It’s Complicated!!

complicated creaturesI’ve written many times before about my complicated family, and my self-help book Become the Best You details my dysfunctional childhood in depth.

When I was twelve I confronted my mother and step-father about the doubts I had over him being my ‘real dad’. These doubts were mainly fuelled by the way he always treated me differently – there was something just not quite right. This was their golden opportunity to fess up, tell me the truth and make the lies okay. To make me understand why they made the decisions they did, and to ask for me to forgive them. Instead they looked me in the eyes and told me an elaborate bunch of lies about the reasons my birth certificate said ‘father unknown’. They looked me in the eyes and told me he was indeed my ‘real dad’, and that he loved me just as much as he did the half siblings I grew up with. Four years later, after my second suicide attempt in a year and their final separation, my mother told me the truth. I already knew most of it anyway, because I’d discovered over the years that my parentage was no secret in our wider family. Everyone else was in the know, and they didn’t bother filtering their conversations around me. Was it any wonder I picked up on the situation and questioned it the way I did at such a young age? 

Although my biological father is a fairly ‘normal’ man, nothing in my life was straight forward back then. When my mother put us in touch with eachother it transpired that he had kept my existence a secret from his wife. He and my mother had an affair when he was engaged to his wife, and when my mother found out she was pregnant she gave him an ultimatum expecting him to break off his engagement. He didn’t, and although the two of them remained in contact while she was pregnant and I was a baby, as soon as she met my step-father she told my dad that he couldn’t see me any more. In her minds eye he should have fought for me, but he didn’t. 

Nowadays with a 300 mile physical distance between us, I only see him sporadically. The last time was on our 5½ year old daughter’s second birthday. He’s gained two more grandchildren since then. I have often questioned why I bother having him in my life, but I always come back to this: he has never pretended the situation is anything other than what it is. I don’t doubt that he genuinely loves me, and wishes things were different, but it’s all too late now. If this secret came out it would destroy his marriage and his family. I don’t want to be responsible for that. I don’t need vengeance, I made my peace with all this a long time ago. So he calls every now and then, and sends us cash at Christmas to buy the kids presents. It’s all he’s capable of doing, and I don’t expect anything else from him. 

What’s your point I hear you ask? For what it’s worth I’ve come to this conclusion: secrets and lies do nothing but cause harm. They tear families apart, and leave people broken hearted. I would advise anybody thinking of telling lies like this to their children to carefully consider the long term ramifications first. The truth will come out one day, it always does, and when it happens what will the fall out look like? My mother’s justification was that it would have been too confusing for me as a small child. She assumed that growing up I would have used the truth as ammunition against my step-father. I disagree though, because if you are doing your job properly as a parent your children will grow up respecting the adults around them. Kids learn quickly though, It’s not a given. Perhaps deep down she knew this, and it was easier to just maintain the lie? 

Linking up:
The Prompt

 

 

 

WotW*for various different reasons, my word this week is complicated 

 

 

PoCoLo

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57 Replies to “It’s Complicated!!”

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  6. They really do! Thanks for popping by x

  7. Wow, you are incredibly brave to make the decision not to get angry at the contact you have with him, I’m not sure I could make that choice (but I guess you never know do you) you write like you have gotten over the anger, it feels very calm despite the content. And you are completely right re lies & secrets, they always do come out in the end so why hide things. What a great post, thank you for sharing x

  8. Very honest post. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment that secrets & lies cause harm x

  9. It’s a strange thing isn’t it, not knowing if your parent is even alive anymore. It’s the same for me with my mother – I have absolutely zero connection to her so no idea what is happening in her life. I think it’s easier this way. Totally understand what you’ve said here, and think absence is better for children than being let down the whole time by a father that can’t commit. At least it’s honest and consistent xx

  10. I totally get it. My history with my father is very odd too (no surprise there!). To be honest, I don’t know if he is alive or dead and he I last saw him when I was 17. I wouldn’t call him normal, more nomadic by all accounts. I don’t have the same feelings towards him as I do my mother because he did stay away. He was really chaotic, and if he’s of been in my life there would have been more drama than there already was. In a strange way I respect him for that. I love your honesty as always Renee #brilliantblogposts

  11. Oh hon that is a real predicament because people can be so defensive in these situations – especially as you’ve been there and have come out the other side already. Your poor sister, what a rotten way to go through life and now with a baby. Sounds like you did the right thing with your dad, there are only so many chances you can give a person xx

  12. They pick up on everything, and of course would understand that one day their sister isn’t there anymore. I think trying to say the ‘right’ thing can lead to people making quite silly statements. Children are so clever and initiative, yet often not given the credit they deserve x

  13. That’s a really tough predicament because in that situation you probably don’t want to rock the boat. I hope your friend’s daughter is understanding… I know I would have been at that age.

