Many legitimate reasons may explain delay of dad's revelation
Q: I'm 16 and a member of a nuclear family with several siblings. In my family, trust has always been stressed as very important: My parents have drilled it into our brains that once trust is lost, it is hard to gain back.
This weekend I was looking through the filing cabinet for my birth certificate (which I needed for school) when I came across my father's divorce decree. It seems that he was married before, a fact that he and my mother have concealed from my siblings and me.
I feel hurt and angry that they did not tell us such an important part of my father's life. It's not as if the subject has never come up; I have asked my father about previous sweethearts. My trust is also shaken: How do I know they haven't concealed other things from me?
It's not such a big deal that my dad was divorced, just that he avoided telling me. Is it unreasonable to feel this way? Should I just butt out? I haven't brought it up with him as it was obviously his wish that I not know.
A: I'm not sure that's so obvious. They may have intended all along for you to know at some point, and that "point" just never seemed to arrive.
It's not difficult to conjure a handful of different ways their revelation could have stalled. Maybe they decided to tell when the youngest was X years old, and failed to consider that the truth would beat them to it. Maybe they disagreed on how to handle it, and you stumbled upon an impasse in progress.
There could be twists to the story that they don't feel you're ready to hear.
Maybe, too, they started to tell you a hundred different times, and tripped over silly logistical questions: Do we hold a family meeting? Tell each kid separately? What if the one we tell first gets to the others before we do?
Time can slip by quickly when the telling is awkward and the need to tell isn't pressing.
You have a real and legitimate complaint here, and I am not making excuses for your parents. It's just mitigation worth considering: A truth like this is strange, because it is at the same time significant (to a person's history) and inconsequential (to the day-to-day business of your family). That strangeness means it's possible your parents never meant to be deceptive, but instead were merely stumped.
Even if you're not convinced there's any valid reason for their withholding this information, please tell your parents of your discovery, and hear them out anyway. Trust is indeed hard to gain back once it's lost — however, it can be rebuilt.
And the first step in that rebuilding process is for each party to lay out its facts, motives and feelings to allow the other to draw its own conclusions. It's a profound act of trust and good faith for each of you to take down your walls, come what may.
Maybe more important: It also introduces your mutual humanity as a common denominator. You can see your parents as right about trust — and even as trustworthy — yet still disagree with them about what you need to know, when, why, and who gets to decide.