Kathryn has been writing and publishing for over 25 years. Currently, she writes for The Examiner, Ask Mom and Today's Mama as their Parenting Single Mom blogger.

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How to talk about “Daddy” and still be honest

Honesty. It’s one of those things my parents drilled into my head. Tell your friends the truth. Don’t cheat on tests. Pay for that shirt honestly.

What I began to realize as I was growing up was that honesty could be tricky at times. When a friend asks you if the lipstick she is wearing looks great and it doesn’t, what do you say? If you’re at home but don’t want to talk to that particular someone on the phone, what do you do? When you’re asked to help someone else and you tell them you’re busy—when you’d just rather not talk—is this lying?

Honestly, it’s easy to lie, and even easier to white-lie, if there really is such a thing. It is easy to smooth over the truth so that the other person doesn’t feel bad. It’s easy because we don’t want to have a confrontation. We don’t want the other person to think badly of us, or worse, take us off their “good friends” list.

But what if that someone is our ex-husband? What if our children truly want to know the truth about their dad? What if they ask us on a constant basis? What if their needs are never satisfied?

I didn’t know the complete truth about my dad until after I married, and even then, there were simply two sides to the story and I had to decide whether or not to let go of the anger and frustration I felt about the stories not completely matching up.

Truthfully, I don’t believe either of my parents was lying. Rather, they saw each situation from their own eyes and in their own way. And the same will be true for you.

Perhaps your husband was verbally abusive. You tell your children that you and daddy didn’t get along. As they grow older, they want to know what really happened. You tell them that daddy sometimes said some words to you that made you sad. They accept that. When they’re older they want to know about the words. You tell them the words. They want to know why he said the words—why daddy treated you that way. You tell them he was verbally abusive—that he drank too much, or had some emotional problems that needed medication. By that time they will know what the word means. They will have an understanding of what it means to be verbally abusive to someone else.

I don’t believe it’s lying to tell a child that you couldn’t get along. It’s okay to hold back the gruesome facts, facts that probably won’t be understood, to protect your child. But if they’re a teenager, and the question is asked about the words daddy said, you have every obligation to tell them how you felt and why you felt you were verbally abused. They have a right to know.

I don’t say these words lightly.

When I asked, I wasn’t told. I wondered. I dreamed up lots of different things about daddy that weren’t true. When I found out the truth, there were things that were brand new to me—things I hadn’t thought of. In my case, I wished I’d known sooner.

Knowing the truth about my dad helped me to understand him better from my mom’s point of view. When I finally began seeing my dad as a married adult I came to the day when I could ask him the same questions I’d asked my mom.

Were the answers different?

Well, yes and no. The circumstances were pretty much the same. She said he did such and such, he admitted he did such and such. She said he did it for this reason. He said he did it for that reason. The circumstances jelled but the reasons for doing them were different.

I discovered that as individuals, we choose what we choose for varying reasons, some really only understood by us. And that that’s okay.

I realized that both parents loved me in their own way and for different reasons. They both loved me and always would.

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Comments (1)

  1. erinoltmanns 05/28/2010 at 11:27 am

    Thank you for this. This thought process could be applied to so many familial relationships…