your son seems to want some say in this, too. (Which is understandable -- it's his life, too.) If he feels like he *has* to do this -- reconnect with his biological father -- because of how important it is to you, then that would explain his defensiveness, and his resistance.

You're totally right, you can't have too much warmth in your life. It sounds like your son hasn't gotten much warmth from fathers in the past, though. It's hard to imagine him being overjoyed at getting another one, if the first one just disappeared on him, and understandable that he might be skeptical, or maybe afraid. Not that there's any way to know what's really going on just off what you said above.

If you want this to work, you need to listen to him, and be OK with how he feels, even if it's not what you want. He might not be ready to incorporate a new father into his life. Don't blame him for that -- even those of us who've had our whole lives to get used to our dads haven't all managed it yet.
posted by mattpfeff at 4:50 PM on April 12, 2007

You've let the proverbial cat out of the bag on this one, nurse4kitties, so I think "stepping back" at this point would be a little naive. I think you have to find a way to bring closure to this situation, first and foremost - whether that involves letting your son taking the first step, or continuing to be pro-active. I, for one, wouldn't automatically defer to your son just because he is an adult. That's ridiculous. Sometimes "more space" is not the answer.

Of course, communicating with your son on this matter - at this point - might be a hard thing to do. But don't be so pessimistic.

Some brief stories. I had a friend who was told by her parents that she was not their biological child in college. She met this somewhat enthusiastically, I remember her saying, "I had a feeling about this when I was younger...". That was followed by a not-so-good period. I think your son's fluctuations are totally normal. I think in this sense, the best thing you can do is underscore how, ultimately, whomever your son's father is, its not important as to what kind of man he can be.

The second story is my own. In my early twenties I had epic battles with my mother over certain situations involving my aunts and uncles who lived in another country. They were going through major "rough patches" (this is putting it oh-so-lightly), I felt disconnected, and my mom was like, "Don't let this bother you. We'll talk about it later. What's important is that you do well." This attitude drove. me. bananas. I mostly conceded, and time passed. The impact of these deferrals by me are still being felt. Moral here: either way things end up, you live with your own decisions.

So there you have it. "Parents with good intentions" - tricky subject. Often these objections will take place over "what the right thing to do" is. Either way, your son may have a unique perspective on this situation, and it may help for you to listen to him. Maybe he's afraid of change. Maybe he wants to detach from you. Maybe his significant other is giving him shit. Maybe your relationship with him is otherwise strained, and by putting a stop to this matter, he is trying to punish you, or protect himself.

There's one productive thing I think you can do since you seem to have perspective. Coordinate with "B" and have him write a letter/video to your son without sending it - something, essentially, to chronicle his life, so that somewhere down the line - worst case scenario, at least your son will know where his dad came from and what he did. So important to me. And in the short term, this may help quell some of your desire to express your love and concern for your son, without imposing on him too directly. And build from there.
posted by phaedon at 6:06 PM on April 12, 2007

Your goals in finding B were, I suppose, admirable. The fact that B's family is stoked about a surprise stepson / half-brother is awesome. Your wanting to protect him from the 'rejection' that might have been, had B and family not been stoked, is sweet.

That said, I think you made a bit of a social mess out of it. You, and B-and-family, now have all these notions of get-togethers and family BBQs that your son might not have been interested in in the first place. You and B-and-family now have all these expectations that have been layed on your son as somewhat of a surprise. If he does go through with it, he'll be feeling a lot of weird pressure not to disappoint you all. Pressure that's being opposed by his own feelings of being thrust into all this with no input on his part.

Before you say that I'm being fast to judge... I haven't seen my biological father since I was roughly 6 or 7, which was 20 years ago (my mom and him weren't married, and she didn't want child support). Unlike your situation, I know who he is (at least his name). When I was little, he used to visit maybe 3 times a year on holidays. I never thought of him as my father, he was just my mom's friend who brought me really huge easter bunnies on Easter (*HUGE* ones, I could lie down comfortably in the box full of colourful shredded paper, and I was a tall kid). When my mother told me that he was my dad, I didn't believe her and she showed me my baptism certificate (he's not listed on my birth certificate). I've never really been torn up about him not being around, it's not like there was noticeable loss. I'm nearly certain he has a family and that I have half-siblings out there somewhere. But I have no real desire to find them, and I'd be very weirded out if I suddenly discovered that they'd all be coming over in a couple months for a party. So, I can feel where your son's coming from.

