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Carolyn Hax: Accepting your father’s new baby, regardless


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My 53-year-old dad might have fathered a child with his girlfriend, who is only five years older than I am, just before his divorce last year. I say “might” since his girlfriend was sleeping around at the time.

Nonetheless, my dad is raising this child as his own and is paying for everything, since his girlfriend is unemployed. He kept this a secret but now wants me and my siblings to meet and accept his girlfriend and this new baby in his life.

Despite all the lies, I can’t see myself outright rejecting a sibling if this child turns out to be his, but I think I need to know for sure before I know how much exposure I’m comfortable with. Would it be fair to ask my dad to take a paternity test?

Possible Sibling

Nope. Not at all. Not even remotely. As long as your father is raising this baby as his own child, this is your father’s child — as surely as if he were adopting him or her. Plus, every baby is innocent of the circumstances of his or her birth. If there’s deception involved, that only adds urgency to the child’s need for the love, acceptance and support of a stable community.

So, you’re either in or you’re out.

The mother’s age, by the way, and employment status and promiscuity, and your father’s infidelity and secret-keeping, all are relevant only to your anger, and not to the worth and lovability of the child. I’m sure you know this but thought I’d underscore it anyway, since in the question (and no doubt in your feelings) they’re all intertwined.

Dear Carolyn:

One of my best friends has struggled for years with some very private and emotional issues that stem from some horrific childhood events. I have encouraged her to seek therapy for some time now, because her struggles have progressed to a point that are beyond what her friends can help with.

I was thrilled that after months of encouragement she booked an appointment and saw a therapist that she said she connected with. But she has since canceled subsequent appointments and is saying she’s not sure she wants to go back; she wants to “work things out on her own.” I have encouraged her to go back at least one time, said how proud I am of her for taking the step in the first place, but nothing is working and I am growing frustrated.

Do you have any advice about how to encourage a good friend to keep up their therapy? I feel like being too pushy will have the opposite outcome of what I’m going for.

Therapy and Friends

“Months of encouragement” say you have encouraged her, probably to the full extent you can.

I do think it’s always a friend’s responsibility to point out when you think she’s in real danger of hurting herself or others, which I hope it won’t come to. Otherwise, all you can do is continue to say, when she looks to you for help, “I’m sorry, this is beyond my abilities,” and hold that line. It’s important not to be the outlet that she counts on to justify not sticking with professional help.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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