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Let's start out by saying I have one slightly unusual aspect of my life, I am a known sperm donor. I've donated to more then one couple trying to have children (through AI, nothing sexual). Our agreement makes it clear I am not a parent for these children, I won't interfere with the actual parents choices in how to raise the child or try to demand custody; however, I still care about the children and try to stay involved in their lives as much as the parent's allow.

I visit and play with the kids as often as I can, I'd say I have a kid visit at least every other weekend on average. I skype with kids who are further away, and have babysat closer children. I've arranged for larger donor-sibling get-together's a few times a year so all the kids can play together and my parents have even met one mother and her daughter, at the mother's request. I still know my boundries as a donor, I would never claim to be a parent to these children or violate the wishes of their parents, but my point is that there is still a real connection with the kids I'm allowed to know and it is a non-trivial part of my life.

My sister is not supportive of my being a sperm donor, which I think has more to do with complicated sibling rivlary reasons then her disagreeing with sperm donation in general. In any case, while she hasn't explicitly forbiden me in words, she has made it quite clear she does not wish for me to share the fact that I'm a sperm donor, or that I have a relationship with the kids, with her own children. For the record her husband doesn't seem to have strong feelings either way on this subject.

This already goes against my preferences, as I believe very firmly in open and honest communication with children. I think sheltering kids from facts 'until their older' leads to many potential negatives, including kids feeling lied to later, kids viewing world in more black-and-white manner that leads to treating people who are different worse, and a lack of openness in communication which leads to older children making stupid mistakes because they were afraid to come to their parents for advice. In short, were it my decision, I would explain my being a donor, to the level each child is capable of understanding, immediately. However, I also am very aware of the importance of respecting the parent's decisions and don't intend to go against my sister's wishes even if I disagree with them in this situation.

However, I'm feeling worse about keeping this a secret from her eldest son, who is now a teenager in high school and quite capable of understanding the concept (though, admittedly, his keeping the secret from his siblings is not as gaurentted). Lately he has made jokes about my never dating (I'm aromantic) and specifically asking "when am I going to have cousins", which makes not sharing the fact that at least from a biological sense he already has some feel more like a direct lie. Furthermore he has already overheard about my visiting with or babysitting donor children and has asked about who the chlidren were before. I have had an extensive history of volunteering with children in general, so usually all that is needed is a slight diversion from the question and he will end up presuming that the cihld in question is just another child I'm volunteering with; but again it feels dishonest to evade a question and allow him to make a (partially) false conclusion.

I have no intent of violating his mother's wishes by actually telling him I am a sperm donor, at least not until he is old enough that he deserves the right to make decisions independent of his mothers, and can be trusted not to say anything to his siblings against his mother's wishes. However, are there any options for me to mitigate the risk of his feeling I was lying to him all this time when he does learn (without placing the blame entirely on his mother for the lie either). How can I be as honest as possible, in communicate to him, or his younger siblings, that there is more to the story that I can't share yet, but that I intend to, without violating his mother's wishes or making him curious enough that he keeps asking his mother uncomfortable questions?

  • Hiding a major part of your life to protect you sisters sensibilities seems like a pretty big deal for not having a clear conversation about it. – user26011 Aug 17 '17 at 13:43
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    That last part makes this very hard (it not impossible), because normally I would just suggest honesty: "I promised your mother not to talk about it. Maybe when you're older." – Erik Aug 17 '17 at 13:52
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In response to your last question:

You can't.

Your sister has made her feelings very well known in this matter. Given that withholding this information or failing to act does not imperil the lives of your niblings, you don't have much wiggle room. If you want to preserve your relationship with your sister's family and your sister, you will need to follow her rules even if you disagree with them.

There is an exception.

When your niblings are legal adults (according to your local country's laws), I personally think it's fair game to sit down with each in turn and have an honest conversation with them. When you do, don't immediately mention their mother didn't want them to know, simply state that the children they've seen and heard about are your donor-children and are very important in your life.

If they press you for why you didn't tell them sooner, you can explain that some people feel very strongly about the topic, and that they are within their rights to feel that way and that you've refrained to avoid making them uncomfortable. Avoid at all costs hinting or saying outright that it was their mother. She has the right to parent as she sees fit, but once the children are adults in their own right, the children also have the right to make their own decisions for better or for worse.

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I can understand the sister and her not wanting to tell her kids. It's not my take, but I can see reasons she might feel that way.

Her children are biologically cousins to your donor children, but since, as you say, you are not parenting, they aren't the sorts of cousins you hang out with. She may want to avoid the feelings and questions her kids might have about that. I would have feelings about it. I adore my nieces & nephews and be sad to know there are some out there that I can't be part of their lives. So not having them know might also allow her to avoid dealing with her own feelings on it as well, particularly if you are her only sibling & only "chance" to be an aunt. Presumably from the way you speak of her children, you enjoy being an uncle. So in that regard perhaps you can understand that aspect.

It is also an unconventional arrangement. She may find it topically difficult to explain how you care about children that are biologically yours, enough to have some involvement, but not so much that you are raising them. This is a complex emotional issue to kids and normal that they might have a hard time understanding it.

And while yes, I too believe in honesty with my kids on the whole, I also recognize that much in life is on a need to know basis. Not all things are actually any of my children's business. That isn't lying. They merely do not need to be told. Currently my one sibling is having an affair and has been for some time. This has caused friction privately between us. It does not mean I prevent visits with my kids, but it is not something I am going to tell my kids. A divorce will be coming and I did tell my children that with no specifics. I would be incredibly angry if my sibling decided to tell them all this, even if they asked. They don't need to hear about adult marital issues that don't concern them. I also think it's healthy for them to understand boundaries and what you have a right to ask/know and what is someone's private business to share at their own pace & comfort level.

If it were their bio father we were talking about here, their donor, I can see children feeling as if not knowing this info would be akin to lying. If you grew up to find out your parent's friend "Bob" was actually your bio dad, then yes, it stands to reason you would feel lied to. As it stands though, this information isn't about them or their lives. Not everything in the lives of people I am close to is my business. If I found out now that my sibling was a donor I'd be surprised, but not upset that I wasn't told. It's not really my business unless they want to tell me and they can tell me before, later, never, whenever. If it doesn't change my life, then there is no reason I have to be told.

So if later you talk to them about this when older, I would merely explain that. It is an aspect of your life, but being as you are not parenting these children, and the cousins can't really have the typical "cousin" sort of relationship, it isn't something that actually in any way involves your relationship to your nieces/nephews. You can then go on to say you find this to be a very fulfilling aspect of your life (which seems to be the way you describe it) and that you are very glad you have done this, etc. If they knew since day one, it changes nothing in their lives, literally. The main issue it seems, is that you find this an important part of your life and wish to be able to talk about it to others, openly. I can understand that, but I don't think it's akin to lying to the kids to not talk about it now.

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