Ask Amy: I wish I could undo the surprise that tore our family apart

Dear Amy: You frequently encourage people to pursue their DNA heritage.

My two siblings found out that their biological father is entirely unknown. Knowing this has definitively destroyed the relationship between the siblings.

I honestly feel as though there is a point at which knowing or understanding true parenthood is harmful to relationships.

This ultimately undermines the idea of familial bonds.

I would like to offer my entire disapproval and negation of your opinions in this matter. I ultimately respect your viewpoints, but if the greater overall good is to benefit from ignorance, as it relates to family relationships, I do feel as though ignorance is bliss.

I wish I could turn back the clock.

Wanting Ignorance

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Dear Wanting: To be clear, I don’t encourage people to pursue their DNA heritage – I do state that people have the right to know the truth about their DNA, if they choose to pursue it.

Given the aggressive marketing and availability of home test kits, many people are choosing to have their DNA tested.

Possessing this knowledge can also completely upend family relationships – as your story illustrates.

Anyone having their DNA tested should do their best to prepare for the impact.

Dear Amy: I’m the youngest of three siblings. My two brothers live a couple of states away from our parents, who are in their 80s. I live the farthest away, on the opposite coast.

At the beginning of the pandemic, like most families, we connected on Zoom. There were tech hurdles for my parents, but they navigated them as best they could.

A couple of times we played games, had virtual parties, or watched funny cartoon clips, but the relatively boring meetings where we exchange small talk seem to be the most popular.

For my rapidly aging parents, I think these one-hour monthly meetings are a lifeline. It’s like magic to them to see us all on their laptop.

However, also like most families, the desire to continue this has diminished, especially as people are doing more things in person.

But we still live very far apart, and I’m increasingly frustrated and sad that they’re unable or unwilling to show up.

I’m aware that our parents will not be around forever, and I know that they really do enjoy these Zoom calls. Clearly, I do, too!

I’ve invested a lot in making these events happen. I purchased a paid plan so that we can go as long as needed. I host them at a time that’s not ideal for me (three hours ahead) but that seems to work best for the rest of the group, and I send out reminders with links to join and a funny image each month. I’ve also made slideshows and custom games for the virtual meetings.

This diminished desire is understandable among my brothers’ kids, who are in their late 20s. My son is 12 and I want him to learn that you show up for family. I also want to see my family as much as I can, and for my son to see them as well.

Any advice for how to manage my feelings and/or make these Zoom meetings more attractive to my family?

 Seeking Family Connection

Dear Seeking: I well remember those first Zoom cocktail parties in the early days of the pandemic; virtual connection opened up so many possibilities – and then our human tendency toward tedium set in.

I applaud your efforts to set up these meetings, and to keep them going. I assume other families are experiencing the dynamic you describe.

I suggest contacting both of your brothers to express your concerns regarding these virtual meetings.

One idea would be for each of you three to rotate through “hosting” the meeting each month – this would give your brothers more ownership in the process, making them more likely to show up and to encourage their children to join (you would still send out the all-important link).

I hope readers will offer their own suggestions.

Dear Amy: “In the Dark” was upset because her boyfriend had no interest in acknowledging her birthday.

I agree that’s strange, but maybe it’s because birthdays were not celebrated when he was growing up.

When I was growing up my parents never celebrated their anniversary. To this day I never remember my own.

 In the Dark, Too

Dear Too: Some cultures don’t celebrate birthdays, but in this case, the boyfriend claimed to have no interest in even learning the date of her birth.

This can be important information to possess about a partner.

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You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

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