I’ve always, but always, told the truth. It was kind of an unspoken rule in my home, growing up, that you should tell the truth. Without threats of horrible things happening if you didn’t, without any agenda, just honest to God truth telling because that’s what we should do. Because of this, I’ve always had an irrational fear of something really bad happening if I didn’t tell the truth. It’s led me to some fairly awkward situations, but my conscience is totally clear: I’ve told no big lies in my life and only very very few tiny white lies.
But then – bump – fast forward to 2013. A false accusation against me. A Court case in which evidence was presented that was littered with lies. Lies upon lies to the children about certain events and promises made to them that were never genuine. A wall of lies, untruths and downright horrible smears against my name. It all hurt me a lot. Worse than this, it hurt the children a lot, hurts the children a lot.
I see them trying to reconcile the facts with what they were fed (from the other party) and I see they can’t wrap their little heads around it. The immensity of knowing a parent lied to them on multiple occasions is too much for them, so they pretend it didn’t happen, deal with it in the way they know best, by play acting, by pretending. By trying to believe everything is OK (when it’s obviously not), by trying to smooth ‘wrinkles’ in the stories they were told by making up alternative versions and by voicing possibilities, explanations for the behaviours that don’t fit in to their scheme of understanding, and interacting with, the world.
It destroys a little bit of me every time we have these conversations, every time I hear them ask me “But why, Mama, why?”. Because they’re 8 and 4. Too young to have these hideous events thrust on them. Too young to have to rationalise their father’s behaviour. Too young for anything but playing play games and being oblivious to anything that stinks of bad examples.
I, Mama, deal with truth issues every day myself. It’s still incredulous to me that this happened to us, that we were – are being – put through this ordeal. This trial. For a trial it is. A daily trial. I go back and forth, trying to understand but, I’ve realised, there is no understanding. A narcissist will do what they have to do. To get what they want to have. There’s no rhyme or reason, no rationality. The only way to deal is to accept that and to move on.
But for an 8 year old and a 4 year old? They need a framework that tells them what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’. They need a good example of parents. Plural. What’s a Mama to do when their framework has been warped, the defences breached, when only one parent is standing for truth and light and love and joy? What?
I ask myself that question daily, many times a day. I can’t answer for him. But, equally, I can’t be seen to excuse him or his behaviour. The only thing I can do is tell the children that he’s ill, that we have to help him, have to somehow understand him, that it wasn’t him but something inside him that made him act this way. My 4 year old daughter likens him to the witch in Sleeping Beauty. Whilst I’m not in to the whole ‘demonise’ him approach, I found it is a useful approach for her to deal with it: she understands the witch didn’t want to poison Sleeping Beauty but her jealousy made her do it, because she wanted to be the fairest in all the land. My daughter seems more settled in herself now she’s made that connection.
My son? He oscillates between missing his Dad and fearing him, all the while asking me, continually, if I’m OK, if we’re going to be OK. Assuming parental responsibilities and questioning aspects of home life that are beyond his years (it breaks my heart). I treat him gently, am there when he needs kisses, there when he cries in frustration, when he gets angry. As someone said to me, a child that acts in these ways is a child that needs extra love. So I show him I love him in a million different ways. He told me he hated me the other day (yes, it seared the very core of my heart, broke off some bits that were already hanging by threads kind of hoping to be reconnected some day). I asked him to write me a letter explaining why he hated me. He went off to his room. He was there for about an hour and came out, thrusting a piece of paper in to my hand. “Mama, I can’t tell you why I hate you” – it said – “…because I don’t. I love you because….(ten things – all too, too cute!)….I don’t like what’s happened to us because (a few things) and I don’t like that my Dad treats you badly”.
He looked shame-faced when he thrust it at me. But I celebrated it like we’ve not celebrated anything for what felt like a long long time. He told the truth! His truth! Despite everything he’s witnessed, everything we’ve been through, all the bad examples of lies he’s seen and lived, he told his truth. And, as the saying goes, it set him free. He’s been calmer after that, more tranquil, more at peace with himself, more his old self.
The truth. I grew up in a loving home, calm, settled, peaceful, with loving parents. I’m frightened, every day I’m anxious that my children are growing up in a broken home. It breaks my heart a little bit every time I think about it, but there’s nothing that can be done. The home is broken and we have to move on. Mourning what was whilst gathering our truths, flexing our truth muscles, allowing the truth, bit by bit, to set us free. To liberate us from this cage we’re in.
The truth. It’s the only way to live a life. Guided by it’s light and the path it shows you forward. Don’t mess with the truth: it will always, but always, come back to bite you. Honesty is, as they say, the best policy.
I don’t know how things will end. I have no magic crystal ball, unfortunately, but I’m damned if one man’s cruelty is going to damage my children’s childhood. The only truth of the matter that matters here is that their childhood is a precious gift that needs to be protected at whatever cost.
That’s my truth: my non-negotiable.