Hon­esty vs. dis­cre­tion about an ex

The Washington Post Sunday - - MUSEUMS - AMY DICKINSON

Dear Amy: I have a 4-year-old daugh­ter. Her fa­ther and I sep­a­rated when she was a baby. We share cus­tody.

He has a long his­tory of be­ing hos­tile to me, in­clud­ing threats and in­sult­ing emails/texts, yelling for hours over ac­tions I never did, not help­ing with chores or bills, etc. Things be­tween us have only mod­er­ately im­proved in the past four months.

I ac­knowl­edge that while he can be a jerk to me, he is car­ing and af­fec­tion­ate with our daugh­ter.

When he comes over to pick her up, he waits out­side.

Last week she asked, “Why doesn’t he come inside?”

I pro­vided a one-sen­tence fac­tual an­swer with age-ap­pro­pri­ate vo­cab­u­lary: “Be­cause he was mean to me and the cat.”

I have never given her de­tails of the hurt­ful words and ac­tions I en­dured. Later, she re­peated the phrase to him, and he sent me texts/ emails de­mand­ing an­swers.

I want them to have a healthy par­ent-child re­la­tion­ship, and I do not want to cause drama or prob­lems for her. Typ­i­cally, I do not talk about her fa­ther in front of her. But as she ages, how do I an­swer her ques­tions about him or our past?

While I am will­ing to keep the past in the past, I do not want to lie or pre­tend th­ese hard­ships never ex­isted. Won­der­ing Mom

Won­der­ing Mom: You might have used age-ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage and con­cepts with your 4-year-old, but you also bur­dened her with knowl­edge she doesn’t have the ma­tu­rity or con­text to han­dle.

You also called her fa­ther a “mean” man and then sent her out into the world to be with him! How con­fus­ing for her. And — with your one sen­tence — you put her in the mid­dle of your drama.

Chil­dren your daugh­ter’s age are just start­ing to un­der­stand the con­cept of friend­ships, so you could frame your situation in those terms. You could say, “Daddy and I are try­ing to be bet­ter friends, but for now I just want to wave to him when I say good­bye to you. The most im­por­tant thing is that we are both cuckoo-ba­nanas about you, and I’m really happy that he is such a good daddy.”

There is never a need for you to tell your daugh­ter that her fa­ther is a mean jerk. Un­less he presents a dan­ger to her, this is one case where you should not be com­pletely fac­tual and truth­ful to al­low your daugh­ter to form her own re­la­tion­ship with him. If that feels like ly­ing to you, then I give you per­mis­sion to lie your head off. In time, she may ask more pointed ques­tions, and — no mat­ter how old she is — you should be cir­cum­spect in your an­swers.

Dear Amy: “For­got­ten on the Fourth Floor” was up­set that no hospi­tal co-work­ers vis­ited her after knee-re­place­ment surgery.

I’ve worked in hos­pi­tals for 30 years. There are real con­cerns re­gard­ing pa­tient pri­vacy.

My rule of thumb is, if I am close enough with the co-worker that I would drive across town to visit them in the hospi­tal, then I will go to see them in this hospi­tal. Oth­er­wise, I stay away and send a card.


Ex­pe­ri­enced: Thank you.

Amy’s column ap­pears seven days a week at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ad­vice. Write to askamy@amy­dick­in­son.com or Amy Dickinson, Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, 16650 West­grove Dr., Suite 175, Ad­di­son, Tex. 75001. You can also fol­low her @ask­ingamy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.