“Do your kids know about your heart condition?” the parent in the audience asked. I fumbled. I had never considered telling them. At the time, my children were 5 and 7 years old. “No, they don’t know,” I replied, “I will have to consider when to tell them.” Now, they are 7 and 9 years old. I still haven’t told them. I don’t know when I will.
If I suffer a major health setback, they’ll have to know. They’ll have to help much more around the house. If I keep on my current quite-healthy path, I won’t have to tell them.
I don’t want them to worry about me. My heart problem is not their burden. It is mine.
They are children. I want them to enjoy their childhood years. They will live most of their lives as adults. They’ll have ample opportunity to face adult problems and worries.
We all wear masks in life. Probably we wear masks in front of every person we encounter. I don’t want my kids to view me as weak. Children often see their parents as their heroes. At least for a while. I would like my children to see me as their hero. As strong, capable, and able. For them, I want to wear the mask of a hero.
We also wear masks for ourselves. Those masks can delude us. They can also protect, encourage and prompt us. By not telling my children, my heart problem seems less real to me. Less of a burden. Less of a part of my life.
Why should I tell them? The best argument I can come up with is this: Children should see their parents as they are – flaws, foibles and all. My heart condition simply is a vital part of my being. They should know about that part.
That argument doesn’t persuade me. I am not convinced children should see parents totally raw and revealed. If that’s even possible. I find out something new about myself every week or so.
Perhaps the “need to know basis” provides the right test for telling them. For now, my children don’t really need to know. As long as possible, I want my children to enjoy their childhoods. As their father, I want to wear a mask of strength and capability.