My family is strange. We don’t talk to each other. I mean, we say hi and ask each other how we are, but I don’t think we really listen to each other’s answers. And there are massive minefields of uncomfortable situations that we just don’t talk about. Nobody mentions that my grandfather committed suicide when I was 5; I didn’t even know about it until I was 30. Adoptions, divorces, arguments, trauma, fights, deaths, miscarriages. anything involving feelings, really, are a big no-no.
I recently found out a childhood friend had been adopted. She was pretty open about it, and was surprised I had never known; it’s never been a secret for her, she’s always known. The next time I saw my mother I asked her, Did you know this girl I spent a large part of my childhood with, whose parents you were good friends with, was adopted? Her answer? Yes. Why didn’t I or my brothers or sisters know about it? Well, adoption is not really something you talk to kids about.The general rule in our family seems to be: If it’s a bit tricky to talk about, pretend it didn’t happen. If it makes you uncomfortable, pretend it’s not there. Brush it under the carpet, turn your head away from it, stick your fingers in your ears and sing a loud song. Eventually it will go away.
When I was around 11 I had “the periods talk” from my mother. It went like this:
Mother: “you’ve had sex education at school and been told about periods, right?”
Mother: “well here are some sanitary towels, take them with you when you go on your school trip next week, in case anything starts.”
That was the first and last conversation I had with my mother on this topic.
S has been born into a fairly unfortunate situation, in that there are a lot of uncomfortable things I will need to explain to her as she grows up. Things like why her dad isn’t around, the fact she has brothers and sisters she has no contact with, that she doesn’t see any of her father’s side of the family… and after recent events it looks like I may need to explain why random members of that side of the family turn up on our doorstep from time to time, demanding to see her. If I’m honest, I’m absolutely dreading it. How do you tell a child about that sort of situation without making them feel like they were a mistake or unwanted? How do you explain it without them thinking you are keeping them away from some magical, flawless absent family? Still, having grown up with the alternative, I suppose I had better start preparing my speech now. I’d rather she know everything, than be fed a stream of lies and find out the truth in an episode worthy of an Eastenders Christmas special
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