Honesty is…usually the best policy


Telling your kids the truth is essential. O.K., not including conversations about recreational drug usage, alcohol, premarital sex or cigarettes.

My two closest friends happen to be married to men whose names rhyme. It’s a weird coincidence that I didn’t really even notice until this morning in the car, when my 10-year-old son Levi, for no apparent reason, said, “It’s too bad you aren’t still married to Uncle Larry, mom. Because then there’d be Cathy and Barry, Helen and Jerry, and Debra and Larry. Wouldn’t that be funny?”

Besides the shocking randomness of this observation, I was struck with the realization that my 6-year-old son, also in the car, had never been told that his mother had in fact been married prior to wedding his father and that this might come as a rather profound shock to him. I paused for a moment to regroup.

“Thank you for sharing that,” I said with a forced sort of politeness. Then I addressed my youngest and as simply and directly as possible said, “Eli, did you know that when mommy lived in Chicago, many many years ago, mommy was actually married to Uncle Larry?” I suddenly understood why calling my ex “uncle” was probably as bad an idea as my current hubbie had argued.

Dead silence.

“Do you remember Uncle Larry, honey?” I pushed onward.

“No,” he said, “Not really.”

Not sure how to proceed, I prayed for a sign from the parenting gods. Maybe I shouldn’t have told him. But he clearly heard what his brother had said. They say kids know everything, especially the stuff you avoid telling them. I had no choice. I had to say something. Of course I didn’t tell the older one until he was at least 8, and I only gave up the info when a gal pal innocently inquired about my first husband during an outing with our kids at Starbucks.

“Is Uncle Larry the chef guy, mommy?” my littlest inquired.

“Yes sweetie, he is. So you remember him?”

“Kind of, I guess.”

More silence.

“You were married to him?”

“Just for a short time. When I was very, very young.”

“Do I have any brothers or sisters?”

“No, honey. Just your big brother, Levi.”

“Has Uncle Larry ever been on ‘Chopped?’ ”

“I don’t think so, love.”

“If he was, do you think he would win?”

“Hmmm…that’s a good question. I’m not sure. He’s a really great chef though. He might.”

“Mom, will you ever marry anybody else?”

“No, sweetheart. I’m done marrying people. Daddy’s the one I was looking for and now that I found him, I’m never going to marry anyone else.”

“Okay. Mom, can we stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a cinnamon raisin twist on the way to school?”

I chuckled. “Yes, sweetie, we can.”

And with that our conversation came to a close. Was I right to share the info at this still tender young age? I’m not certain. But once the cat was out of the proverbial bag, I felt like I had no choice in the matter.

The good news is, there are no more secrets to burden my motherly soul. I don’t have any LSD-laced skeletons in my closet or arrest records I need to expunge. I am pretty much what I appear to be. I think that’s good for kids. It can’t be easy to learn that your cherished mother was once a toothless carnie or a handsomely paid exotic dancer. Luckily, I only had to tarnish my maternal image with a failed first marriage. In the scheme of things, that’s not so terrible.

But how do you explain to your kids the mistakes and failures of your past? Do you sugar-coat them? Exaggerate them to scare your kids into submission? Brush them off as merely the foolishness of youth? It’s hard to know what’s right.

Personally, I believe that telling your kids the truth is essential. Okay, not including conversations about recreational drug usage, alcohol, premarital sex or cigarettes. But as far as almost everything else goes, honesty is…usually the best policy.


  1. Regarding your first marriage:

    “There is no failure. Only feedback.” ~Robert Allen

    I enjoy your blog–since I don’t have children yet, it gives me some great insight.

    Saludos from Buenos Aires,


  2. Very well-written post.

    I don’t think it is a mistake to tell children the truth, especially that parents do make mistakes sometimes. Depending upon the age of the child, and their level of understanding, it may be that in revealing something like that you have provided a strong teaching point.

    If a child knows that a parent can make a mistake, admit it, and can then move on to correct it, won’t that give the child permission to learn and grow as well? Perhaps then the child won’t carry around personal failures as guilt to hide from his or her parents.

  3. A tough situation to be sure, but your son seems none the worse for wear. Now if you had refused the cinnamon raisin twist, it may have been another story altogether… 😉

    I too am grateful for the lack of skeletons in my closet — no toothless carnie or exotic dancer caliber secrets.

    But how do you handle the question: “Mom, do you like (fill in name of dad’s-new-wife-who-was-other-woman-in-my-marriage)?” That was a tough one, to which I responded, “Well, dad does, and she loves you, and that’s all that’s import — look! Did you see that squirrel with the purple mohawk and giant fangs?”

    Thankfully, it worked. Until my kids asked me to produce said-squirrel… 😉

  4. Great post! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    You were stressing out and your son was more concerned with Dunkin Donuts after mere minutes!

    My parents basically brushed off their stunts as being “young and dumb.” When I did something I wasn’t supposed to, it didn’t work for me though. They insisted that I knew better and would not get off the hook easily.

    (I’m with your husband on the calling the ex “Uncle.” It’s weird.”

