By K. Hecht, A. Hysock, & P. Berman
I must tell Davy the truth. Why did I say it was a surprise? Now he is expecting something like a birthday party. What was I thinking?
It had been a regular day to start. Everything had gone smoothly getting Davy off to school. The day at work had been long but Claire hadn’t had any difficult people to work with. She came home tired, ready for dinner and then a bouncy excited Davy had hugged her, looked up and asked, “Do I have a daddy?”
Claire had looked up to see Mrs. Carson staring at her- also speechless. Claire had looked down at Davy and said, “why are we talking about daddies?” Davy had said that today at school a dad, instead of a mom, had come in as a volunteer. He had been great fun on the playground. He had chased them all around and around. Claire agreed that it sounded like great fun. She had tried to change the subject by saying she could chase everyone around the next time it was her day to volunteer.
“Do I have a daddy? Do I?” It was at that moment, when he was looking right into her eyes that she just went crazy and said, “it’s a surprise! I will tell you all about it after dinner.” Davy loved surprises. He had run around the kitchen saying to the Carsons, “mom is giving me a surprise after dinner. YEAH….” Mr. Carson had grabbed him, given him a bear hug and said, “yes, surprises are fun. Now, sit down at the table for dinner.” Mr. Carson had sent Claire a hug with his eyes. He knew Davy must have blown her away.
Mrs. Carson had made a wonderful meal but only Davy seemed hungry. The adults just kept looking down at their food and cutting it into smaller and smaller pieces. Mr. Carson chocked a few times as food went down the wrong way. Claire just kept thinking over and over what she might say to Davy.
Okay, I am going to show him a picture of Larry. He won’t remember him. He won’t.
After dinner, as Davy tried to help the Carsons cleanup, Claire went upstairs to find her picture of Larry.
She was going to just show him the picture and say that his daddy lived far away but thought Davy was a wonderful boy. Davy was going to ask questions. He was such a curious kid. She had to think about good things she knew about Larry so she could make him feel good about who his daddy was. Did she know enough good things? Did she know good things that could be shared with a little kid?
Claire came down stairs and tried to smile as she saw the Carsons sitting on the couch with a squirmy Davy sitting in between them. He was so excited.
How I wish Davy had a daddy like Mr. Carson. Davy would have always known his dad and …. I must tell him the truth. Davy still gets Mr. Carson, even though Larry is his daddy.
Claire sat down on the floor next to the Carsons and Davy slipped down off the couch and sat next to her with a huge smile on his face. She put Larry’s picture down on the coffee table and looked into Davy’s face. She said, “here sweetie, here is a picture of your daddy.”
This is bad. This isn’t a surprise. No. No. No. No. I won’t have him as my daddy.
Davy was staring at Larry’s face and seeing the mean man in his nightmares. This was his daddy? Davy looked right into Claire’s face and screamed, “NOOOO” at the top of his lungs and ran out of the room, up the stairs, and slammed his bedroom door. He dived under his bed and began to cry.
Claire looked up at the Carsons. She was crying silently. Mrs. Carson patted her shoulder. “Davy remembers Larry. He remembers. What do I do?” Mr. Carson said, “let’s ask for a family appointment with Dr. Berman.” Claire nodded.
Davy is safe now. But he remembers the scary times that involved Larry. He doesn’t want a scary dad. He wants a fun daddy, the kind that chases kids around the room tickling them. Claire can’t change the past. She can’t change the fact that Larry is Davy’s father.
Do you tell children the truth, when it is scary?
There are no easy answers. However, children always need answers to be tailored to their ability to understand. While sometimes adults choose to lie to children about aspects of their past, the truth often will come out and then the consequences came be a rupture of trust between the parent who lied and the child.
Children slowly learn the difference between making a mistake, telling a clear lie and telling a “social lie” to not hurt someone’s feelings. If you are interested in reading an article that gives more details about this go to: