In my last post I wrote about my to-be-ex's desire to "keep up appearances." That has meant hiding both her five-year affair and my homosexuality from our three teenagers (and others). Her goal has been to "protect the family from public humiliation and embarrassment."
Ever since we separated a year ago, I have honored that request. But as I explained in the last post, I've come to realize that continuing the lies is doing more harm than good.
I recently discussed my concerns with my to-be-ex, Gabbie. We talked for about ten minutes, maybe less, before she agreed that the kids need to be told that Charlie is her boyfriend. We're holding off on the gay announcement for now.
I was a little surprised that she agreed so quickly. I asked her, "Why did we wait so long?"
Her answer: "I hadn't really thought about it. Also, I want to be respectful of you."
The irony of that statement made me groan. She thought she was being considerate? And yet I felt imprisoned. I kicked myself for not saying something sooner.
Just moments after we made the decision, we told our oldest, who is about to turn 18. His response? "That's fine. But if Charlie does anything to hurt you mom, he's going to have to deal with me!"
Um, sure. The kid goes to karate for 10 years and now he thinks he's Bruce Lee? Even with his youth, strength and technical training, I doubt he could survive a first punch from Charlie. Whatever. The protective warning aside, he obviously took the news well.
It turned out that we didn't have a good opportunity to tell the other two kids until two days later. The youngest one, our 12 year old daughter, spoke first, and instead of addressing us, she turned to her 14 year old brother John and said, "Now you owe me ten dollars!"
Yes, apparently the two of them had placed a bet on the subject. And THAT was what they wanted to talk about. The big drama for the night was the possibility that tight-wad John might have to pay $10 to his sister.
I decided that the bet was a good opportunity to learn more about their thoughts. I asked, "How long ago did you make that bet?" The answer: "About two weeks."
That was about the same time my daughter started asking me odd questions about her mother and Charlie. It was those questions that brought the issue to my attention.
Knowing that she's only been wondering for two weeks was a relief. It meant that I hadn't been needlessly treading water for months.
As I analyze the situation in retrospect, what I find most interesting isn't that the kids were observant. THEY really weren't. Only my daughter was and even then it took her almost a year. No, what I've taken from this experience is that kids will eventually sniff out the truth. And when they start to ask questions, that's the signal that they're ready to be told. It's as if their brains begin to "see" what's going on as soon as they're ready to emotionally process it. I'm not certain yet, but I may wait for the same phenomenon to repeat itself before I come out.
Overall, I'm very happy with the way we've handled each step of our split. It's felt strangely...natural. Hopefully the news that daddy is dating men will be received in the same way.
Here's a funny story:
About 20 minutes after Gabbie's big announcement my daughter said to me, "Daddy, maybe you should move to Texas."
"Because there are lots of women in Texas. And they wear big hats. You know, sombreros." I gave her a very puzzled look.
"You know. Lots of women, so you can date."
"Ooooh," I said finally getting it. I was confused by the big hats. What was that all about? "I don't plan on moving to Texas. And I'm not really into women that wear sombreros (or women at all, I thought to myself), so that's probably not going to happen."
Clearly the child has a way to go before she perfects her detective skills.