Thursday, March 10, 2011

When Is the Right Time to Spill My Secrets?

When is the right time to tell your kids about who you really are?

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Don't get me wrong.  My kiddies know me.  They know me well.

But, their image of me is tied to mothering.  I am mom.  I am the one that kisses their skinned knees.  I am the one that gets whacked out about pig sty-like bedrooms.   I am the one that is the Wii dance champion.

I am their mom.

They see me as their blankie.  Their go-to girl when things get tough.  Their supporter and cheerleader and pride bursting braggart.

They see me as mom.

But, often, I wonder, when will they see me as Annie?  When will they understand that I was a full and complete person before I ever considered becoming their mother?

I don't have the answers.

And, right now, I would say that my kids know the basics.  I am honest with them. If they have a question about me, I will answer it.  They know that I was a good student and that I stayed out of trouble.  They know that I was active in school activities, that I was a color guard band geek, that I dated different boys.  They know that I worked as a summer camp counselor, as a life guard, as a bra sales girl at Victoria's Secret.  I regale them with tales from these jobs and from my others as trainer and aerobics instructor and eventually as teacher.  I share funny stories about my college years and the craziness that I encountered.

They know the basics.

But, when is the right time to share that one of my high school boyfriends was crazy, came to my school to confront me about our breakup, and physically restrained me until teachers intervened?  When is the right time to share that despite being highly involved in lots of school activities, there were times that I felt desperately alone?  When is the right time to share that I experienced the "mean girls" in full force?  That I was bullied?  When is the right time to share about my stupid mistakes in college with friends?  With alcohol?  With schoolwork?  When is the right time to share about my first failed marriage? About my ex? About how I think that my divorce was one of the best things that has ever happened to me?


It is a fine line.

On one hand, I do not want to lie to them or withhold information.  On the other hand, I am their mother.  I know them.  I want to protect them.  I know that right now, they are not old enough or mature enough to handle the information.  But, time has a way of speeding by, like the scenery out the window from the backseat of a car, and I know that sooner, rather than later, the "right" time will arrive.

It will be time for them to meet Annie, a different Annie than they know.

I hope I am ready.


  1. Well written. I don't know, when is the right time? If you wait too long they'll be angry that you didn't tell them things. If you don't wait long enough they will be confused. I think there are some things about you that kids don't ever need to know but what are they? Good luck!

  2. Annie, I loved this so much. I have been having such similar thoughts lately. My boy isn't yet two, so I have a little bit of time left, but I struggle with the things that he will have to know about his father and I. He will be confused about some things and I just hope we're ready when he asks his questions.

    I have come to the conclusion that honesty is always the best policy. I don't plan on hiding anything from my son (when appropriate, he doesn't need to know some things!) :)

    Great post, I loved it.

  3. Good post today, Annie. You are right. It is a fine line. I always struggled with opening up to my children about *ME*. Now that they are adults, I am an open book to them, but not as close as I would like. Perhaps that is because I held myself in reserve as they were growing up and I only let them see the *mother* side of me.

    Of course, there will be things I never want them to know!! Some secrets are best kept for one's dignity! *snort*

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing,

  4. I think it depends on your "secrets." If it's something that will impact their lives (I mean, really impact their lives -- jail time, name change, unknown siblings, insanity), then you should tell them when they are old enough to understand the full implications. If it's something about you as you went through your own journey, those are YOUR secrets and what makes the memory so special. Once shared, it becomes common place.

    Hallmark has a great book for Mothers and Fathers filled with journal pages and memory suggestions where you can tell you story. Write in it and then give it to the child when they reach adulthood and have been through some similar experiences to gain perspective.

    Young people are black-and-white thinkers and only need the smallest bit of information to find a reason not to listen to you or use it against you so they can validate their own actions. Be careful what you share but don't ever pretend you were perfect and didn't make mistakes. That'll come back and bite you in the old 'shoulder'! Come visit when you can.

  5. I think Sharlene has some great suggestions. I really don't know if and when I will ever share everything with my kids. They seem very uninterested but I think that's just the way with boys.

  6. This is a great entry...and a very deep question that I also share. I like them to think of me as perfect - they may be the only ones who still do :) hehehe But then if they think of me that way, I hate to someday let them down...

  7. Wow, very thought-provoking stuff here. Part of me wishes they will never ask the questions that may force me to give up my secrets. But the other part of me isn't too nervous about giving up the information, especially if it can be helpful to them and hopefully prevent them from making seriously bad life-altering decisions.

    I think the one thing that is good for our kids to know is that yes, we have made bad decisions and we have failed here and there but we have survived those bad decisions. We have failed but we have risen above it. And sometimes failing at something can be the best thing that has ever happened. I was married before which was a total disaster but I learned from it and helped shape me to be the person I am essence it was one of the best things that could've happened to me. It made me raise the bar when it came to settling down made me accept no less than what I felt I was worth.

    Those are the lessons I hope my kids will get when and if I ever need to reveal some of my secrets!

  8. My daughter is only 3, but I have so many things I want to tell her someday. I just lost my husband and her father and she's too young to understand the depth of it, but I want to tell her so much. I've decided to start a journal, but a different kind of journal. It's a journal of letters to my daughter. I hope I will know the right time to share it with her. When the time is right, she will have an insight into the person that is her mom "beyond the role of being mom".


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