Try talking with him, and apologize for setting up this situation "behind his back" (it may not feel like that to you, but it probably does to him). You can explain why you did it, but don't turn it into a rationalization or excuse. He may end up wanting to meet them, but he may not. If he doesn't, try explaining it to B-and-family in such a way that your son doesn't come off as an asshole... because he's not acting out of assholery. He might change his mind after a while, and you don't want to taint the potential re-do.
posted by CKmtl at 6:19 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I spent my adult life raising my children. I put my everything into being a good mother. It has been almost a lifelong dream to locate my son's father. I am saddened by all of this. I wish this could be a joyous occasion. ...My parents are both dead; I know life is short. Family and love are priceless to me, and I am of the opinion we can never have too much warmth in this life.

nurse4kitties, I want to acknowledge the immense efforts you have made, first of all in raising your children as a single mother, and also in seeking and finding your son's father.

I hear your wanting what is best for everyone, and your concern about helping to bring healing and closure to your son and his father. I also hear that family connections are tremendously important to you, and that your son's response is terribly hurtful and disappointing to you.

This situation seems to have tapped into a deep well of sadness for you. Maybe it comes from your own birth family, ways that they disappointed or misunderstood you. Maybe it has to do with your marriage, the mistaken belief it was founded on, or the way it ended, despite all of your hopes.

Maybe you are disappointed because the idea of your son's father rejoining your lives is important to you for reasons that are more about you than your son.

I would like to suggest that you take this as an opportunity to look at your own heart. Rather than seeing it as about what your son has said or done, look at it as a chance to bring awareness and healing to a part of yourself that is clearly hurting.

A counselor or a wise friend can help you figure out what this all means to you -- while you take a step back from your son and his relationship with his father, as so many have suggested.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:15 PM on April 12, 2007

You sound as if you did a difficult, but good, job in raising your kids, you have been a good parent. B has not been your son's parent and has contributed nothing to your son's growth other than some genetics. This is, of course not B's, or any one's, fault but is a fact of the situation. I would imagine B means very little to your son at this point. He is never going to be a parent to your son, any relationship entered into now is going to have some strange dynamics, it is going to be adult to adult with weird overtones of relationship-hood. I think it is right and proper your son is skeevish about the whole situation. Placed in a similar situation I think I would have reacted exactly the same way as your kid. Fundamentally, why should he desire contact with B?

As an aside I would ask after B's family medical history, that is perhaps the most important, concrete long term thing your son can have.
posted by edgeways at 10:53 PM on April 12, 2007

"He is never going to be a parent to your son, any relationship entered into now is going to have some strange dynamics, it is going to be adult to adult with weird overtones of relationship-hood."

That may be true, but many adopted children develop strong and happy bonds with their birth parent(s) after meeting them only in adulthood. It's not as if nurse4kitties's high hopes for this are that unrealistic. They're not. And it would be a good thing if it happened.

As I said, the one way in which this differs from an adopted-child situation is that B didn't give up the child and he has a right to know about his son. Nurse4kitties was right to contact him. But in all other respects this is like an adopted-child situation and there's good reasons why we're cautious about how we go about helping connect adopted children and their birth parents. There can hardly be anything more traumatic for an unwilling or uncertain participant. While phaedon is obviously correct that "giving him space" isn't the right answer in all situations, if there ever was a situation where it was the right answer, it's this one. The son needs space to decide how to proceed. It's his right, and it's better for his emotional health that he has it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:40 PM on April 12, 2007

nurse4kitties: One thing I think your son would feel, is concern for you. You've been The Parent. Now there is a new-comer to usurp your position. This is complicated, and at your son's age, he doesn't need complications like this, he's got serious things on his mind.

It is his problem, you just have to be his Mom, and do as you've probably always done. But on this, let him go his own pace.

I'm jealous. I'm adopted, with no real clue about my bio-parents.
posted by Goofyy at 4:37 AM on April 13, 2007

I don't think that you did the wrong thing contacting the bio Dad. I think this situation IS just as much about you as about your son. The two of you made this child together, and I think that this man has a right to know that he has a son.

At the same time, your son also has the right to never see or have any contact with his bio Dad. I agree that it's very sad, given that this man and his family are happy to meet him. I do think that the most important factor here is your son's very likely sadness and anger at losing contact with the man who he thought was his biological father. Finding out that there is a "new" bio Dad may have kicked up those feelings even stronger - "oh great, where was he when I REALLY needed a Dad around." This anger may even be directed at you - he may be holding you responsible for denying him a father all of those years when things "could have" been different. I don't think that your son will be able to connect with his bio Dad until these feelings are resolved. And they may never be resolved.

