Always tell the truth. Never lie. That commandment was drummed into my siblings and I by our parents, our vicar, our teachers.
So I was supportive when my husband, Rhys, told his long-alienated adult children that, contrary to their mother’s claims, he had indeed been paying child support all along. They seemed pleased to know that Da cared whether they starved or not. In fact, their mouths dropped open in shock when they heard how many hundreds of thousands of pounds their mother had received and disappeared, dressing them in outgrown rags, feeding them the cheapest macaroni and chips.
But when I shared this story of telling kids the truth in several Facebook groups, I was boxed round the earhole for being so ‘petty’. That’s not a word I use very often. Certainly not in the context of telling the truth. But comment after comment labelled Rhys and I ‘petty’ for telling his adult children details about money their mother received.
I disagree. Vehemently.
‘Petty’ is one of those emotionally fraught buzzwords so often wielded in society today. Like ‘misogynyst’, the word ‘petty’ is so infused with horror that one recoils from it and will do anything to avoid being labelled ‘petty’. That’s a pity because such name calling stops critical thought and the children, as always, are the poorer for it.
As I read down the Facebook comments, I suddenly realised that those screaming ‘petty’ the loudest were most likely custodial parents much like Rhys’ ex. It would be inconvenient for their children to know how much they receive in child support each month. It might lead to awkward questions like, ‘Ma, why do I have to wear outgrown clothes? Da says he pays you two thousand pounds a month to care for me. You have nice clothes, professional manicures, nights out, a nice car. Why don’t I have better food? Why can’t I have nice clothes so I won’t be bullied at school’?
This could drive a wedge between a mother and child, but her claims that ‘Da doesn’t pay shit’ are already driving a wedge between father and child. Should Da stay silent and be a party to his own Parental Alienation? Should he hold his tongue and be complicit in his child believing horrible lies about him?
I don’t think so. By staying silent, he loses. By telling the truth, he may lose but at least he has a fighting chance, regardless of whether the ‘petty’ label is wielded or not. Whether by vile lies or the honest truth, the child is already being pulled, tugged between their parents. It’s not the truth teller who is ‘petty’ but the one spreading lies.
Certainly upon reaching adulthood, children have every right to know exactly how much their father paid in child support. They deserve to know how many visitations their mother scuppered. How many greeting cards Da sent with cash tucked inside that arrived without the money..if the child was allowed to receive the greeting card at all.
Several Facebook commenters were adults who had grown up through Parental Alienation and been shocked when they were finally told as adults what their custodial parent was really like. Although their world was turned upside-down, still they expressed gratitude for finally learning the truth. It wasn’t easy, but learning the truth allowed them to make informed decisions about how to conduct their relationships with their parents as adults, in light of the new, factual information.
Personally, I would also choose truth. In fact, I had to. Many ‘inconvenient truths’ about those who raised me came to light after I reached adulthood. I was desperate for information and grateful for the facts. If I’d been denied the truth, now that would’ve been ‘petty’.
Don’t let allegations of ‘pettiness’ keep you from telling your children the truth. Every situation and child is different, so use discretion and sensitivity. But sooner or later, truth will out. It must. It should.
Honesty is still, and always will be, the best policy.