Wednesday, February 6, 2008

When BioMom Asks You To Lie

It's Friday.
Opening night for Cinderella's play.
It's Maleficent's visitation weekend, so she is to be here at 5pm to pick up Cinderella and bring her to the school early for hair and make-up.

6am: We get the call informing us that school's been closed on account of freezing rain.

7am: I get the email telling me the play has also been canceled.

A flurry of emails ensue throughout the day from her Drama teacher updating the parents on how this impacts the remaining performances.
Maleficent is not on the distribution list so I forward each one to ensure she is equally informed, especially since the responsibility of picking up and dropping off in between performances falls on her.
Around lunchtime Cinderella calls her Mom to confirm she knows the play has been canceled and that she is still coming at 5pm for their regular visitation.
Maleficent does not pick up. Cinderella leaves messages on her cell and home numbers and continues to stress throughout the day because that's what she does. She needs constant reassurance for even the most routine of events.

3pm: Maleficent leaves a cryptic message on our voicemail:

I won't be able to take Cinderella to her play tonight. I'm in the hospital. But don't tell her that. Just tell her I'm not feeling well and that I love her.

She is audibly distressed. She's been crying.
She has no idea school's been cancelled. No idea the play is not happening tonight.
I start to worry. I know she has been having medical problems for the past year, but the details are fuzzy. Maleficent hasn't exactly been very forthcoming, so most of what we "know" comes from Cinderella's offhand comments and show of concern for her Mom.
How the hell am I going to explain to her that her Mom is not coming without being bombarded with a flurry of questions about the rest of the weekend? This is her visitation weekend with her Mom. Will she see her at all?
Cinderella is naturally inquisitive and obsesses over her pick ups and drop offs. She is not going to accept this.
I can't accept it either. She is eleven years old. Old enough to know the truth. She deserves it.
(Never mind that in my head I am imagining the worst case scenario and wondering if we could live with ourselves should something terrible happen and Cinderella not be given the chance to see her Mom in the hospital.)
It takes me an hour to get a hold of Prince Charming to find out if he knows any more so we can decide what and how to tell Cinderella.
The message from Maleficent on his voice mail mentions that she may need surgery.
And, again, she asked that we NOT to tell Cinderella.
It's now one hour before Maleficent is supposed to be here.
The Prince and I go back and forth on what to do.
Do we tell her?
Or do we honor her mother's request?

What would YOU do?


Jenni said...

My husband and I have found ourselves in a similar situation. We told her a minimum of details about why she would not be spending all (or possibly any) of the weekend with her mom, but left the details of it out. For example:

"Cinderella, your mom called Dad and him a message that said she wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be able to pick you up tonight. Since we were not able to talk to her, we do not know if or when she will pick you up for your weekend with her."

If she asks (and it sounds like she will) what is wrong with her mom, just say you don't know and leave it at that. Explain that all you know is that she isn't feeling well and won't be picking her up. Because that is the truth. You don't know what is wrong. She could be going in for surgery for something very minor and telling Cinderella that her mom might be having surgery but you don't know what for seems even scarier for her than not telling her at all.

Pamela said...

I agree with Jenni. I would try to keep it low-key and not give give her details that she could/might blow out of proportion.

clevergirl said...

I agree with the last two comments. Telling her that her mom is in the hospital would just stress her out because she will want to know why and you won't be able to tell her. It is better to keep the details to a minimum in this case.

I wouldn't consider it lying, exactly. It's just not telling the whole truth (which I usually frown on). And by not telling the whole truth, you are saving her from a weekend of worrying that there could be something seriously wrong with her mother.

A New Beginning said...

I agree as well with the above suggestions.

How many hospitals are in your area? I think if I was really concerned about how serious this illness is I or Hubby would try to (alone)go and see her there, find out what is going on and let her know that she didn't miss the play. This all depends on your situation with the Ex of course, but from what I've read on your blog as of late it seems that Maleficent is trying to reach out to you in her own bizarre way. However, that's me. It may not be appropriate for your situation. Good Luck. Let us know what happens.

K&M.HappilyEverAfter said...

Yes, I would do as suggested by the other readers. It will all work out. Everything happens for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone above. Tell the truth in the simplest terms. You don't know what's wrong, you're trying to find out, but if it was really something to worry about your Mom would definitely tell you. I give Maleficent credit. My husband has custody of his 13 year old. We found out in August that her mother has stage 3 ovarian cancer. She has emotional and mental issues that resulted in the custody order and that have only intensified since the diagnosis. She thinks nothing of dumping every ache, pain, fear and distress on her 13 year old. When my husband called and told her to tone it down because she was terrifying her daughter, her response was "but that's how I feel and I need someone to talk to about all of this." So give credit where credit is due. With all of her faults at least Maleficent's first thought was to not worry her daughter.

