Two years ago I fell in love with a twenty-seven-year-old man. He had a wife and children, and I was only fourteen…. We were expecting a baby, but two days before our son was born, that man died tragically: he was murdered…. I couldn’t go to the burial because no one knew that I even existed, much less that I was carrying his child. Now the baby calls me Mommy, calls his grandmother Mommy too, and calls his grandfather Daddy…. And every day, every hour that goes by, I think about what I will tell my son about what happened to his father. I don’t want to lie to him, but my fear is telling him the truth because, as he gets older, he will have more and more questions.
We are sorry that your son is growing up without a father. You have a genuine concern about what to tell him, but the issue is even more complicated than you have indicated.
You are only seventeen, so you might not have realized that your son’s father not only lied and cheated on his wife, but he also took unfair advantage of your youth and committed what would be called statutory rape in some countries. You may believe that you were old enough to consent to having a sexual relationship with a man twice your age, but any woman who consents to a sexual relationship with a married man is extremely foolish, no matter what her age. Many women believe the lies, forgive the deceit, and override their better judgment when an attractive man pays attention to them. They send their brain on vacation and let their hormones and emotions make all the decisions. Those decisions can lead to horrible consequences, but the women sometimes don’t understand all the repercussions of their actions until years later.
You seem to regret that you couldn’t go to the burial. You couldn’t reveal your existence because they obviously would not have welcomed you. If your son’s father had lived, your life would have turned into a series of events when he could not acknowledge you or his son. You would have been a woman living in the shadows, and your son would have learned soon enough that his father was ashamed of his existence. (We will never forget the forty-two-year-old man who told us his story. His father had never acknowledged his existence, and he grew up in the shadow of his father’s legitimate wife and children. Case 63)
Children can handle almost any truth if it is communicated to them in the right way. So, first of all, be casual about any questions that your son asks. If you act like it is a big deal, he will be even more curious. Secondly, write down and memorize good things you can say that are truthful. “Your father liked the color blue,” “Your father was good at math,” and “Your father liked to drink milk” are good examples. If you always have a truthful statement ready to say that is positive, you can usually steer the conversation with younger children.
As your son grows, always give him the shortest possible answer to his questions. Parents often give too many details when a very short and simple answer would have been fine with the child.
Always stay calm, never letting yourself get emotional when you answer your son’s questions. He will take his cues from you. If you act like it’s nothing to be concerned about, then he won’t be concerned. But if you cry or show a lot of emotion, he will quickly understand that the story is much bigger than what you are telling him.
We urge you to never again consider having a friendship with a married man. If you don’t become his friend, then you won’t become his mistress. You can avoid much more pain in your future if you will also make the decision to save sex for marriage.
You are very blessed to have parents who love you and are caring for you and your son. Your Heavenly Father also loves you and wants to care for you. He can give you the wisdom you need to handle your son’s questions. Pray in your own words and ask for His help.
We wish you well,