“So my daughter came out two years ago when she started dating her girlfriend, now fiance, and her sisters still have not told their kids about their aunt. Their kids are 8-14 and I can tell it hurts my daughter and her fiance to lie about themselves being just friends. Especially at family parties such as Thanksgiving and coming up Christmas. Please help I am begging!”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Emma Tattenbaum-Fine
I’m wondering what the fear is of these children knowing the truth: that their aunt is in a committed relationship with this “family friend” whom they presumably already know and love. I can see that you are in a tricky situation, watching your daughter feel hurt, but also not wishing to overstep your boundaries. However, your unique role as grandma in this debacle does not have to be a limiting one. You don’t have to feel that your hands are tied, because you are actually in the best position of being ever-so-slightly removed from the situation. You can ask your daughters why they are not telling their children. No, not why they aren’t telling, but rather… what is their greatest fear if they tell? What is the horror they are attempting to avoid?
Would the kids tell other kids? Would the kids suddenly hate their aunt? Would the kids come into a sort of sexual knowledge that makes their parents (your children) uncomfortable? Parsing out exactly what the fear is and following it to its conclusion may help to name and diminish these unseen marionette strings that are controlling your daughters.
Make your view known. Do you think your grandkids should be told the truth? We all want to please our parents. If you explain your stance clearly, that has tremendous power.
Because your grandkids are 8-14-year-olds living in 2015, I’m going to guess that these kids have already either concretely put this together, or that they have at least surmised that what their aunt has with her “friend” is different from the typical friendship, that it is more powerful, more like love, and more like family. If they haven’t figured it out now, they will soon. This is what concerns me—they will be angry about having been lied to. It isn’t fair and it isn’t necessary.
Growing up with two moms as I did, I have strong memories of the moments when my mother told restaurant hosts and other strangers that her “friend would be in shortly, she’s just parking the car,” instead of using the title she used with more trusted folks, which was “my partner.” I asked my mother about this years later and she defended herself saying, “I don’t have to announce my sexual orientation to every stranger I meet.” I understood that my mother had to make those kinds of choices everyday and I respected that.
However, when it comes to family, and children in particular, I think the rules are different. Granted, we are, as gay families, writing those rules as we go, but I draw a hard line here: children need to know. Lying weaves a message into the fabric of your family for a long time to come. Remember that saying Auntie So-and-So and her friend aren’t actually friends, but rather, a couple, does not have to be a talk about the birds and the bees. Love is a very easy concept for children and teens to grasp. Help your daughters to trust that love doesn’t need a grand explanation.
Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedian who writes for The Huffington Post. Her comedy has been featured on Jezebel, BustMagazine.com, Gawker, in Time Out NY and Comedy Central’s Indecision 2012 in Tribeca. She has appeared on PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, with Reggie Watts in a web series for JASH and also on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party. She has created content for Google’s Original Channels, Funny or Die, and as a sketch comedian with a residency at YouTube’s NY studios. See more at www.emmatattenbaumfine.com!
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