Why You Should Quit Lying to Your Kid About Their Conception
Kim Bergman, author of Your Future Family, urges parents to stop lying about their child's origins. Here's why.
When I turned 18, my mom sat me down and told me the real story about my biological father, which is that they were not married, she got pregnant, and she decided that she wanted me and that she was okay being a single mom. And she told my biological father, “If you’re not going to be fully in her life, then you’re out of the picture.” Then, after she had me, she met my dad, they got married, and he adopted me.
I was shocked—not by the fact that my mom wasn’t married when she had me, but by the fact that she’d kept this from me all those years. I actually had a mini identity crisis because the story of my life was that my dear, loving father had died in a car accident while my mother was pregnant with me. So I can tell you from personal experience that finding out your real story when you’re 18 or 20 years old is not ideal. I know that my mom thought she was protecting me from a story she thought would be hard for me to accept or understand, but the truth is always the best way to go.
So, whatever else you do as a parent, don’t lie to your child about his or her origins. Please, just don’t do it. Intended parents sometimes tell me, “I want to tell my kids the truth, but I’ll tell them when they’re 10.” No! Tell them before they ever know anything else so it’s part of the fabric of who they are and they never have to have that “Really? Seriously?” moment later on. No child wants to be lied to or have secrets kept from them. Plus, lies and secrets nearly always come out anyway, so why not be truthful up front?
I’ll never forget the dad who called me when his daughter turned 7 because he felt it was the right time to tell her the story of her conception. I asked what he’d told her to date, and he said he had told her that her “mom” lived in America (they lived in Europe) and had stayed in the United States after she was born. Oops. That was going to be a hard one to undo. I understood where he was coming from in telling her that story; he thought that would be easier for her to understand than the truth: that she had no mommy and had been conceived through the help of an egg donor and surrogate. He thought he was doing the most loving and protective thing.
- RELATED: Talking with Kids About Adoption
If you are worried that your child, your partner, or the world might not consider you to be a legitimate parent if you are not biologically related to your child, you shouldn’t be. Love is what binds a family, not genetics. Regardless of whose genetic material you use, you and your partner are going to be full and equal parents. For instance, I have two wonderful daughters. I am biologically related to one but not the other. Yet I have never questioned my status as a parent with either. I don’t ever think of one as mine and one as Natalie’s. They’re just our kids. And the same was true with my parents. I’m biologically related to my mom but not my dad. But that wasn’t important to me. What mattered was that they both loved me. This will be true in your family as well. Genetics matter, but they are not what make a family. Love makes a family.
Reprinted with permission from Red Wheel/Weiser LLC., Your Future Family by Kim Bergman, Ph.D. is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-423-7087.