I’m Scared to Tell My Kids About My First Marriage
One parent explains why telling her kids about her divorce at a young age is the hardest talk to have with them.
© istockphoto.com / Louis-Paul St-Onge
My oldest child is 11 years old and I still haven't had "The Talk" with her. Not the "sex-talk" talk that most parents dread. I did that already, and it was easy. The "Talk" I dread most is telling my daughters that I was married to someone before their father.
At the very young age of 20, I married my first boyfriend. Our marriage lasted a little over three years, we didn’t have any children together and we haven't had contact with each other since we divorced almost 20 years ago. At times, I honestly forget that marriage ever happened. That chapter of my life feels distant, almost unreal.
I had always planned to tell my kids about it, I was just waiting for the right time. When my first daughter was born, I told myself I would let her know when she was old enough to understand. Then my second daughter came along and I told myself I needed to wait until she was old enough to understand. Fast forward 11 years and I feel like I can't avoid it any longer.
At 11 and 7, they are talking about liking boys and the 11-year-old is asking when she can have a boyfriend. They both understand divorce (they have friends whose parents have split), and they have started asking questions.
"Mommy, did you have a boyfriend before Daddy?" they ask.
"Sure, a few," I reply honestly.
But the questions stop there, because my daughters of course, can’t even imagine that I was married before their dad. And just as I didn't want to tell them before they were old enough to understand, I fear that if I wait too long, they will feel as if I’ve kept something important from them. And I want to set a good example: I want to be honest and open with my girls and I want them to feel they can talk to me about anything.
I'm not ashamed of my first marriage and divorce. I'm proud of how I’ve grown from the experience. I'm a stronger, more confident woman who learned what she really wanted in life. I'm truer to myself and, because of that, I'm a much better wife and mother.
I’ve taken a few wrong turns in my life, but I believe those stumbles and falls were necessary to get me where I am now.
So why has it been so hard to tell them?
Like any secret, the longer I keep it, the bigger and darker it feels. If I'm being honest, it's fear of the follow up questions that scare me most. The ones about my ex and our wedding, our life, and how it ended. But, it's time to talk. I hope to turn my past into a teachable moment for my girls. The message I want them to hear is this: Making huge decisions at such a young age, usually doesn't produce the best outcome. However, if you do make mistakes, don't regret them. Use them to grow and get to know your true self. Then wrong turns just become the scenic route to the right ones.