Â â€œWhat you didn’t tell someone was just as debilitating as what you did.â€
â€• Jodi Picoult,
Â â€œIf you had a terminal disease, would you tell me?â€
I thought about it for a few moments. â€œProbably not.â€
Such was the start of a discussion between my daughter and I some years ago. She was in college and adapting to our evolving mother/daughter relationship. To be honest, I had my hands in front of me feeling my way along our from-conception bond as well. Although we have always been close, her question brought up an odd mix of emotions. How much would I share if the news were bad? At what point does the fulcrum between protectiveness and disrespect tilt one way or the other?
As I recall, she became upset with my â€œprobably notâ€ answer. â€œWhy wouldnâ€™t you tell me?â€ she demanded. Backed into a corner I came up with solid reasons, or at least those I felt were rock-solid Mom-isms:
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because there is no need to make you worry about something out of your control.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because you have enough on your plate.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because I donâ€™t want you to lose focus on your studies.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because I donâ€™t want to be a burden.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because I have a need to be forever strong in your eyes.â€
Pretty good, right? Mom of the year stuff.
Nope. She shredded me.
â€œBy not telling me you are saying I donâ€™t matter.â€
â€œBy not telling me you are disrespecting our relationship.â€
â€œBy not telling me you deny my need to comfort you; to be there for you as you have been there for me.â€
â€œBy not telling me you are saying I am not strong, and you raised me to be strong. What do you actually believe?â€
â€œBy not telling me you are hurting me, not protecting me.â€
Dang her! When did she become so smart, so intuitive, and so capable of calling me out? Oh yeah. Since birth.
But ever since that conversation so long ago I have had a different appreciation for what I do, or donâ€™t, share with those I love. It is not always comfortable to admit weaknesses or failures. I still hate to burden others. It is better to blithely offer platitudes than uncomfortable truths.
Now I realize that by keeping silent during low points I am selfish in a weird sort of way. I am keeping people I love at arm’s length when I would rather be holding them oh so very close, and that serves no one.
How about you? How do you handle the way you share the less-than-good news with those you love?