This is an issue I haven't had to deal with before.

Hey, look. I'm asking for advice again. Because apparently that's what I do these days.

So my friend Space Cadet and I have been emailing back and forth this summer - it counts for points for the Summer Literacy Challenge, since it's writing. :) Here's what he wrote in a recent email:

i dont know if its true but i have been told that my dad isnt really my dad! i really hope its not true or my whole life would pretty much be a lie!

My response was pretty much....huh? So I replied:

What do you mean, your dad isn't really your dad? When and how did you hear this?

And he said:

my half brother told me about a week ago that when he was coming down from canada with dad that they were talking about how my brother and sister were his kids and that my mother had me with another man and he got custody. very wierd stuff so im like an orphen or somthing lol great

(Don't judge the spelling and grammar - he's very bright, I just don't think he's focused on conventions in this. Anyway.)

I don't really know what to say back. All of this was in conjunction with other stuff, things about what he's doing this summer and books he's reading and the like....but I think this is really important to him because he did bring it up. And honestly, I can't imagine how this could not be important to a fourteen year old who doesn't get along super well with his dad anyway and whose mom died several years ago.

I think he needs to talk to his dad about this and not just take his brother's word for it, because, let's be honest here, kids lie to siblings all the time to make them feel bad. Flip side, if it is true, I think he has a right to know that.

But. Right now, he has no support system around as the family just moved about 30 miles away from where Space Cadet grew up to a small town to move in with dad's girlfriend. He has no friends there, he has no extended family around (though he didn't here either), and he's not in school right now so he doesn't even have any school support like a counselor. And that's a pretty intense thing to learn at any age, let alone as an adolescent - I can't imagine getting through that without anyone to talk to.

So what do I say? Do I recommend he talk to his dad about it right now? Do I recommend he wait till school starts to talk to his dad so that he has a counselor he can access at that point? Do I do something else that I'm not even thinking of right now? Help!

(Image credit to Stefan Baudy)


Ricochet said...

Just my opinion.

He needs to talk to his dad. His dad may not be his father, but he has been the dad. (The dad CHOSE to get custody of the boy apparently knowing the truth, if it is the truth.)

Worst case scenario, he has some different genes, but he still has a dad.

luckeyfrog said...

I think I'd emphasize that paternity is stuck in your DNA, but being a parent and a dad is much more than that. Whether or not the guy conceived you, he's here supporting you, loving you, and taking care of you- even when you argue. I think that makes him 'dad' regardless of anything else.

I think the part that worries me is that he thinks he's an orphan, and that "who he is is a lie." Your biological makeup isn't all that you are, and he needs to know that he is still the same person, even though it will obviously affect him if this is true.

I would probably tell him that he could talk to his dad if he is concerned, but remind him that knowing the truth doesn't necessarily change the situation. Honestly, there are so many dads who choose to be absent that a guy choosing to become a dad when he doesn't already have to have that responsibility is a really loving thing to do, and this kid is lucky.

At some point, he should talk with his dad, but I understand your hesitation to encourage it, especially during the summer. I'd just try to emphasize that he is still the same person, no matter who his 'real' dad is, and that he's lucky to have someone who loves him as a dad even if it's not official.

Rachel said...

If I were him, I would NEED to talk it out, regardless of whether I talk to the person in question or just someone I trust. I'm a person who needs to process things verbally, so in my opinion...yes, encourage him to talk. Personally, waiting until school returns would drive me bonkers and probably make the situation much much worse.

There are a couple things I would suggest you address to reassure/nuture him. The problematic use of the word "orphan" -- he says this, even though his dad is still IN the picture. No, this man may not be his biological father, but then would he (Space Cadet) classify all adopted children as forever "orphans"? I would hope not. All the adopted kids/adults I've known have acknowledged that the parents who raise them are their parents. There is more to a parent than just supplying the biology. This man has proven that by choosing to be in Space Cadet's life. I would emphasize that. This man knew your history and chose to make you his child by acquiring legal custody. Pope John Paul II once said, "The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person the more true love there is." He took custody for this young man because he loves him. Nothing else would drive him to take on such an enormous responsibility. You mentioned that they don't get along now, but I hope that Space Cadet (SC) doesn't allow that to jade his perspective on the relationship.

The other issue I see at hand that I think requires SC to talk to his dad is that we're getting the information through a filter. We have the information presented through the brother's understanding of the situation and then verbalized through his perspective. While I love my brother, I do not trust him to pass along information of any kind because his powers of communication (both in listening and expressing) are so weak, that it has caused a few tensions/fights because of misinformation. The same possibility exists here from SC's brother, who might mean well but perhaps, not knowing the full story, might unknowingly miscommunicate certain aspects.

If the discussion starts to get too heavy, I would probably contact the father. Maybe you could even ask the kid if you want the three of you to meet, so you can act as a mediator? But that might be getting in too deep, I dunno.

teachin' said...

You guys are the best. THANK YOU.

"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
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