“What you see is what you get,” your daughter warned. You liked the transparency. Her boyfriend’s tattoos and nose ring? Not so much. At least you knew what you were getting – sort of.
What’s really tough is when you think you’re getting Harvard Law and you get a secret drug addiction.
Some secrets start with the best intentions. Mom puts on a happy face until her hair falls out from the chemo – and the kids learn about the cancer for the first time. The youngest has to move back in to nurse Mom.
Or Dad ‘forgot’ to pay taxes and also ‘forgot’ to tell his lawyer son. The son’s first clue came when he inherited the family home, discovering a $40,000 IRS lien and a Revenue Agent with his hand out.
Mom and Dad were not transparent. Why? Mom didn’t want to worry the children – and may have entertained some denial herself. Dad felt embarrassed and ashamed. And he told himself he’d pay off the debt before anyone found out.
Secrets that involve money can tear a family apart. Grandma pays Suzie’s tuition, but says, “Don’t tell your cousin, because I can’t afford to pay everybody’s.” Suzie has to lie or delay going to college. She tells the cousin she has a scholarship. When the truth comes out (it will) three generations –- grandmother, the dissed cousin and his parents – stop speaking to each other. Perhaps forever.
If getting caught scares you, here are some suggestions:
- Try to undo the situation you caused, if that’s possible, without making things worse. For instance, if you showed favoritism in your will, you can still change it. Or you can fix the Suzie situation by leaving her a smaller share in the will – after explaining to her what you plan to do and why.
- Summon the courage to bring the situation to light, even if it’s embarrassing. If Dad had told his son about the taxes, Son might have been able to negotiate a reduction, forgiveness of penalties, and a payment plan. And kept the house title clear.
- One way to confess a lapse in judgement is to admit how you’re feeling. “This is really embarrassing to have to talk about, but I think it’s best you know. It was a mistake not to tell you sooner.”
- Keep your kids advised about any serious medical issues on your horizon. And what you tell one, tell all. That will allow them to all participate in your care without putting the heaviest burden on the one who happens to live closest. You’ll learn that they all love you and want to help.
We get ourselves into these situations to avoid criticism or looking needy. Remember, it’s okay not to be perfect. As Leonard Cohen sang, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Next time you’re tempted to do anything that might require a cover-up, some biblical wisdom might be helpful: “Whatever is done in the dark will be seen in the light.” So just say no.
Beyond Dispute Associates
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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