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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world