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April 24, 2004



I think any family member who lies is a creep. I know first hand having had many of lies told to me. It only creates a lot of bitterness. The truth usually comes out eventually and it is worse the later it happens.



It seems to me that, like most child-rearing issues, this one comes down to really knowing your child. Like Melissa, I have a 'worrier,' and I am careful about assessing her ability to cope with information. She's only 6. We have tried to be very open, to the extent that information will not traumatize her. When her great-grandfather died, I prepared her while he was ill by telling her that I didn't think he was going to get well. Like Melissa, when I explained his death, I added, "But Mommy and Daddy are not going to die." Not, "We are never going to die." About 2 years later, she started asking more questions about death. On the other hand, when my husband was laid off, we told her right away that Daddy was stopping his old job and that he was going to find a new one, because his company couldn't afford to pay everyone and told some people that their jobs were over. However this didn't worry her because, at 6, it didn't occur to her that this situation might be a problem. So, that was 'easy' to be honest about.

I agree that family secrets suck. They are also rarely true secrets, in the sense that children generally know if something is in the air, though they are likely to blame themselves for it if they don't know otherwise. And it is also quite puzzling to me why, at 12, your parents weren't more candid with you about what had happened. Of course, we don't know anything else about the context of your parents, your upbringing, or anything else to even try to make sense of this.

What I do know, though, is that it's been very important to me, as a parent, to forgive my parents for the mistakes they made in my upbringing. I've only been doing this for 6 years and I've already made plenty of boners myself. When I hang on to a lot of anger about my childhood, it keeps me from being secure in my own choices. I know both my parents did their best, even when, in retrospect, I sometimes (often?) needed better than they were capable of delivering.

Hope Wilbanks

Yes, I think info pertinent to your health should be told. But there is the possibility that she might have forgotten to tell you. ;)

Marcia Lynx Qualey

Sorry Melissa...That's what I did mean. I was just feeling scared and touchy. You're right. There is a line--there's no need to confront a four-year-old with the knowledge of genocide, for instance. At least, I don't think there is.


Ignorance is bliss. Many people have no idea the significance of things that happen to their children. Parents {I am one} hover over their children, watch, worry and brush things aside. Not because they don't care... It is because they do. Often the only way to cope is to ignore and hope it goes away. I don't blame your Mom... I understand her... knowing many people right in her shoes. I have been a Medical Professional for many years and knowing what I know puts me in an uncomfortable position... I am damned if I do and damed if I don't. Would I tell my child I thought he/she had a problem... YES I would. I am not sure the capacity of some people for the cope or the knowledge. We all have levels. What works for one person, may not works for the other. Decisions in life are weighed. If one of my children "did not" have the place to understand I would not frighten them with what I knew. If I was unsure of the "whole" of it I would not devuldge... what I knew/or thought. Maybe fright scares some so much they retreat and don't say. GREAT POST... hard choice.


The funny thing with us is that we are usually truthful about the 'big' stuff and lie about the little stuff. Like this one - I didn't want to have Teddy's Birthday party at a certain place (for various valid reasons all of which Teddy would have disagreed with). So I told him the place he wanted was booked that weekend for birthday parties. He actually had loads of fun at the Bowling Party and said he was glad he did that instead of the other place (without me asking him).

On the other hand, when our dog died (we were living far away from the dog - we left it with family) we told her the truth - that he got sick. She was sad about it but handled it very well.

My daughter worries about death but we tell her that it won't happen for a long, long time. That seems to soothe her.

The only thing I can think of that my Mother lied about was that she gave the impression that she and my father liked each other. They divorced when I was 1. I didn't realize that they didn't like each other until I was in my late teens. I am actually grateful for this lie. I had a a great childhood - much better than if they had always been fighting and arguing in front of us - or worse, trying to get us to take sides.

I do agree that your mother should have told you what really happened. 12 is definitely old enough to understand it.


We've told our four-year-old son about death. I was very proud of my husband when he explained why it was important that he attend a memorial service for a coworker who died and what death was. We also had to explain to him about a friend's dog dying and why there was a moment of silence during the NFL draft for Pat Tillman, the ex-NFL player who became an Army Ranger and was killed Afghanistan.

I'm not sure that Nathan understands what we're trying to explain to him about death. He just knows it's something important, that the person/dog is no longer here, and death makes people sad sometimes. He talks about it "out of the blue" on occasion, but doesn't seemed worried about it. He asks if we're going to die and we tell him, yes, but not for a long, long time. I think that answers satisfies his curiousity at this point.

I remember how my friend couldn't even say "death" or "dying" in front of her very intelligent 6-year-old who was asking questions on the subject. I thought instead of turning it into an opportunity to explain a major life issue, she instead was being an overprotective ninny. But that's the way she was raised, so I wasn't surprised by her reaction. Her mom was like that, too.


I don't have anything to keep from Lillianna but if there were a problem I would definitely tell her. She had an allergic reaction to Amoxicillin when she was 3 and since then she speaks up at ever doctor's appointment to let the doctor know about this allergy.
I tell her everything. Occasionally she worries about stuff but I feel like the more information she has the safer she will be.
I would never keep vital information from my child.


Marcia, I apologize. I was taking your situation (which I do understand) and relating it to the things I have found myself 'lying' about as a mother.

I do think your mother made an error in that judgement, but someday my daughter may say the same thing about my decision to withold certain information from her until I choose to tell her.

Your post made me think about the information I keep from my children and I thought that's what you were asking.

Marcia Lynx Qualey

Well no, I don't plan to tell Isaac, "Hey, did you know that mommy will die some day? Bwah, hah, haaaaaaah..."

He'll find that out on his own just fine.

But I also don't intend to out and out lie to him. If he has asthma or rickets or hepatitis, goodness, he should know. Especially if he's 12, as I was when I seized. Having been the uncoverer of several, I think family secrets suck.


I mentioned the same thing happened to me. A piece of key information was withheld until my daughter had a febrile seizure. Though, I was a baby when I had the seizure and I'm sure my mother didn't think about it again as I got older and had my own child since febrile seizures are in fact harmless, though not emotionally harmless.

As for what I tell my daughter and what I do not. My daughter is highly sensitive, so I have to choose my words very carefully. Not so much to protect her from the truth but because she literally stays up at night worrying about things like kidnappings and mommy or daddy dying. I talk about everything she brings to me openly and honestly. However, discussions about death have blatant lies in them. "Mommy will never die." Because if I say I probably won't die, but I could. My daughter will cry in the night about the possibility.

I figure, I most likely won't die and if I do she'll have one million emotions to deal with at that point and she will most likely go to therapy and she and the therapist can work out the fact that I lied about the possibility of my death.

Other things I 'lie' about until she is older and able to hear more information. For example, my father committed suicide. She wonders where my father is. I've told her he was very sick and died. Which is in effect true. But I am not prepared to explain suicide to a 5 year old. I'm not actually sure when she will be able to understand the truth of the events in our family history, but I tow the line to protect her emotions.

I guess, what I'm saying in my typically verbose way is: It's not as simple as always being honest with our children, even when it's scary.


I agree with you: I would tell my son. Especially at age 12 - there wouldn't be a problem with comprehension at that point, and I think it is important for a child that age to understand that if something were to happen like that again, s/he would need to know for safety purposes. I don't know - I understand parents who want to protect their kiddos from stuff like this. But I think it is more important for a child to know that if they feel funny, or if something like that were to happen without Mom or Dad around - God forbid - they'd know to seek help. I am sorry you went through that, Marcia. I hope yourbaby boy is OK...thinking of you...

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