  5. I agree — there’s such a fine line between teaching moments and “mom did it, so I can do it, too” catastrophes. I think you chose correctly. If your son was already onto dreaming of Dunkin Donuts, I don’t think you need to worry. 😉

  6. That was a wonderful conversation that you had with your children, Debra. I am sure as he grows up, he will realize that you had been honest with him and were just waiting for a right time to come to break the news to him.
    And 6 year olds might be more mature than we would think, so let him process it in his own way! My older one just turned 6 last week, and I know he has his own personality and tries to understand everything we say and don’t say in his own unique fashion.
    I am glad that burden is off of you, be assured that your kids will learn from this and know that it is OK to share their ‘secrets’ with you as they grow!
    Good luck 🙂

  7. I’m 30 and a few years ago my dad and I were having a few drinks in the kitchen at my parents house. We were just hanging out and he started telling me about some of the stuff he did in the 70s. Like pot. At first I was kind of mad that he had never told me, but then again, I never asked. I just assumed — based on his staunch anti-drug position — that he had never done it.


  8. I completely agree about telling your kids the truth about ‘life’ (with the exception of a few holiday figures in the early years). I think some of the more questionable events, possibly shared depending on age appropriatness as you mentioned. Congrats on being pressed!

  9. Nice maneuvering! A co-worker confided that she was terrified that her 11-year-old had a crush on a 14-year-old. My co-worker’s mother never had ‘the talk’ with her and she had no idea where to begin. I had suggested watching “Look Who’s Talking” with her daughter and let her daughter ask questions if they come up – I have no idea if she did it though. I’m not a parent myself, so I have no idea what I’d do if I were up against your situation or my co-worker’s.

  10. For me, the question isn’t whether or not to share my personal history with my children. I figure it’s my job to help them through life by explaining my successes and failures. It’s more a matter of timing. When do I explain to my teenager that I smoked grass? (And tell him that I think it’s relatively harmless!) When do I tell my 4th grader that I didn’t do very well in school, either?
    There’s the real challenge, I think. Not if, but when.

  11. I try to wait until they ask the questions. When you have multiples (I have 4) of different ages the little ones are some times present for conversation topics they might not be ready for. I have found that they tend to process info for a few days and then come at me with all the questions. The first thing I say is “why do you ask?” just to make sure I am answering the question they really want to know. My girl friend’s 4 year old once asked her what “gay” meant. My friend launched into a long explanation trying to use words that a 4 year old might understand. Her daughter looked very confused and finally said” what does that mean in the song” It turned out that she wanted to know what “don we now our gay apparel” meant. Lesson learned. I love your post! It is a lot to think about.

  12. Wow. I am always amazed about how touchy conversations like this are usually followed by requests for some kind of treat – food or otherwise.
    When my kids ask about their oldest brother’s dad, who is not their father, I refrain from “I hate the SOB” and stick with the “We became different people” line. They do not need that much truth.

  13. Great post and congrats on Pressed. There is some funny, funny stuff in there, yet a pretty serious philosophical twist with how much to tell your kids about your past. I don’t want to even start thinking about that with our four minis, but I know the day will come where I’ll have to divulge some dirt.

    And for the record, toothless carnies and exotic dancers both get a bad rap.

    Chase McFadden


    • Yikes, four minis??? And you seem so sane. Forgive the insensitive carnie/dancer remark. I meant to say “exotic carnie dancer” which is a totally different animal.

  14. My mom was married once (no kids) before marrying my dad (and they are still together). Maybe this is because I was the youngest of 4 and I could have learned it the way your younger one did, but as far as I can remember I always knew about the marriage. It never seemed like a big deal because no one made it a big deal – it was just a fact. It sounds like your kids feel that way too.

  15. Rhyming names can be a bit painful, memorable though. I’m called Andy and my wife’s called Mandy, nice. Everyone comments on it and we just smile politely as if it’s the first time anyone has pointed it out.

    I agree with you, honety is always the best policy especially where kids are concerned. They have the most amazing memories for what we as parents tell them.

    Kids, especially young ones tend to think that their mum and dad’s word is gospel, they have yet to discover cynicism, so if we are going to sugar-coat our own mistakes and foibles we have to do a damn good job of it, otherwise they will suss us out and there is nothing quite as bad as the feeling you get when one of your kids is disapointed in you.

    Kids come out with the most amazing things and just love asking questions, some of which you have never even considerd yourself!

    Their was a MacDonalds ad that ran in the UK a few years ago that featured a little girl quizzing her dad about the birds and the bees. To avoid the subject he asked her if she would like to go out and get a burger and a milkshake.

    When she replied excitedly that she would love to he breathed a huge sigh of relief before smiling to himself, his plan had obviously worked.

    As the little girl was getting her coat she called out to her dad “Then you can tell me all about it!”

    Kids don’t you just love ’em.



  16. I don’t know if honesty is necessarily the best policy. I prefer to go with ‘not lying’ which is two different things.

    When my ex and I separated, I told his kids that we didn’t get along and it made us sad so we decided not to live together anymore. It was the truth in a very general way but also wasn’t the truth at all because it was so much more icky and complicated than that. But it was the closest I was going to get to the truth because the truth was simply too ugly for words and not suitable for a child. I consoled myself with the fact that I managed to say something that wasn’t a lie and still made it suitable for a child.

    Sometimes the best you can do is simply not tell a lie because talking honestly about a situation is simply not an option.

  17. I remember asking my mom for years why my dad was in jail, starting from when I was 4 or 5. When I was 8 she finally told me that it was because he sexually abused my sister. I’m not sure in this case of honesty was the best policy?

    • Wow. That’s quite a heavy load for a kid to carry. Sorry she burdened you with that knowledge, especially at such a young age. Would have been more prudent to wait 10 or 12 years. Thanks for commenting and sharing your story.

