secrets kidsTo tell or not to tell, that is the question. As a parent, are you obligated to tell your spouse everything that happens with your child? I was put in a tricky situation the other night when my fiancé’s daughter told me a secret. “Don’t tell my dad,” she said. As she was saying, “Don’t tell my Dad,” I was already thinking, “Am I going to tell him this?”

Let’s just say the “secret” was not so much something bad she had done, as much as it is something that every 13-year-old girl does on occasion (it was nothing illegal or dangerous). On the one hand, it was nice to know that she trusted me. (Or could she? I still hadn’t decided whether to tell her father or not.) I told her, “I don’t think your dad will care,” because truly, I didn’t believe he would care. “Yes, he will,” she said to me. Also, it was kind of nice to share this “secret” with her. But was it bonding at the expense of doing something wrong? Even if that “something” I couldn’t really put my finger on.

In recent months, my own daughter has said to me, “Don’t tell Daddy, okay?” When your child says this to you, it does put you in an awkward position. I’m sure the “right” thing to do is to tell her father. But it also feels like I’m being disloyal to my daughter. Again, nothing she’s told me has been anything that her father would really care about, but for some reason she thinks he would. (I won’t share my daughter’s secrets here, but similar examples include staying up all night or, on the more embarrassing but common front, accidentally calling your teacher “Mommy.”)

Do you tell your spouse everything? When it comes to my married friends, I automatically assume, even if my friends tell me otherwise, that they are going to tell their husbands. I know this because, generally, I tell the person I’m serious with everything. I may leave out details, but they get the gist of what is happening. But when it comes to your own child, loyalties do shift. I find myself extremely loyal to my daughter. First and foremost, I want her to be open with me and tell me things. If she finds out that I run and tell her father everything, especially things that she has specifically told me not to tell him, will she trust me? Or should my loyalty be with her father, the adult? Again, mostly the stuff my daughter tells me “not to tell” is super silly stuff, at least it is now.

The night my fiancé’s daughter told me a “secret” and “not to tell” her dad, I had a conversation with him. I asked him if my daughter told him something and told him not to tell me, would he? “Of course I would,” he said. He’s under the total belief that parents need to stick together under all circumstances. Of course, he also is an adult and can add 5 plus 7 so can figure out that I was only asking him because one of his daughters told me something and his curiosity got the better of him.

I also think that because he’s a male, he doesn’t quite understand the importance of “secrets” or keeping secrets, like females do. Females, of course, talk a lot more to each other than men do. But my fiancé also says that kids are smart and once they figure out which parent they can talk to about certain things, it will be never-ending and that child will constantly go to the parent and work them.

So did I tell him what his daughter told me? Yeah, I did. It really was a silly thing and he, like I guessed, didn’t care. But what if his daughter had told me something really personal, like about getting her period, or having sex, something much more serious, that maybe she only would feel comfortable having another woman know about? Then would I have told him? There are certain things that I have told my mother that I have told her not to tell my father. These are always “womanly” things, but now that I’ve been thinking about this, I’m pretty much positive that my dad knows everything my mother knows.

What I hate most about hearing “secrets” from your children is that you have to tell your spouse that they can never tell. I told my fiancé, “Okay, I’ll tell you, but you can’t ever tell her I told you, or else she’ll never trust me again.” So now I’m left wondering if he’ll ever say anything to her, and also knowing that I betrayed her trust, even if it was to her father.

I know most people will say, “Your loyalty should be with your spouse,” but I find this really tricky. I know most people will say, “Don’t promise your child that you won’t tell,” but then I wonder if anyone, especially their children, has ever asked them, “Can you keep a secret?” because the human response is, um, “Yeah, I can!!!”

When it comes to “secrets” your children tell you, should you always tell your better half? Or can you, as my daughter says, “Zip it. Lock it. Put it in your pocket?”

(Photo: Jupiterimages)