5/16/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

This 55-year-old secret is nagging at this elderly woman, who wants to know, “Should I tell my kids about the baby I gave up for adoption?” See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson has to say in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

Fifty-five years ago, when I was young and stupid, I had a child out of wedlock and placed the baby up for adoption.

Fast-forward to now. I am married to a different man and have a 48-year-old daughter and a 38-year-old son.

I have two grandchildren. My husband knows about my indiscretion, but it never comes up in discussion.

Sometimes I struggle with the question: Should I tell my kids about the baby? Do my adult children have the right to know that they have a half-brother somewhere? My gut tells me no: “Let a sleeping dog lie.” “Why open up a can of worms?”

I know my husband would definitely be against telling our kids about this. We are elderly people and just want to live peaceful lives.

Did I just answer my own question? I’m wondering what you think.


Dear Wondering:

two women walking in a dark hallway. photo by Vika200581 Dreamstime. An elderly woman wants to know, “Should I tell my kids my 55-year-old secret, a baby I gave up for adoption?” See what “Ask Amy” has to say.

As long as you see this long-ago pregnancy only as a mistake, an indiscretion, or something that resulted from your own stupidity, you won’t have any motivation to tell the story.

And as long as you see this 55-year-old secret, this truth, as a “sleeping dog” or a “can of worms,” rather than a story about actual human beings, then yes, you will keep a tight lid on it.

I see this as an important and very rich part of your own personal history.

Alas, I cannot answer your question for you. Yes, I do believe your children have the right to know about a sibling. Not knowing anything about you – or them – I’d like to think that your children might be shocked but would ultimately be very understanding about this long-ago choice.

The child you gave birth to might also be searching for his own biological relatives.

Yes, you have the legal right to deny him this knowledge, but – should you?

I do know this: The ubiquity of household DNA testing kits is forcing a lot of stories like yours out into the open. A simple dab of spit can reveal all.

You can either try to control the narrative now or deal with family members down the road who would be shocked by the story, and also dismayed by your silence.

Like that long-ago choice you made, this one won’t be easy – but maybe you’ll choose a brave uncertainty over peace and quiet. It really is up to you.

A counselor would help you to sort out your thinking, and also find the right words to say.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from a spouse who demands immediate attention to “Should I tell my kids about my 55-year-old secret” to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

Click here to read more Ask Amy columns curated for a baby boomer audience. 

Amy Dickinson