When I packed my ES’s (estranged spouse’s) stuff after he moved out, I discovered many things he had kept hidden from me and from the kids: empty booze bottles stashed out of sight; porn DVDs; medical test results showing serious chronic illness; a pipe and what I hope was tobacco. But our family had things that were understood to be secrets, too. A few things we didn’t talk about or even acknowledge. I opened the door and my kids dragged the skeletons out of the closet at a family meeting this weekend.
Mostly, my kids were aware that something was off in the marriage. And most of the secrets we kept were related to the adults pretending or being in denial about the deterioration of the marriage and the kids hiding their feelings about that. The kids and I exposed it all to sunshine. I was surprised at the vehemence of their feelings and their sense now that their dad is dead, figuratively speaking. For the most part, they are angry and hurt at his poor handling of the announcement of his decision to move out. He gave them no notice at all and was gone when they woke up the next morning. They don’t feel important to him and haven’t for a long time. They used the word “addict” to describe some of his behaviors; behaviors that I didn’t know they were aware he engaged in.
But, yes, they knew.
I found myself falling back into the habit of explaining or defending his choices and repeatedly had to stop myself. This wasn’t about defending his actions. It was about perceptions and diminishing the power of silence.
So, I learned a few things: kids see more than adults think they do or give them credit for seeing; secrets are ill-kept at best and almost universally destructive; and healing begins by talking about the uncomfortable things. The wound has been partially cleaned, but the healing has only just begun.
- skeletons in closets (anexerciseindiscipline.wordpress.com)