Erin said...

I agree with Anonymous. You tell her what you know in an age-appropriate way, that her mother isn't feeling well enough, and you really don't have all the information on it.

I believe BM handled this correctly. I disagree with New Beginnings that you should try and find BM at a hospital and seek more of her personal information than BM was willing to give via VM. That's intrusive. If she wants you to know, and has that kind of relationship with you, she'd voluntarily offer it without prying.

You're an amazing SM. I'd just keep her really busy this weekend on something fun.

Wicked Stepmom said...

I have such smart and insightful readers. :)

Thanks for your comments!

A New Beginning said...

Just for the record, I simply said what **I** would do. I also pointed out that my opinion may not be appropriate for her situation a couple of times. I appreciate your opinion but my situation differs greatly from Wicked's and I would never assume that what works for me or what I might do would be 100% approprite in someone else's life.
I think that Wicked is one of the most wise Stepmothers in a very, and I have complete faith that she knows the right path to take. My thoughts birth from my experiences with my family and Ex and are purely my own.
There are several things about the Ex in my life that would make my comment reasonable for me more so than it might be for others.

RsKitten said...

Raising a step child is not easy. I have a 5 yr old daughter of my own. Anything you do out of love you can not go wrong at. Do not question yourself too much and wonder if each little task is the right thing to do. As long as you have love for the child everything will work out just fine. The "should we tell her this" "should we tell her that" there is no right or wrong answer, just do everything you do out of love.
Have a great day!

Bleu said...

I too agree with the other posters. I'm gritting my teeth while I type this..respect what her BM wants you to do. It would just make you look like the bad guy if you told your SD the truth..though I agree that she's old enough to hear it, and that she deserves to hear it. Bad things happen, and kids need to be given tools to deal with those bad things. That includes being sad and worried sometimes. But regardless, just tell her that BM is sick and that she will call when she feels better. Plan something fun for this weekend to sort of distract SD if possible.

Mrs. H said...


This reminds me of a couple of weeks ago at our house. We (and Stepsons) hadn't heard from BM in a couple of days; this was HIGHLY unusual, BM calls everyday.

Husband tried calling her. Since Stepdad has cancer we were VERY afraid something had happened to him and we were playing out scenarios about how to handle things with the boys.

Finally, BM called me and said that she had been "blind" for the past couple days and was in the hospital. When I asked if she was okay she declined to provide any details and wanted to talk to the boys.

She talked to the boys, and I am not sure what she told them, but they seemed okay.

Husband and I were confused. Later that night Stepdad called me and told me about what happened to BM. He said that one of his doctor friends had given her a sedative (while Stepdad was sleeping) and it wigged her out. She fell in the bathroom, hit her head and was knocked out. The fall had affected her vision and they admitted her to the hospital for observation since they couldn't figure out why she reacted that way to the sedative.

The reason this reminds me of your situation, is once again we were provided with a minimal amount of information. Husband and I were not just worried, we were SCARED that something had happened to Stepdad and/or BM. As much as BM loves the drama of providing only small amounts of information, it is frustrating because it impairs our ability to handle things with Stepsons.

If it were me, I would tell Cinderella a version of the truth. I would tell her that Maleficent isn't feeling well and won't be able to pick her up that night. I would omit the part about the hospital until I had more information and could present it to her in a way that won't alarm her so much. Then, I would try and get in touch with Maleficent and see if I could get more information. It isn't about your relationship with her, it is about having enough information for all of you to be good parents to Cinderella and do what is best for her.

Anonymous said...

I must say that I am not sure I would trust BM that much. It sounds like she wants attention by giving so few details about being in the hospital. I guess this stems from dealing with a BM that is very dishonest with us on a regular basis to manipulate various situations. Sorry for the cynical view, but I would definitely save that voice mail message for future reference. As for what to tell your SD, I guess the only thing you can do at this point is to tell her that her mom left a message saying she was sick and gave no other details. I would definitely try to reach Maleficent, or at least her vice mail and tell her that you do not appreciate being asked to lie.

Mister-M said...

The situation screams of hoover and a cry for sympathy.

I'd tell the child simply, "Mom isn't feeling well and won't be able to pick you up this weekend."

Any follow-up questions, I'd simply say that you don't know the details but mom can explain it all to you when she has time.

Good luck.