She says: “I don’t want our children to know they have a half-sibling.”
Cindy says: Patrick and his high-school girlfriend had a baby together whom they gave up for adoption. That baby is now an adult, and my husband thinks we should tell our children about her. I do not want my children to know that they are not their father’s only children.
He says: “I gave up a baby for adoption when I was a teen – my kids should know.”
Patrick says: I’m sorry Cindy is bothered by this, but the child I had with my high-school girlfriend is a reality. I’m concerned that she may try to contact me, or my other children, and I don’t want it to come as a complete surprise.
What do they do?
Living a lie, even when disclosure may prove embarrassing, is never a good idea. The disclosure to your children that they have an additional sibling can be a teachable moment; a testament to the sanctity of life (adoption verse abortion), a testament to the reality associated with teen pregnancy and its consequences, and a testament to the relationship between parents and their children (sharing struggles and weaknesses). If our lives are to be lived in the light of Christ, we must live in the truth and not in a lie.
If Patrick feels a deep responsibility to share this long-kept secret with his family, it would be wise if he and Cindy would discuss it at length and prepare themselves before sharing the story with their children. If Cindy can be at peace with this past experience of her husband, it could truly be a blessing for the children; it would model for them God’s infinite mercy and forgiveness of our human faults. The love children witness through a family will help them understand the sacredness of marriage and how husbands and wives support and defend each other in good times and in bad.
In the long run, in sharing this event with the children, the relationship between Patrick and Cindy will improve because the anxiety caused by keeping a secret will evaporate. The children will most likely experience an increase in respect for their parents. The family can once again be whole, knowing all the children are accepted and are part of the family.
Living the truth is the only way to live a virtuous life that is pleasing to God. We recall the words from Scripture, “Truthful lips endure forever, the lying tongue, for only a moment.” (Proverbs 12:19) St. Augustine reminds us that, “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.” Not telling the truth about the baby given up for adoption, is deceiving other family members. If Cindy and Patrick’s children are old enough to understand the dignity of life, then they are old enough to handle the truth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also says, “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error.” (2483) The error in this situation is a false understanding that there are no other children belonging to this family.
The exposure of this past event in Patrick’s life is an opportunity for Patrick and Cindy’s relationship to be unencumbered for the first time. If Patrick and Cindy would rely on God’s goodness and mercy, they will experience his healing presence and peace. Perpetuation of keeping the secret by Patrick and Cindy will serve no useful purpose. In fact, our connections with some couples who have experienced this same issue have found that a greater bonding occurred with their children as a result of the disclosure.
The grace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit will lead the entire family into wholeness and acceptance when Patrick and Cindy place their trust in God’s mercy and are bold enough to live in the truth.
Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle help prepare couples for marriage.