DEAR ABBY: Fifteen years ago when I was single, I got the wife of a friend pregnant. (I'll call her Lily.) Lily was afraid that coming clean with her husband would destroy their marriage, so we both kept quiet and allowed him to think the child was his. A beautiful baby girl was born; they named her "Candice."
Shortly after the birth, Lily, her husband and Candice moved out of state. I couldn't trace them, which meant my child disappeared from my life. I married a local girl, and we have led a quiet, happy life all these years with our two young daughters. I told my wife everything. She was supportive of my desire to find Candice, but we both felt torn about how aggressive the search should be.
A year ago out of the blue, Lily contacted me. She had divorced her husband and married another man who knows that I am her daughter's birth father. Candice is now 14, and the three live only two towns away. Lily and I agreed to meet at a public soccer event where Candice was competing. I was able to finally see my daughter. She looks and acts very much like me -- even to the point of excelling in the same sports I did at her age.
With Lily's permission, I have continued to "show up" at Candice's sporting events, but her mother wants no contact beyond that. Lily has done an excellent job of raising her, and Candice is an "A" student who is socially conscious and well-adjusted.
I am deeply ashamed of the way both Lily and I handled things from the beginning of this girl's life, and feel strongly that I want my daughter to know who I am. I am more than willing to accept financial responsibility. Candice may want to meet her two half-sisters, and she deserves to know the medical history of my side of the family, as there is an unusually high rate of breast cancer.
Lily is dead-set against telling Candice anything, and until now I have respected her wishes. Please give me your opinion on whether my daughter should be told the truth now -- or ever. -- ANXIOUS BIRTH FATHER IN TEXAS
DEAR ANXIOUS BIRTH FATHER: I agree that, if only for medical reasons, Candice should eventually be told the truth. However, because her mother feels so strongly, that may have to wait until she's an adult. It is my belief that children should be told the truth about their parentage as early as possible. Since I may not know all the facts in this case, the girl's mother may have valid reasons for feeling as she does.