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Ask Amy: Go slow in contacting father

Dear Amy: My daughter is now in her 50s. Her birth was the result of a relationship I had in high school, and she's never officially met her father.

Dear Amy:

My daughter is now in her 50s. Her birth was the result of a relationship I had in high school, and she's never officially met her father.

At 18, she went to his office to introduce herself and wish him a happy birthday.

He told her that he did not have a daughter. My daughter is now married and has two sons and a grandson. She would like to meet him again so that he can know his grandsons, but she does not know how to go about it.

Do you have any suggestions?

- Wondering Mother

Dear Wondering: Let's start with the worst idea and work backward. The worst idea is to ambush a man at his workplace to wish him a "happy birthday" and introduce yourself as his daughter.

Because you provide no other information or context, I'll assume that this was the misguided idea of an 18-year-old in pain and eager for a connection. I can only hope that you didn't encourage this long-ago episode.

Repeating this tack - with grandchildren and great-grandson in tow - would be ill-advised.

Your daughter needs to sort out and clarify her reasons for wanting to know her father and prepare herself for the range of possibilities in meeting him.

This man is much older, and it is quite possible he would value a connection with his daughter and her children and grandchild, but she should try to imagine how surprising, overwhelming and potentially painful this could be for him. It could turn his life and other relationships completely inside out. He has denied her once and might do so again.

If your daughter knows how to reach this man, I think that a letter or e-mail would be best for the initial contact with him. She could carefully craft a message, read it over a few times, attach photographs, and invite him to be in touch with her.

Your daughter's instincts are completely understandable. A counselor would help walk her through this and provide ongoing support.

Dear Amy: A year ago, I wrote and asked you what to do about my son's girlfriend's atrocious table manners. You advised me to talk to her about it.

My husband and I found ourselves disliking her more and more because of this. It took my husband and me a year to speak with her.

After consulting with a couple of other family members (and our son), we finally had a plan of how to approach the subject without being attacking.

We talked to her by phone (she lives far from us) and brought up all our concerns in a "We know you don't realize the effect these behaviors have on us" tone. Her response was wonderful!

She said she really enjoyed being part of our family and she appreciated our bringing up the issues. She also said she would hate for us to hold back and then not like her and for her not to know why.

We were impressed with her emotional intelligence. We turned around completely in our opinion of her.

At the next family gathering, she showed us that she had heard all of our concerns and responded to them with a total change in her behavior.

- Pat

Dear Pat: Good for you - and her! You are right about emotional intelligence. That's exactly what it takes to hear a loving correction, acknowledge it as such, and make an honest effort to change.