    • My mom came out and told me that I was an accident, resulted from a busted rubber, and happily… I just laughed with her and appreciated the irony that I am stronger than I imagined to make it through a condom and managed to “stay inside her belly” while she, (given my dads orders), tried to “wash it out”… LMAO 🙂 Cheer up man!!! Everyone has something “bad” in their life, but all in all you still have happy moments that make every bit of pain you feel worth it. Including recieving that bad news as a kid. Look at it this way, at least you know why and don’t have to wonder…

  18. Reading your blog reminded of a similar moment I shared with my mom, when I realized that her wedding anniversary date was a month before my brother was born. Your description of you actions were virtually identical to hers. She allowed me to connect the dots and didn’t shy away from the truth and I think that was moment I realized that she really did live the ideals that she was teaching. It comforting to know that there are other mothers out there teaching by word and deed!

  19. I think you caught that fly ball brilliantly.
    Kudos to great parenting.
    It’s the secrets older children and even adults find out about their parents that cause the most damage.
    Lay the truth on the table.
    In simple bites.

    • Thanks for the fly ball image. I also really dig your “simple bites laid truthfully on the table.” That’s a metaphor I plan to chew on for a while 🙂 Very well said.

  20. I totally agree with you. I believe it is very important to talk with kids, to explain, to tell the truth. Why wouldn’t they tell YOU the truth if they discover you do not …

  21. I think it’s great that you told him. It’s best to just be honest about those sort of things; and it doesn’t have to be in great detail either, just the simple truth. When he’s older, it won’t be a huge shocking discovery now, because it’s just something he’s always known.
    Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

  22. I’d go with honesty… but as a person who grew up in a family where ALL the adults had been divorced, I can say that it was a major mistake to call your ex “uncle”.

    Kids might “know” everything, but they don’t actually understand any of it – and adding in needless confusion isn’t a great plan.

  23. It sounds like you handled it beautifully. If kids are asking honesty is always the best policy, and you put it in terms a kid would get. My husband was married before, and my daughter has only asked once. He gave her a brief description, and she’s never commented on it again.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  24. good post –congrats on FP–i find (mom of 21, 19 and 14 yo) that along with just answering their questions as they come –don’t offer extra information, my husband and i say “don’t argue about something that is too far in the future” e.g. “mom, i want to backpack through Spain next summer with brittany.” don’t argue about that until next April…
    keep writing,

  25. This is a great post and really important. I tried (not always successfully) to be honest with my kids, but I didn’t give information until they asked about it directly. That worked pretty well until they got a bit older and then some of the questions were in the category of “This is private. Period.” That’s when things got hairy. They are now 35,34,30 and I think they know mostly everything. Except for those years….

  26. I have always found it easy to explain things to my son who seems to always be aware of the big picture. The coming forth of information of our past, whether good or bad, can help explain why we as parents react as we do to certain circumstances. I think it helps kids understand more than confuse more.

  27. I feel at 28 that I wish my mother would have been more honest with me growing up. I never went to her with any issues or questions because I didn’t feel as thought she was “experienced” enough to understand and help me with issues. I always ended up going to my dad as he was more open with his past and generally gave me advice…..some questionable as I look back, but still advice.

    Now that I’m older I’ve found out that my mom was a peace child of the 60s and all that implies 🙂 I think life would have been easier had I just known the truth all along.

  28. nicely fielded! we had a moment just the other day when our daughter (6) asked “daddy, why do some people smoke?” we know well the answer to this question, having done our fair share of social smoking. but answering her honestly — that some people like the taste and the way it makes them feel — seemed out of the question. we did our fumbling best to be honest yet totally discourging and, having read your post, i’m thinking we probably did ok!

  29. I think we ultimately wish for our children to learn from our mistakes and make better choices than we did. The only way to do that is to share with them the mistakes of our past, ugly, embarrassing and stupid as they may be.

    Good post. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  30. I think you did the right the thing. The metric my parents used was when I expressed interest in something or brought it up, I was old enough to hear the details. Having a younger brother he was usually along for the ride and we ended up just fine ;).

    I really appreciated not being led around like some of my friends were by their parents. I think it helped develop the asking questions mentality at a younger age & the whole don’t believe everything you hear. Aka, where do babies come from, how does Santa Claus actually fit in the chimmey, etc.

  31. I have a friend who is 27, who is on her third marriage, and her daughter (of said third marriage) just turned one. She has said that she plans on not talking about the other two marriages. She says they “never happened”. Personally I think this is wrong, but then again I have never been married, nor do I have children, and I already think she’s a bit crazy for being on her third marriage and only being 27, but to each their own I guess. I think honesty is the best policy, but every parent is different, and every child is different.

  32. I think I agree to a certain extent about not expounding on pre-marital sex, alcohol and drugs, and divorce, but at the same time one needs to make sure one’s children are prepared for what they’ll come across out there as they make their place in the world. I think if I were a parent, I would wait until I believed my child was not only of age, but also of maturity, before really elaborating on these things. But as my child was growing up I would have tried to set an example of what s/he is not to do when s/he gets older. 🙂

  33. Sounds like you handled the situation well. I come from a family that’s big on realism. Honesty is definitely the best policy, even (or especially) in sticky instances like the one you had. The trick is to be creative/sensitive. Most parents don’t realize that kids will be okay if they are okay. Kudos to you.

