I chose the essay written by Martha Leathe called Telling Kids the Whole Truth, from the collection of essays on parenthood on thisibelieve.org. In her essay, she describes a predicament that one of her friends is in regarding whether or not to discuss the fact that she (the friend) should tell her kids about their father’s recent diagnosis of cancer. Leathe’s advice was to tell them the truth because that is what she believes in. She believes in telling children the truth because it is “vital for their understanding of the world, their confidence, and the development of their morals and values.” When her son was six, he found a box of condoms and asked what they were, to which Leathe replied honestly without giving him too much information. When her daughters asked about her past pot use, she was honest with them too. As a result, over the years her kids have been more honest with her as well.
What struck me about this piece is that she is honest with herself about making mistakes as a parent, and that she was also able to be honest with her children and as a result, they in turn are honest with her. I am able to relate to this piece not only as a parent, but as a person. Growing up, I never realized my mother had held a deep, dark secret from me (albeit, she did tell a LOT of “little white lies”) for many years. When I was sixteen, she told me I was adopted. I sat there with the guilt, hurt, and betrayal for years after (sometimes I still do) and I promised myself since that day I would be 100% honest with my child. I remember once while I was driving her to daycare (she must have been nearly 5), she asked me if I grew in grandma’s (my mom) tummy. At the time, I believe one of her teachers was pregnant and thus brought the onslaught of questions about babies. I could have brushed her off, impatiently said ‘yes’ and moved on to other topics, but at that red light intersection I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself, “Remember how it felt being lied to for all those years..” and I told her the truth. Immediately she grasped the concept of what “adoption” meant and that her grandma didn’t have a baby the same way her mommy did. As of recently, she keeps exclaiming that she wants us to adopt a child if we don’t have another within four years. When you’re honest with your children, Leathe says, “we validate their intuition…we allow children to trust their gut. They can begin to recognize and rely on their own inner voice, which will speak to them throughout their lives.” Something must have prompted my daughter to ask me that question that day, whether it was because of her teacher, because she asked my mother and got a vague answer, or whatever the case might be, I know that in that moment of honesty, she knew who her mother was.