Dear Annie: I am happily married to the love of my life and we have three beautiful daughters. There's only one problem — the oldest isn't his. My husband and I met when my daughter was 5 months old. Her biological father and I were together for two years, and I found out he was unfaithful. So I told him the child was not his.

My husband is a wonderful father and has never shown any favoritism with our children. My daughter is 7 now, and I know she will figure things out sooner or later. I believe my choices have given her a much better life, but I also live with the daily guilt that I have lied to her and to her biological father.

I don't want my daughter to hate me someday for keeping things from her, but I also don't want to subject her to paternity tests, courtrooms and growing up in two different homes every other weekend. What is a good age to discuss these things with her? How do I make things right without destroying her life? — Sorry Mom

Dear Mom: There are repercussions for withholding this information — you are hiding your daughter's medical history, you are keeping secrets that she will eventually discover and resent you for, and you are preventing a father from knowing his child. There's no question the truth will open a can of worms, but it has to be done, and soon. It will help to first discuss the process with a counselor who specializes in adoption. And before contacting the biological father, we strongly urge you to seek legal advice so you are prepared for the possibilities and can protect your child while she gets to know him. The important thing is for your daughter to be reassured that you and your husband love her now and always.

Dear Annie: I am a 14-year-old girl, and my grandparents live 1,000 miles away, along with the rest of my extended family. I don't see them often, so this past December, my grandparents insisted my older sister and I come to visit.

The whole time, my grandparents mocked and criticized my sister because of the college major she has chosen. Then they complained about how they had to use all their frequent flier miles and money to pay for our tickets to visit when they could have gone to Europe instead.

My sister and I returned home very hurt. My grandparents are coming here shortly for my sister's graduation, and I'm not sure what to do because I don't want to talk to them. — Leave Me Alone

Dear Leave Me: Obviously, your grandparents valued your visit over a trip to Europe, but they wanted you to think they had made a great sacrifice. As for your sister's major, they simply need to believe they have some input in her decisions. These things make them feel important and have little to do with you. Practice ignoring the nastiness, don't respond to their unkind comments and change the subject when necessary. It will get easier in time.

Dear Annie: I've been online dating for nearly 10 years since my divorce and, for the most part, having a ball. I've been desperately in love, had my heart ripped out, enjoyed several long-term relationships and am still going strong at age 68.

Some tips: Be honest. To say you are athletic and toned when you're two ax handles wide will net you some rejections. "A few extra pounds" is 20, maybe 30. It is not 100. Lying about your age is dumb and obvious, and posting a picture that's 20 years old is also a mistake, but good (and realistic) pictures will improve your chances tenfold.

Women should not list phone numbers or addresses, and initial meetings should be in public places where there are adults in charge. — Sarasota, Fla.

Dear Sarasota: Thanks for being the voice of experience. Your tips are solid and our readers will appreciate them.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.