  34. I’m a young father and this story has shined some light on parenting for me. I’m big on honesty and its hard at a young age to know whats the right thing to say to your kids. Now i do not have worry about this for a couple of more years hahaha but it puts it in perspective on what is the right thing to do.

  35. Yep, totally believe in honesty with my child. She is a mature, almost 10 yr old and we’ve had plenty of conversations about all kinds of topics, even drugs. Eventually kids will probably find out the truth and it’s better just to be open about it, age appropriately of course. Nicely written blog!!!

  36. Trying to be fully honest with my daughter about my ex and the 2nd partner but she’s too young for now. Sometimes I just want to speed up the days so she’d be old enough to understand more.

  37. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed- I loved reading your post. It brings up a good point. I’d rather my parents be totally honest with me, even if it lands us in a sticky situation.

  38. This is the age you should tell them everything. It’s the age when their brains are biologically “designed” to be adaptable. They take everything in stride as long as you don’t say it with fear or hatred or anger or anything like that.

    And yeah, you shouldn’t have called him Uncle but this is the age where it’s still relatively easy to admit your mistake and be honest.

  39. While I’m not a mother yet, my past experience as a child would lead me to be more honest with my children than my mom was with me. She would always wait until the absolute last second to tell me anything. Heck, she felt age 15 was the right time for “the talk.” A little late, eh? I think it’s good to wait until children are mature enough to understand to some extent, but putting kids into a bubble won’t help them in life either.

  40. This was wonderful to read! When my son was about eight, he asked me to come clean as to whether there really was a Santa or not. I thought about it, and at first I tried answering his question with a question: “Well, what do you think?”

    He didn’t buy it at all. “C’mon, pleeeaaaase tell me. I’m almost nine. I can handle the truth.” So I did. To which he responded, “Oh my gosh, Mom! I can’t BELIEVE you just told me that!” He was devastated, and so was I.

    In this case, honesty was definitely not the best policy.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed- well deserved!

    • Reminds me of my favorite story. Same kind of thing about the tooth fairy. My friend finally said okay and told her son that “yes, he was right. She was the toothfairy.” To that her son replied, “But mom, how do you get to all those houses?”

  41. Thanks for sharing this. Your experience and others comments have shown some interesting perspectives. Paul Bitzan’s comment about timing made a lot of sense to me.

    In my work as a facilitator and healer, I encourage people to be their authentic self. I have had cases where parents are coping with the turbulent consequences of their children finding parent’s ‘skeletons’ from other sources. But I also have a case where the mother is greatly troubled by her child’s severe criticism of her affair, post her separation from her husband. The timing of confiding in her child was perhaps a relevant point here. Being honest while being sensitive to the child’s ability to understand what you are sharing is certainly a balancing act for the parent. Nevertheless, I do believe it is better for them to hear your truth from you, rather than another’s version of it.

    Though not in the parenting context, I have written a post on authenticity at one of my blogs: http://authenticpersonalbranding.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/'the-truth-will-set-you-free'-the-rewards-of-authenticity/

    Your views would be welcomed.

    Warm Regards,


  42. Brilliant story! And I definitely think you were right to tell him. By the way he handled it, he seems to have accepted it in that wonderful way children tend to.
    Although I’m not a mother myself, I like to think I actually would share stories about the premarital sex, cigarettes, etc. It gives you credibility when they come to you with questions, although, you may want to wait until they’re old enough to ask, before you tell.

  43. I think honesty is the best policy at any age. I am adopted. My parents told me when I was 6 years old. At that age things don’t seem as serious as they do when you are older. For me it was a novelty and my parents made it fun and ok. I could ask questions about it whenever I wanted as I grew up and was able to understand more. You handled it well.

  44. I have huge respect for my parents. After the age of 16 they began to discuss their teenage years, and I am glad they did, as they don’t seem to be the “uncool parents”, as every generation is almost the same – it’s just how you deal with it.

    Good post, by the way.

  45. Honesty is definitely the best policy. Kids are pretty perceptive — they may not understand all the time, but they sense when things are going on beneath the facade. In the end, it seems like kids are much more accepting of our failures than we are ourselves.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  46. How ironic: We found last night that we are gonna be parents and today wordpress shows this in featured posts!

    So true. I strictly believe in honesty being the best policy. This is the other way too: truth conveyed by myself, to my parents! It’d hurt both parties equally to know the truth late or worse to know it from elsewhere.

    Regarding how to tell them our past mistakes: Ain’t it the beauty of life that we don’t know (till much later, that is) if our way of life is good enough! Why sweat it? All the ways are good ways depending on how things turn out to be. With a good intent all will turn out to be well. As a child myself, I can assure you that when they grow up, your kids are going to love you for being truthful to them. Any which way you be so.

    Thanks for this inspiring post and a wonderful blog 🙂

  47. Loved it..and completely agree on the things not to come forth with.

    I also had a previous marriage (no kids) that my kids don’t know about. I was – fortunate – enough to have an immigration officer tell them when we were travelling as I had two documents with different last names. It got awkward when he couldn’t figure out why I have these two names (and neither is my current husband’s name) and I had to say “I was married before and that document has my married name.” The agent got it and from his view all was now well. My 8 year old daughter, however, puts her hands on her hips, squares off with me, and demands “when were you going to tell me this?”.

    Moment of role-reversal for sure. For your comfort or dismay, I will tell you she forgot all about it and I had to tell her again when she got older and started inquiring about marriage in general. 🙂

  48. My second cousin was married 2 times b4 he found the right women, who was his third marriage, unfortunately His second wif didn’t keep in touch, and she was the one i knew, Even if you arent together anymore, the other person should still be allowed to see your family if you have a ond with them Personally.

  49. Very enjoyable post to read. You were very honest and I know your son will appreciate that when he gets older. It’s important for children to be able to trust their parents.
    My dad was married once before my mom and had a son so I don’t even remember when I found out about it…I just always knew b/c I was around my half brother every once in a while. I don’t really think it matters how old they are when they find out about previous marriages (maybe other things such as those topics you mentioned like sex, drugs, alcohol , etc. due to the innocence of their minds ). But, previous marriages aren’t really something you can go on hiding forever. I didn’t really give my dad’s first marriage a second thought until I grew older. But, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really bother me because I know my dad is a very different person now and I have know doubt that he would never leave my mom.

  50. good one. i’m sure every parent struggles with the dilemma of being completely honest with their children

    however, i’m confused… did he already know that you were married when he said “it’s too bad you aren’t still married to uncle larry”?

  51. I really want to say I tell my kids the truth all the time, but I know it is a lie. I am reminded of the long trip we took to the sea-side. They have never been to the sea before, and the three of them were going: Are we there yet? for about two hours before I totally lost it and told them that it does not matter what time we get there, the sea only opens at 10 anyway.

  52. I think you absolutely did the right thing. I grew up in a household where I was frequently lied to, and I’m very bitter about it. I’ve learned that what I thought I knew about my childhood is actually not the reality of what happened. It’s left me feeling gullible (and stupid–how could I not notice certain things that took place?), and it has definitely affected my relationship with my parents.

  53. Hiding the truth in any form can actually hurt your kids rather than protect them. It can have an adverse effect and can actually back fire in your face. Been there, done that. Its much better – and easier – to simply put all your cards on the table, and let them judge for themselves. Kids these days are a lot smarter. They have access to a whole different universe of information than we ever did. Things get a lot more complicated – and tougher – if your kid finds out information on their own … something you should have told them already, in their estimation.

  54. Congrats on making the Freshly Pressed page!
    Love your post…. the comic strip … and story.

    I’m with you: honesty is the best policy….. but I take it a step farther …. I include the honest answers on recreational drugs, sex and all … the key to wait until they’re old enough to ask. (My oldest being older than yours) When they ask, be honest. If you’re not – they’ll either know … or they’ll find out. Either one is bad.

    I blogged about this not too terribly long ago.
    Here: http://waistingaway.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/honestly/
    and here: http://waistingaway.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/own-it/

    Thanks for a great post!!! You’re on the right track with your kids. Keepin’ it real and honest is best. They’ll respect you for it.

  55. Hi
    Just a question, and I guess this must be a cultural difference, but why is it even important to mention that you’ve been formerly married if there are no children from that marriage? I mean, it would be awkward if your kids didn’t know about it at all as they get older but telling them that at such a young age it means that a former marriage is a big issue? Let me rephrase that, of course it would be quite strange if your children did not know about it but for me that is a non-issue and the children will find out eventually without making it into such a big think, right?
    Just asking out of curiousity. 🙂

    • I guess I always fear that if kids hear information like that from someone other than the source, it could end up hurting them. It’s not that the first marriage was such a big deal. But finding out your mom was married before she met your dad might be a slight shock if you heard it when you were 12 from some nasty kids at school. Better to avoid the chance and just tell ’em like it is.

      • Yeah, when you put it that way it makes sense. The question is when is it a good idea to mention it, I mean i 3 years old wouldn’t maybe even understand it…?

      • SmurfBurkan:

        Subjects like that will come up naturally when the time is right. When the child asks, they’re ready to know (in age appropriate language and level of information of course!). And you don’t have to give them all the details. Also be careful not to read adult intentions into their questions. Sometimes their questions are more literal than you’d think.

        For example, one child of a person who was commenting said that a child asked “Why were they born”. Well, we automatically assume that they’re asking “How” were they born but maybe he literally meant “why?” Why are we alive? Why do we exist? If you’re religious, you might answer: Because God loves us and wants us to be born. Or if you’re atheist, maybe you could say, because Mommy and Daddy love you. If that’s not what they meant, they’ll let you know! 🙂 Try to hear what he/she is REALLY saying. Maybe he was wondering why he was born to one set of parents only to be adopted by another. Maybe the answer is: To bring joy to us and you! Don’t overwhelm them with information but don’t lie either.

  56. I don’t have kids but I like to observe how parents and kids interact or lack interaction….

    It was a good sign that he gave you feedback… and then asked for dunkin’ donuts after the conversation 🙂 no worries!

  57. I love those ‘car’ conversations with kids, where everyone hears EVERYTHING. Which is why, in the car, with only that review mirror view I had to agree with what the five year old just told the four, and the two-and-a-half year old – was the definition of sex. (One of them is a ‘Levi’, too.)

  58. I don’t have kids, that seems to have been my theme for the day, but I can see how this post transcends parental ties. I recently remarried, but I got all the friends on the divorce. So I can appreciate how full disclosure makes life so much easier when your current relationship intertwines with previous ones.

    Congrats on FP!

  59. Hah, that’s awesome–your writing is so well-put that I found myself letting out a big “sigh” as soon as I read the Dunkin Donuts line, lol… DD to the rescue!

