Grafting Into New Family Tree Threatens To Destroy Roots
Dear Annie: My mother had a workplace affair back in the 1960s that lasted for approximately 10 years. My dad knew about it, but God rest his soul, he remained with my mom and our family until he died. The affair resulted in the fourth child in our family, with a 10-year gap between me and the new sister. Needless to say, my childhood had a lot of chaos — yelling, threats, sarcasm — which I worked through with a 12-step program. I want to be clear, though, that even with that turmoil happening, my mom and dad were actually very loving parents to us.
Here’s my concern. The baby sister, “Shelly,” has not only us three elder sisters but also nine other siblings from her biological father. We have all remained somewhat in touch with them through social media, but especially Shelly has. Three of those siblings are aware of Shelly and know that their dad was a womanizer. Their mom is still alive, and they claim she has no clue about Shelly.
My mom was Shelly’s “best friend.” Shelly always manipulated my mother over the years, holding this affair over her head. (She demanded a DNA test when she was a teenager.) Now I feel she is manipulating her “new family” and really wants to become a part of that family. I feel that my two elder sisters and I are being left in the dust. My eldest sister is livid and won’t even discuss it. It is all surreal. One of the new sisters indicated she would write an email to all the others after their mom dies and share this “news.”
Shelly emailed me the other day and told me that she had connected with one of her dad’s half sisters, who is 84. Shelly said she has been really sweet and is including her on the family tree. I didn’t respond.
Advice on how to handle all this would be appreciated. The turmoil is only in its beginning stages, I feel, because that email could cause a lot more — Not the Baby Anymore
Dear Not the Baby Anymore: Shelly’s inclusion on another family tree doesn’t mean you have to prune her off yours, just as her growing closer with other half siblings doesn’t mean she’s growing apart from you. Let Shelly and her other siblings work things out among themselves. And there’s no need to fear impending “turmoil.” Focus on yourself and discover the serenity of detaching with love, because once you’re truly grounded in your own life, others’ turmoil can’t shake you.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.