  14. Oh it’s just awful isn’t, the damage that’s created by lying. I hope your friend is ok? Really pleased you grew up with a loving dad (even if he wasn’t your father on paper)

  15. Thanks so much for your kind words my lovely xx

  16. I don’t think it’s glib at all lovely, you’ve just summed up how I like to be. Not just as a parent but with everyone in my life. I know some people like to hold their cards close to their chest, but I prefer the open approach xxx

  17. I’ve pondered this many times over the years Sophie. I have an older half sister from my dad’s first marriage and have met her and her

  18. I’ve pondered this many times over the years Sophie. I can’t imagine how hurt my dad’s wife would be if she found out like that.

    I think the thing most parents in this situation forget is that the kids aren’t kids for long. Blink and they’re all grown up. If you’ve abused their trust by being dishonest with them during their childhood it’s not a great start to your relationship with them once they are adults xx

  19. They really do…and when the truth comes out it leaves a trail of broken hearts 🙁

  20. That’s so true Sara, lies usually lead to more lies, and over time it gets very tricky to work out what the truth is. Although it was one of the biggest, this was far from being the only lie I was told growing up xx

  21. So not worth it because the truth will always come out eventually…

  22. Totally agree with you hon, that feeling of betrayal can be very difficult to forgive. Your poor brother 🙁 xx

  23. A brilliantly honest post. I have to say that I have chosen not to have a relationship with my father as I feel like I have ended up flogging a dead horse – giving him chance after chance. The lie bit is SO true. I am umming and ahhing about whether to talk to my pregnant sister about her relationship with the father of her baby. It smacks of my relationship with Grace’s father. I need to help her. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x

  24. I’m really glad the norms have now changed Denise! Poor girl, hope she’s ok? I think it would be more painful discovering it as an adult tbh.

  25. Ahh hon that’s tough – will you ever discover the truth? Totally with you on this. Lies are never ok, except santa and the tooth fairy 😉

  26. It’s so upsetting knowing that everyone else is in on the secret except you xxx

  27. You’re so kind Louise, thank you so much. My relationship with dad is far from perfect, but as I said, I don’t expect anything from him that he can’t give which makes it fine. I’d rather have him around than not xx

  28. After all this time I see it as a positive thing. I know exactly what I won’t be doing with my own kids xx

  29. It really is hon. I always fess up and take responsibility for my failings, and I think people really respect that. My 5yo asked me how babies are made and how they get out the other day… So I sat her down and told her. I heard her explaining to the toddler this morning that “mummy’s squeeze babies out of their mini, or get their bellies cut open”! I can imagine she has been frightening her friends at school with this information all week, but best to know sooner rather than later xx

  30. That must have been so hard for your mum! It’s really painful knowing that you are being lied to xx

  31. Thanks so much Carrie! My dad is lovely, it’s just a shame he lives so far away xx

  32. I think you’re right, economical honesty is ok sometimes, but lying never is xx

  33. Thanks so much Clare

  34. Kids are so much cleverer than they are often given credit for being, and as you said they forgive much easier than adults do…

  35. Thank you so much Mel, I always knew I had to break the cycle before having a family. Lies are never ever the answer xxx

  36. Such honesty in your writing. I agree that children know far more than some people think. When my daughter died people said my five year old wouldn’t know much about it. In fact he understood very well and still does. I know it’s not the same but just shows what children are like. I never knew my dad till a few years ago, but mum didn’t lie about him. #brilliantblogposts

  37. I have a close friend in exactly the same situation, her 13 year old daughter has no idea the man she calls dad isn’t her birth dad and I know it will all come out one day soon. I might show her this post. thanks for sharing (and how lovely of you to not want to upset your dad’s other family. ) #PoCoLo

  38. I totally agree with this. My life is ‘complicated’ and my dad told my step-mums lies. There was lots of don’t tell… growing up. Lets just say it has bitten him. My step-dad is amazing, I never threw anything at him growing up as he has been a great dad. I also know someone who had no-idea who is dad was, he too was lied too but the wider family knew the truth. It really messed him up and was so unfair. Great post #WotW

  39. I agree with the comments and Mel’s in particular you are not letting the past dictate your future, you have broken free and learnt from the mistakes your family made towards you and your siblings. Lies are never the answer and are always discovered. Thanks for being so brave and sharing your story. Thanks too, for linking up to #brilliantblogposts x

  40. Renee, this was heartbreaking to read so I can only imagine what it was like to write. You’re so right that children pick up on things a lot earlier and quicker than adults might think, and it makes one very conscious as a parent to be transparent and explain, rather than confuse and conceal. That sounds a bit glib, but I don’t mean it to be. I think the truth should be told, but I can sort of see why people want to hide it thinking they’re protecting someone. xxx

  41. This must have been such a difficult thing to go through. I honestly don’t know whether there’s much worse, psychologically, than knowing in your heart that something is a lie but having the people who you know and trust most in the world swear it isn’t. I guess as you say your mum genuinely believed she was doing the right thing by you, but I completely agree that honesty is so important – especially with children.

