Virginia Ironside: The truth can be less painful than secrets, doubts and insecurities

Share

You can't keep a secret in a family. Well, you can try, but even if it's never actually discussed, and locked tightly away, most people can hear a secret's muffled yelling in the background, however deeply it's buried.

You can't keep a secret in a family. Well, you can try, but even if it's never actually discussed, and locked tightly away, most people can hear a secret's muffled yelling in the background, however deeply it's buried.

That's one of the reasons I think that children should be told the truth about their parents - and the younger the better. If one of their parents is an anonymous egg or sperm donor, their parents know about it, and however hard they try, they just won't be able to help betraying that knowledge in tiny, disconcerting ways - subtle ways, that often, after a few years, make a child suddenly think: "What's going on?" And if they find out - as they often do, because very few secrets remain secret for ever - they will always carry the burden of their parents' betrayal around with them. If they kept such a crucial fact away from their child, how can they ever be trusted about anything again?

The other reason that a child should know the truth is because so many children who share their genes with only one parent are aware, at some deep level, that they don't completely "belong". Of course, lots of us, when we're teenagers, have a sneaking suspicion that actually our parents found us in a rush basket in the river, and that we're nothing to do with them at all, but that feeling is nothing to that of children who really are the product of one parent and an Anonymous Other.

Telling them may be a shock (although not if they're told very young), but it must be a relief to know that your suspicious and uncomfortable feelings aren't because you're mad and different but, quite the reverse, because you have an excellent and reliable intuitive sense.

Telling children doesn't affect just them, of course. The truth might well affect the father (or mother). They might feel on shaky ground if their children knew that one of their parents wasn't "real". But it's better that a parent, an adult who should have some control over their feelings, should suffer, rather than a child who, if everything is swept under the carpet, may be tormented by mysterious doubts and confusions.

The only case for secrets is when telling them not only does no one any good but also may harm someone else. Revealing someone's true parentage won't hurt them, if it's done young enough. Rather, it will foster more loving, open and honest relationships in the family.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
The Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf heads the inquiry  

Why should Fiona Woolf be expected to remember every dinner date?

Mark Steel
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?