Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: I Have a Secret

A few weeks ago, the two oldest (10-year-old Ryan and 8-year-old Sammy) and I were on our way to drop them off at school. For no reason, Sammy asks, "Before you and Dad were married, had you ever been divorced?"

While Sammy is often asking things out of the blue or off-subject, this time really threw me for a loop. I replied with, "What made you ask that?"

Sammy replied with, "I don't know. Have you ever been divorced? I mean, before you married Dad?"

Hoping to derail the question, I said, "Are you asking because someone you know's parents are getting divorced? Because I heard of somebody's parents getting divorced, but I didn't want to say anything to you."

Sammy said, "No. Have you?"

I said, "It's Michael. Michael B.'s parents are getting divorced. I'm sure it's very hard for him. I hope you won't make him sad by saying anything to him."

"No," Sammy said. "Have you?"

We're now less than two minutes from school. What the hell am I supposed to say?

"Yes," I say. "I was married before I met Dad. His name was Gerry. That's why, Ryan, we'll sometimes get mail addressed to my first name but a different last name."

Sammy, as is her style, is nonchalant about it. "Oh," is the most she can say. And then she tunes out again. [Thanks, Sam. Make a bomb drop and then go back about your business.] Ryan is shocked, but it's mostly by the fact that he never knew. The fact of my fallen woman status means nothing to him. Let's face it, when your two oldest kids attend your wedding to their father, it's no big deal in the general scheme of things that you'd been married before.

Later that day, I drive five -- yes, 1,2,3,4,5 -- girls from Ryan's class to a field trip while he rides with his best friend and his mom. For whatever reason, the subject turns to jail. One of the girls asks if my husband or I have ever been in jail. I laugh out loud and say absolutely not. Then I remember Pete's run-in with the Soviet police many years ago, so I amend the outright denial slightly to explain, briefly, that adventure.

As I'm driving all three of my own kids home that day, I say to Ryan, "Oh, K. asked me if Dad or I had ever been in jail. I told them about your Dad being in the Russian jail, so don't be surprised if they ask you about it."

Ryan, shocked to the core, says, "Dad's been in jail? What? When?" I explain the circumstances to him and tell him to ask Pete for more detail. His response when I'm done? "What else have you been hiding from us?"

Oh, don't ask questions you don't want the answers to, kid. We've all got secrets.

[Written for Sunday Scribblings and the fine ladies' prompt of "I have a secret." Read other soul-baring entries here.]


Anonymous said...

Out of the babes mouth...

Kids ask the oddest of personal question but are not prepared for theanswers..

Gill said...

I sometimes think that kids would make the finest of interrogators. Nothing like an awkward question from a child to make you squirm!!

Rob Kistner said...

...from the mouths of babes... ;)

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Yeah but the Soviet jail story has *got* to be cool to the kids' friends!

Daily Panic said...

my best friend's kids asked her the same thing, but added, "you were married and didn't have any kids?"

Jen B said...

It's not the questions that get me, it's your answers! You are so honest and forthright with the information. That's very honourable and wonderful to see. Parents usually aren't that honest. I'm impressed!
If you keep the communication lines open, you'll have no problem when they get to be teenagers!
P.S. would love to hear more on the soviet jail

jenica said...

it's those type of questions that'll throw you for a loop. my 5 year old asked me last week if i have sex with my husband??? yes i replied. "well, when i grow up i'm going to find a good man to be my husband, and i'll have sex with him too." alrighty then! funny thing is, she's never asked what sex is, where babies come from, etc. etc.

i was taught by a great friend to only answer the exact question they ask, because they really aren't insinuating anything more than they're asking. saved me this time!

love your openness though, even in the face of a really hard question.

sundaycynce said...

Wow, what a day. Mother used to laughingly refer to days "you shouda stood in bed." Sounds like that may have been one of them.

You are indeed to be commended for your directness and honesty with your own children and their friends. You are surely teaching them the value of honesty by setting the example and are keeping the invaluable lines of communication open.

And what Jenica said...answer only the exact question asked...I have heard that before (from a psychologist either in a book or on TV, if I remember correctly). It is truly excellent advice.

Anonymous said...

Oh this is a great take on the prompt. So true.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Liza on Maui said...

oh, this I enjoy reading :) -
And I love the last line: "Oh, don't ask questions you don't want the answers to, kid. We've all got secrets." :)

The Owners said...

Wow, that's some heavy stuff for a couple of car rides. I don't have to worry about anything until my girls ask me about sex and drinking. I was pretty straight-laced. I think I'll be safe for another 5-6 years (I hope).

Anonymous said...

Secrets do not last long in the company of children. I'll surely be stripped free by the dance of fatherhood!

I'm so glad you told them the truth. Even if they may not understand the full implications of your answer they certainly know if you are not being forthright. Once the lies begin they can extend with unseen consequences.


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