    It’s encouraging, though, knowing that I shouldn’t worry about parenting as much as I have (not that I have kids, just preemptive thoughts)… seems it’s a challenge for anyone to decide which route they want to take with communication.

    BTW, I’m trying to create an mobile-app that helps moms optimize their day. Would you be interested in helping? Stop at my page and drop ur email!

  60. Like Mary Poppins preaches, ‘A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.’ Life is full of lessons and the important thing is that they are taught in the most effective way. Now that I’m older I can appreciate a straight-to-the-point attitude, but it was nice to be naive when I was younger. If you want some more in-your-face and straight-to-the-point lessons here are mine: http://jeansandtie.com/

  61. Kudos! With five grown children, I will agree with you. Honesty is the best. I had a friend try to give me “friendly advice in regards to telling our children about something that happened early in our marriage. I disagreed and we proceeded with telling the kids the truth. As the years have gone by and life has happened, it has been confirmed over and over that the truth always prevails!
    Continue on dear one!

  62. Great post. But what would you do if you are walking down the street with your daughter, and a old girl friend comes up to you and said to her you were almost mine. (My daughter was 8 at the time.)

    And I saw my parents marriage license. Dated two months after my birth.

  63. Great post and a sticky situation well handled! I tend to believe if a kid is asking, than he/she is old enough to know. Yet depending on the truth itself, the way things are explained is important as well. Congrats on Freshly Pressed! LB

  64. I’ve got my first kid on the way and I always wonder when will be the right time to share certain information. This was insightful and a bit comical. Wonderful post!

  65. Loved the part where your little guy was just done with the conversation. I’ve had several conversations with my 7 year old over the last couple of years that have plyed out just like that. I think honesty is the best policy. Said in an age appropriate way by someone they’re safe with, kids can handle quite a bit of life’s hard truths;)

  66. Adorable reaction! I like your little one’s priorities: would he win “Chopped” would be my first question, then and now, too!

  67. Great post. Perhaps the lesson he’ll take away from it (with the benefit of bizarro kid logic) is that you shouldn’t marry someone just because their name rhymes with those of your best friends’ mates. Well handled.

  68. Well written post. And you really did handle the situation well. Though am still a teenager, having a sister 12 years younger to me does in some odd way make me relate to you….

    Best wishes for your life ahead. My love to the kids.

  69. Honesty is the best policy no matter what happens. Even though I am young and have no kids, know that through my experience I am wise at a young age…
    Know this plain and simply put… You made the right choice to tell him everything that you did in the car. Also, that information about drug usage and blah blah blah will come in handy given the right situations that arise in both of your childrens futures. Good job mommying!!! 🙂

  70. I think you did exactly the right thing, my mother was always honest with me about such things (that is to say I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t). Honesty usually is the best policy, especially with family members…

  71. Great story, hard talks… I think that your kid was released after receiving your answer about a possible new marriage. You know that kids like to feel secure and reject unknown.

    All the best,

  72. Hi, first time to your blog and what a delight it turned out to be. I can totally relate, its very hard when we have to tell our kids painful truths. Sigh.

    Can I shamelessly promote my blog here, only once. I promise
    Fellow mums might enjoy my kids rule posts. A grand total of TWO to date. Happy looking. 🙂

  73. This the very good post! I like your writing style) and about truth:
    my mother told me her “own love story” when i was 15 years and i think that is the best age for telling truth=)

  74. I think you were right to tell him after it had been brought up in front of him, but I wouldn’t have that it was wrong to keep it from him had it never come up. He always would have wondered what his brother was talking about, but I think it’s okay to keep certain things from children until they’re at an appropriate age. I’m 19 and I don’t know (or want to know) all the things my parents did that they haven’t told me about…they did grow up in the ’70s after all! Haha. I completely agree with you that honesty is USUALLY the best policy!

  75. I find honesty always works. I have no children of my own, but I am a teacher. Every so often, teachers make mistakes. But kids seem to think that there is no one else as perfect as their teachers. It becomes really important to apologize to them and to model the qualities of honesty, which we want them to show back to us a few years down the road.

  76. Beautifully handled and responded. I think, too, that children ask the questions that they want answered, so by answering more than what the question asked sometimes can be too much for them to bear. When he is older he may want to know more about Larry and the why and how of that relationship, but then again it may not concern him much at all. He may only want to know it in order to know his brother more in some ways. It sounds to me that Levi has processed the changes well, and so will Eli.

    His worry about you maybe marrying someone else was answered by you reaffirming your love for your husband, saying he is what you’ve been searching for all this time and now that you found him you do not want to marry again. What a relief to Eli to know that you have found your dream! And that he is part of that dream! 🙂 Tenderly and lovingly response, yes!
    🙂 Two happy boys in the car, I’m sure, cinnamon twists and all. 🙂

  77. What if he already knew about uncle Larry, hence his seemingly innocent way to bring up the other rhyming married couples? If that’s the truth, you did do really well by not trying to avoid it.

  78. Thanks for the enjoyable post. Well handled. I absolutely agree that honesty is the best policy with your children. Usually.

  79. I think you should always be honest to your children. One time I had a dog in Italy but we moved back and left the dog with friends. She was good for one year and then died without me knowing. One month later, I found out that she died. I was devastated for days but then got over it. The point of this comment is to emphasize that you should always tell the truth at the right time.

