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

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee