According to North Carolina TV station WRAL, Senator John Edwards is set to admit that he actually is the father of his former mistress's 18-month-old daughter.
I heard the news on the radio this morning, and immediately wondered what Edwards's family would do. The senator's wife, Elizabeth, is faced with yet another terrible choice: Accept her children's newly acknowledged half sister, or punish the toddler for being the product of an affair, something over which the child had no control.
Senator Edwards acknowledged the affair with Rielle Hunter last year (a federal grand jury is reportedly investigating whether he illegally used his campaign funds to pay Hunter to keep quiet about it). But he has consistently denied being the father of her baby, insisting that the affair ended in 2006, before the baby was conceived. In fact, he told Bob Woodruff on ABC news last year that he would welcome the chance to take a paternity test to prove his innocence. "I know that it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events, so I know it's not possible," he said in the interview. "Happy to take a paternity test, and would love to see it happen."
Apparently, he took that test in secret recently -- and the results weren't quite what he expected. The National Enquirer, which initially broke the news of the affair, reported that the results of the paternity test prove Edwards is the toddler's dad. A positive result on a paternity test is usually 99.99 percent accurate, so the chances of someone else being the father are slim-to-none. WRAL, citing anonymous sources, reported that Edwards will confirm that he's the father before the federal grand jury finishes its investigation.
All married couples deal with the blending of families, to an extent. Stepparents deal with it most, having to knit together relationships between existing children as well as inlaws and, sometimes, former spouses as well. But when the new family member is the product of an extramarital affair, how does the blending even begin?
The Globe Magazine recently ran a great article, about what it was like to grow up as the child of an affair. In "The Son Who Wasn't," Stefan Hogan describes what it was like living in the shadow of his father's "real" family. "I am my father’s sixth child," he writes, "and none of his other children knew until this past December that I existed."
Little Frances doesn't face the same fate, if only because her parents' affair and its aftermath have played out in public. So, now what? Should Elizabeth Edwards accept the toddler while continuing to shun her mom, the former mistress? Allow her own young children to meet their half sister, and let her older kids decide for themselves? Is it fair to deny a child a relationship with her siblings because of something her parents did?
Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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