  80. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Handled beautifully and written about beautifully as well. As a woman happily married for 15 years – with plenty of skeletons in her closet (including skimpy outfits, hydraulic lifts and go-go boots), I agree honesty is the best policy, but if my kids asks me if I ever used drugs, my answer is undoubtedly, “Hey, tell me what’s going on?” 😉

  81. Oh, goodness, yes — honesty is always best and also obvious to kids. I was way too observant as a child, and I often knew when adults talked-down or lied to me. I am sure your little boy’s trust in your mommy-hood was strengthened by the immediate honesty.
    Great story-telling, very enjoyable!

  82. i’m single no child but i really think you are great mommy.the children will thanks for you telling them the truth cause they will grow up and know what had happen sooner or later.they could accept the failures or successes by themselves or others .
    you deal with things vey well .

  83. Great story, Debra. You gave Eli just the right amount of truthful information, and he handled it so well. I’m glad I read your blog today!

  84. I think being transparent with your kids can be best option sometimes. My oldest daughter tries so hard to be perfect all the time, perfect grades, perfect attendance in school, never messing up. Once in a while sharing our childhood imperfections let’s her know it’s ok to not always be perfect.

  85. LSD “laced” memories are sometimes most educational and enlightening.

    Your children aren’t your dreams nor are they your lost childhood nor what you wished you were, nor still are they what you won’t be, nor are they a continuation of a dream you once were, nor a perfection of an image of yourself that you sometimes believe you messed up.

    I “found out” (the way people acknowledge that you found out something) that I had an older brother who died when was in my teens. Before that I knew it as I knew who made the universe and where babies come from and all the other subtleties of life, but I didn’t know it as life later pushed me to know it.

    I acknowledge how it turned out… your conversation with your son. Well. The element of confrontation has often been lacking from many truths I found about people close to me, starting with my parents, to other family members, and other people. I learned not to react emotionally to this, and I learned to live with or in spite of it. thought reactions are damaging too… let alone physical responses as people try to vent, or brush aside these obstacles.

    I am currently teaching English in China, and I often wonder what happened to them? where are they while they are in class? what’s the cause of this or that action or behavior? What’s happening as I stand there demanding attention, and explaining a few words or a story. It is working with youngsters that has brought back to my fore mind all of this, and how certain facts of life overshadow our daily needs, and our daily duties… even our own goals are often overshadowed by these facts that pop up here and there.

    I dunno, I’m sorry for such a long comment, there’s hardly any one to converse with here. what’s more is I dunno what would happen if there was!!

  86. I think you are a good mother, doing a great a job raising up your boys that’s why your son took it so calmly, because he knows he is loved. Imagine telling this (and other things like that) to a child who has frequent anger outbursts..it can get complicated. So I admire your parenting skills 🙂

  87. I feel that the situation couldn’t have been handled any better than what you did. I think addressing the issues as they come is the best policy with kids. Go at their pace-until they turn into teens! That way they are understanding what is going on, without being given too much too soon. Great post!

  88. You was great! But I think we must be radical honest. Create with our kids a accomplice relationship and get license to talk with them about drugs´n the other issues, icludding our past mistakes. Then they will know us and trust us better. We are humans and we aren´t superiors than them. They as so us, will make mistakes, but with our complicity they will make less mistakes.

  89. I agree with the honesty policy, and setting a precedent at a young age is best. Once the children hit their 20’s, and questions become more…..in depth. I must say that at THIS stage, I have found that sometimes, just sometimes, I have to say to them that although I appreciate their asking, some information is private 🙂 It’s still being honest, but also setting boundaries for them to learn that even their mum deserves privacy sometimes. 🙂

  90. I think parents should tell their kids the facts about things with no sugar coating when they are old enough to have a basic understanding of what your telling them. I think it makes it a lot easier for them to understand and deal with.

    My mum died when I was born and I dont remember being told when I was older. But all I do remember from a young age is that although the woman I call mum was not my birth mother I still loved her as though she was my birth mum. My dad wanted to tell me when I was a bit older at 16 but imagine the stress and upset that could have caused.

    Excellent thought provoking post!

  91. Having raised two kids successfully to adulthood, I can say I definitely sand on the “age-appropriate honesty” side of things. While I didn’t force information on them, when they asked or it was obviously relevant, I told them the truth about me, my past, and what I’d learned from it if that seemed like the way to go. Same for sex ed. Which did lead to me explaining the definition of fellatio in the middle of a mall (too long a sotry, but believe me, it wasn’t a distractable moment – but no gory details were necessary) and the fact that I’m bisexual at a pizza place, but also led to my daughter thanking me for my honesty as a parent, so that she felt she could come to me about anything and trust what I told her.

  92. You handled this beautifully. I have an uncle who is on his second marriage but his children (from said second marriage) have no idea of the first. I keep wondering when they will stumble upon the information and feel somewhat betrayed (especially since I’ve heard them make less than positive inquiries to my daughter about the fact that her parents are not together). If we want our children to feel safe sharing their “mistakes” with us, we need to do the same with them (age appropriately, of course). Great post!

  93. I think your kids will be just fine. I was about 6 when I learned that my mom had been married before my dad. I had heard his name before, and thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until my brother asked my Mom a question about him when I was around that I inquired as to “Who’s Bo?”. My mom was direct, told me she had been married before my dad, when she was very young. I wasn’t really concerned about it. All I really wanted to know was if I had other siblings. I was kinda crushed to find out that I didn’t. But as I got older, it remained a good life lesson for me. Sometimes kids really do learn from your experiences, good & bad! Great post!