If this man seems to need more from your son, there is nothing wrong with you maintaining a relationship with him and his family - they are, after all, now part of your extended family. I agree with the poster above who suggested that you share pictures and videos from your son's childhood with this man. It may help to prevent him from pressuring your son to initiate contact. I doubt that he's a "stalker" as someone suggested above - I would probably be disappointed too, because I would have assumed that getting in touch with me in this manner meant that contact would be welcome.

You can't control how other people will behave. I know that it's tempting to feel this way with your own kids - I've been there. I would just be patient and continue a relationship with this man and his family if YOU want to, and let your son make his own decisions.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:45 AM on April 13, 2007

Congratulations on completing what has been a long quest to locate your son's biological father. I would imagine you've felt like this was a loose thread, something that will provide closure to you (letting this man know you had his son) and give your son an opportunity to know the man who he shares genetics with -- if he wishes.

You mentioned in the past that a psychologist said that it'd be a good pursuit to find this man. Was that your psychologist, your son's psychologist, or one that you went to together? Finding him has been good for you -- you have your closure. But really, I'd just tell your son that you know where his biological father is, and let him know if he's ever ready to talk to him, you have the contact information. Your communication with "B" should not mean that he has to participate -- this was your quest, not his.
posted by mikeh at 6:23 AM on April 13, 2007

I understand all of this. My son has known all along. He has known I have been looking for his father.
It's almost like I have watched his feelings grow kind of sour over the past three months.

I'm sorry, but that doesn't change my impression that you have considered your own feelings far more than your son's in this instance. And he's perfectly welcome and justified in feeling "sour." You can't change how he feels, no matter how much you might want him to feel how you do. He's an adult, it's up to him to decide what, if any, kind of relationship he has with his real father and you must accept that.
posted by agregoli at 6:39 AM on April 13, 2007

As Ethereal Bligh posted above, it is different from the situation with an adopted child, but it does have many similarities. As such, here's my take as someone who was adopted and hasn't met my birth parents yet.

If my mom or dad told me they had found my biological father, and then wanted me to meet the guy soon, I would be hesitant, if not somewhat pissed off. As an adult only a year older than your son, I would feel as if I was being treated as a child and would much prefer to make the decision to meet my biological "dad" on my own terms and in my own term. Even though I may have done it eventually on my own, it would frustrate me that my parents would put me into that horribly awkward position.
posted by drezdn at 6:43 AM on April 13, 2007

Hi there your story caught my eye as I am in much simillar situation. Firstly may I add alot of the selfish people who have judged you above have no right, you have to be in the position before making comment.
My daughter now (13) was concieved with her father when we met on a two week holiday in spain, obviously it never went anywhere else, I met a guy when she was only a few months old and had a long happy relationship and another child with him, she just started calling him dad when she heard her baby brother do so she was about 3 years old, when she was 8 i explained the truth and never went into to much detail, i told her to feel free to ask few years past she never then not so long ago through her friend i found out she wanted to know (i was glad) me in scotland and him in ireland (somewhere) and after 13/14 years what were the chances of me finding him.. well cut a long story short i found him in only three days. He mailed me i was flabergasted he was aware of her all those years ago but wasnt to sure, well the mail said long time no hear whats up ? I then told my daughter i was aware she wanted to find him and then showed her his email she was shocked overwellemed may i say, its now been three months we are trying to arrange a visit i requested dna test that was 9999.9999% he was her father (i had no doubt) but i never ever wanted small talk going on, he is now married and has twins aged 3 years, his wife has been aware of my daughter and the possibility that she would turn up at some point since their relationship began. my daughter is very excited about also meeting her half brother and sister and her fathers wife. but as you would expect she wants to meet with him first. well the first night we had contact ( her father and I) was on msn chat and we chatted until daylight about 7 hours, he was on business at a hotel staying, i knew from this night he had some troubles he never went in depth about things but lets just say i knew. We got on like b4 (great) and have been texting and mailing every day since not about any relationship or that just my daughter and having a laugh, i dont believe his wife was aware of this. now the tests done and we all know the arrangements for visit have started he requested he came to us alone and then we would go there and all meet. he knows this is my daughters wish also. i get the feeling that his wife has put the brakes on and is demanding she come too, he says he will leave her in the hotel when we meet (whats the point coming i feel), but he has also texed me saying that he knows he should come alone and his head was melted with it all.
My thoughts on your situation is you done the right thing contacting your sons father and give him time boys are so within themeself and deep, there will be a time soon he will have had time to think about it all and come round maybe when he gets married? What I do know by the sounds of everything you said is you have brought your kids up good if your daughter is pleased your son sure will be too just men dont show emotions just the same.
Good luck and I hope it all works out for you
posted by MICHMAC at 9:24 AM on May 8, 2007

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