It is not difficult for me to discuss what is going on with my husband (we are still technically married, though when the divorce is final it is habit that I do not use the “ex” word until I am in another relationship), because it is my reality. It usually comes as a shock to people when they ask me what is going on. I am very forward about it, but I am not a fan of “beating around the bush.” One girl recently asked me what I am going to do about telling my beautiful little girl…I suppose my response to that also came as a shock …
Maybe it’s just the way I work, but plenty of things went in one ear and out the other, as a child (in case you could not tell by the visible evidence of my rebellious years, after growing up a member of The Church), except a select few. Those few things stuck with me my whole life, thus far, even though I heard some of them at an extremely young age. I was usually too young to understand them when I first heard them, but I suppose that is why they never left me.
Well, somehow in my adolescence I heard of teenagers being told some very important information about themselves or their parents for their first time. Can you imagine!? Maybe you can. Maybe you experienced that too. Well, that is something I pondered off and on since I heard it, which was probably in my pre- or early teen years. Interesting how some things just work out that way. This is definitely not the only story I have like this either. Apparently, that was something I was meant to hold on to and allow to sink in, because I would have to one day know what to do if I were put in that situation – or better yet ensure my own child does not experience that.
So, why do I make such a big deal about it? Why am I so against someone’s parent waiting until they are “old enough to understand” or “mature enough” to tell them a pretty important detail about their life? Because that is wrong.
I love analogies. Join me in one, if you will.
Imagine yourself as a young child. You are about three years old, and you are learning the art of pottery. Your father is teaching you. Oh, you love him dearly. He is your hero, and you are creating some of your best ever memories, and he is in each one of them, without fail. You do everything with him. You want to be just like him. He is a master at everything! And he knows how much fun you will have with him and this big blob of wet clay. Your first attempt at it is a mess. But, it is okay, you share in hysterical laughs! A few years pass by and you can steadily keep the clay in the center of the wheel, so long as his hands are on yours. That is about as far you get though. A few more years pass, and you can make a bowl! He guides your hands with his the whole time, but you are so proud of that bowl you created together. Subsequently, a few more years pass. You two have been working hard together. Your talent has sure grown immensely, and you have your father – your hero – to thank; all those long hours he spent with you just because you really enjoyed creating something from nothing. You told him you wanted to make something really nice, and asked him to accompany you. You did the molding and sculpting with only your hands this time, but he was right by your side, talking you through it, giving you helpful counsel. You created the most intricate vase with tiny cutouts and notches and engravings of flowers and leaves. You have never been so proud of anything.
Well, the following evening your father comes home from work, as usual. Your brand new vase is standing tall in the center of the table. You have been sitting there admiring it for a while now, and your dad picks it up, without a care in the world, and forcefully chucks it at the wall…it shatters into tiny pieces that fly in all directions.
Now, switch roles. You’re the dad that just carelessly destroyed evidence of love. That intricate vase from which years of work turned into a reality? Your child’s trust in you. I am not being dramatic either. That is what happens when you hold on to a secret that should have never even been a secret for years. Don’t do that.
Children are way smarter than you think! And children are being born smarter and smarter. Give them the benefit of the doubt. You’ll be glad you did. You can tell your child what happened to his/her mother or father when they first ask. Tell them where they are. Tell them they are adopted. Whatever it is, tell them! You know how to speak to children. Tell them in the way they will understand!
That is one of my biggest tasks in years following. I cannot mess it up. If I mess it up, I can mess my daughter up, or I can mess up our relationship. And right now she has me. What would that do to her if I mess up her only good parental relationship? When she hits two or three and she notices lots of other children with two parents – and we live in Utah, so that will be noticed pretty easily – and gets curious why she is “different” I will tell her right then and there. “Daddy did something bad, so he is in trouble, and he cannot be here.” But you know what? There is no way I am going to be able to tell her what she needs to hear – what she is supposed to hear – without fervent prayer. God knows her SO much better than I do, so He will let me know how I need to tell her what and when. I just have to ask. You just have to ask. Don’t parent alone – it’s not a good idea. You have a great parent in heaven there at any moment. Allow Him to help. You will be so glad, and relieved, you did.