  94. Great post 🙂 My boyfriend was adopted at 6 weeks. He says he cannot remember a time in his life when he didn’t know he was adopted, and according to him that’s how come he’s never had any sort of identity crisis to the date (mid-thirties now).

  95. Great story about telling the truth, can’t understand why you called him uncle in the first place?
    Who am I to criticize? Married and divorced four times, my two children used to say, ‘Not another step-mum, dad!!’

  96. I agree that you handled this very well.

    I stumbled into a similar situation with my 5yo Darling Daughter while driving in the car. My wife and I were talking about some insignificant and inane topic, where I happened to mention my first-wife. Out of the blue, my DD asks, “Daddy? Were you married before?”

    Stunned silence ensued. I hadn’t prepared for this. We, as in my wife and I, hadn’t talked about it. Now what?

    I chose age-appropriate honesty. Yes, I said, I was married before. Daddy was very young and I made some bad choices when I was younger. But I’ve learned to make better choices now – which is why I married your mother!

    Great post – I’ve reposted it on the Daddytude FB page.

  97. You responded just fine. You gave him enough information for his age (and attention span). Most kids have blended families now. My husband and I are quickly becoming the minority. We were married before having kids, and we’re still together after 19 years. No prior marriages.
    As far as addressing those “mistakes and failures of the past”, I am guilty of making EVERY moment and event a Teachable Moment. Most of those teachable moments are during a hour long road trip to a band competition. I’m surprised the boys are still willing to get in the car with me!? I have teens now, so we’re dealing with peer pressure issues and making good judgements… and realizing some decisions, good or bad, will affect the rest of their life.
    Nice to see another “Debra” out there, and a red-head besides! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed & Happy Blogging! -Deb

  98. If we were old enough to ask, my mom told us. (In age appropriate laguage and detail.) She told us everything eventually, at the right time. I know all about the dirty secrets too, she told me about her’s and dad’s marital problems, cheating, coming back together, sex, EVERYTHING. My parents have been married 28 years, they have always been honest, especially about the “bad” stuff and I’m glad. I feel like I went into adulthood prepared for reality, not with a warped picture that everything is roses, which frankly, my generation and even some of the older ones seem to have. Hence the horrendous divorce rates and teen pregnacies and broken homes.
    I’m 25, my husband of 4 years and I have survived a lot in a short time, losing our business, losing almost everything we own, losing our first child. (in that order) Many people would have given up with the problems that all that sorrow created in our lives, but we continue to pull through, knowing that the hard parts always pass. It is healthy to be completely honest, and children understand way more than you think. Keeping the “bad” stuff from them will just show them that they can keep their “bad” stuff from you. I don’t know about you, but I want my daughter to feel she can come to me about ANYTHING. That’s how I have always felt with my mom. I know she’s not perfect, so I can fail and still be forgiven and loved.

  99. i don’t have any kids, but I always wished my parents were a little more open with me. i’ve found through my experiences with other little kids that they generally tend to be pretty obedient if you explain to them the “why’s” of things. I feel like I would not have made some of the mistakes i did if someone would have put their “don’t do x” in a real-world context complete with realistic rammifications. long story short–i think you handled it well.

  100. This is such a cute post. I definetely think you did the right thing. Im currently teaching English to elementary kids in Korea and one of the kids asked ‘Why were we born’..I was like ummmm then another kid blurted out ‘Cause your parents got married, thats why’. I didn’t bother to correct him, as I guess I aint as brave as you! x

  101. We all have the right to get it wrong sometimes. If your kids grow up thinking you’re perfect you are (a) giving them a heck of a lot to live up to and (b) gonna find it’s a hell of a long way down in their estimation when you do fall. No one is perfect.
    Raise your kids to live in the real world where not everything is perfect and you raise considerate and understanding people.

  102. Kids are resilient and I find that, generally, they are more hurt by omissions and cover-ups than honest conversations. Unless, like you said, they involve illegal activities 🙂

  103. As parents we often have to make tough decisions.
    I think you made the right one to tell him. It sounds like you presented it to your son in a way that he could understand.
    You have a great point too. Honesty is very important, especially as a parent. I read in an article that many children learn to lie from hearing their parents tell little lies to other people. Example, an person who annoys the parent calls the house and the other spouse or someone else answers it. The parent who is needed on the phone tells the person speaking to tell the caller that they are not at home, (in the attempt to avoid the annoying caller). From happenings like that, so this article was saying, children learn to lie from their parents’ example.
    Thank you for the post.

  104. so how would you explain to your child why ppl don’t get married and still love each other, while many marry and don’t love each other.

    Coz that’s something I’d like to hear

  105. I think that because you told him now – it will be natural to him. And the situation in the car seems natural and undramatic. So well done.

  106. I’ve got to agree with this but I would go further and say that it’s also good to talk about your excluded things “recreational drug usage, alcohol, premarital sex or cigarettes”. In our modern world where the media sensationalise everything and kids talk about everything with their peers, it actually helps them to have their parents help provide balance by giving their views and experiences on these things as well. I have 2 kids, now 24 and 20 and I spoke to them when they were very young regarding all these things and am glad I did.
    I also have situations in other ‘parts’ of my life where persons concerned have lied terribly to cover things that would have been easier brought into the open and those lies now haunt them in addition to the fear of the truth coming to light, making life twice as difficult!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here