    I have to say also that I wonder about the wisdom of your father keeping you a secret from his ‘other’ family. A good friend of mine’s dad died recently, and it emerged when he did that he had another son in very similar circumstances to those you describe. It completely undermined everything my friend, his mum and his other brother thought about his dad, and I’m not sure they’ll ever forgive him.

    To make mistakes is completely human, but to cover them up with lies really isn’t for me… Great post as always xxx

  42. Very complicated and, yes, the truth always comes out. I think parents sometimes think they’re doing the right thing. Lies are used to protect. However, it’s misguided and can only ever complicate things. I have a lot of admiration for you’re honesty. X

  43. The problem with lies is that one lie almost always leads to more, and it is virtually impossible to keep them from unravelling, more so the bigger the lie. They really are never the solution, and ultimately, as you say, cause such harm. As always, your honesty is admirable, and hopefully helpful to others xx Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

  44. Complicated sums it up so very well and yes I agree with you about the secrets and lies it does cause more harm than good!

  45. Oh gosh, again I read a post and it’s like a memory of mine. My brother has a different dad to me, like you I had figured this out too through various inconsistencies in my mum’s timelines/stories and my father was horrid to my brother. I was only officially told when I was 16. My brother had known for much longer and it was painful to know people had lied to me. So I fully agree with you, secrets and lies are painful even if you think you’re protecting your child, it just isn’t worth the feeling of betrayal xx

  46. Even though norms have changed, even by the standards of the day your mum and step-father dealt with the situation terribly. I’m glad things have moved on in society, but even in my husband’s family very recently one of the teenagers found out when she came across her birth certificate that “dad” was not her “real dad.” At least in that case her parents did not attempt to lie their way out of it.

  47. I kinda understand where you are coming from. I am adopted and my biological parents and adopted parents always had different stories about why I was adopted. I personally believe in being honest with children (apart from that whole Santa and Tooth Fairy thing, haha). It is worse for children to grow up knowing they’ve been lied to their entire lives.

  48. Complicated indeed, Renee. I couldn’t agree more – secrets and lies cause nothing but upset. xxx

  49. Such a thought-provoking post. I agree that secrets and lies do far more harm than good. Although your relationship with your dad does sound quite complicated and it must be hard to be a secret, I guess the fact that your dad has always been honest about it all helps in a way. Sometimes it is easier to accept situations when we are clear about how they are and why they are that way. I really admire you for having the courage to be so honest and open about your past in order to break the cycle of dysfunction for your family and inspire others to do the same x

  50. It is very complicated. I think at 12, you weren’t a small child, and were capable of handling the truth, but then, each parent does what they think best at the time, I guess. Sound advice there, the truth always comes out at some pint, and the ramifications can be great if something’s been left too long x Thanks for sharing with #WotW

  51. Really made me think this post. You’re absolutely right – lies will always damage and I’ve always tried to be open and honest with Monkey when he’s asked me questions. Also as an adult, I’ve often been surprised how much better it is to tell the truth even though it is often easier to lie. xx

  52. I think truth is always better than lies. The truth will come out in the end. My mum was adopted, but her mum never told her, even though it was clear birth certificates etc were different. My mum really wishes she had been told the truth, she would not have loved her mum any less. I think it is more hurtful to try to hide these things. x

  53. The problem with lies is they rarely go away and I don’t think they can ever be truly forgiven. I’m glad you have a level of a relationship with your Dad, thank you for writing such an honest post x

  54. I agree, lying is very rarely helpful for anyone. Being ‘economical with the truth’ as the phrase goes can sometimes have its uses, but only occasionally. I suspect your mother was trying to protect herself as much as you-not in a bad way, just misguided? if you’re OK with having your father in your life in the current circumstances, I’d say that’s all that matters. What’s important is that you find a place where you’re comfortable with it all xx

  55. A very personal and insightful post. Children, as you point out, can sense when something isn’t right or honest – and it can be very distressing for them. #PoCoLo

  56. Life is indeed complicated, and I do agree that the truth comes out eventually. Kids accept the truth, but as adults is very hard to forgive the lies. A very thoughtful #wotw

  57. Lies are never the solution. I could not agree more with you. When you start uncovering little lies, you just have to scratch the surface a little and bigger ones transpire. You are doing such a great job analysing what your parents did, turning around and running in the other direction! It takes a lot of work and courage to break the cycle. Although you and your family are your dad’s secret, if you re happy when you see him / speak to him, then it is definitely worth having him in your lives. xxx

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