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What happened when I told my daughter I was married before

(Danielle Herzog)
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A few weeks ago I wrote about my struggle over whether to tell my children that I was married previously. Since we had no children and are no longer in contact, I wasn’t sure if they really needed to know about my former husband and our short marriage.

I struggled with telling them because I worried that when they found out that they would look at me differently. Would they think that I failed at something? Would they worry about their father and me breaking up?

But I knew after writing it, I needed to tell her.

Many people wrote me sharing their own stories of telling their children about former marriages. Many also wrote about their parents not telling them or finding out years later and feeling betrayed.

I didn’t want that. I want my children to feel like they know me. That it wasn’t something to hide. I am very proud of what I have become since being divorced. I’m proud of the strength I showed and the path I forged independently. I wanted them to see that. I wanted them to see that I could never have appreciated their father the way I do if I didn’t go through everything I did before meeting him.

Since my daughter is 6 and my son is only 3, I decided to tell only my daughter right now. I will tell my son when he is old enough to understand. But considering his world is only about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles currently, his time will have to wait.

I used a car ride alone with my daughter to seize the moment.

I took a deep breath and said, “Sweetie, you know how one of your friends at Girl Scouts talked about her teacher getting divorced? Did you know what she meant?”

My daughter thought for a second and then said, “No, not really.”

“It means that she was married and is now breaking up with her husband. They won’t be married anymore.”

“Oh, why?” she asked.

“There’s a lot of reasons people break up. Maybe they aren’t getting along or maybe they want different things in their future.”

“How do you get divorced? What do you do?”

I then went on to explain what a marriage certificate was and how divorce was something legal. Then I took a moment, swallowed a big gulp of nerves and said, “Did you know that Mommy was married before? That I got a divorce?”

Her eyes got big and she sat up a bit in her car seat. “To Daddy?” she asked.

“Oh no, honey. Not to your daddy. This was before I ever met your father. I married someone for just a few years and we didn’t have any children. We realized that we weren’t supposed to be together and we decided to break up. To divorce.”

“Oh,” she said, obviously processing the information.

I started to ramble while she sat there in silence. “But you never need to worry about that happening between Mommy and Daddy. We are not ever divorcing and so that’s not something you need to be concerned about.”

She paused for a few minutes as I sat slightly scared at the questions she might ask in response. She thought for a second then said, “So, which teacher do you think it was?”

“Uhm…what?” I asked, confused by what she was asking me.

“The teacher that my friend was talking about. Which teacher do you think is divorced? I hope it isn’t Mrs. Peterson. That would stink.”

“Oh!” I replied, smiling. “I’m not sure who it is. I don’t think it’s Mrs. Peterson though.”

“Whew!” she answered and looked back out the window. After a few seconds, she returned back to the song from Frozen she had started singing before this conversation.

A few hours later, while eating dinner, she turned to my husband and said, “Daddy, I have something to tell you.”

“Yes, pumpkin?” He asked, taking a bite of his food.

“Mommy is divorced. Bet you didn’t know that.”

I smiled as my husband tapped her hand and said, “Actually, I did. And I’m so glad she is because then I got to meet her and marry her.”

“Me too,” she answered. And went back to eating her spaghetti without another word about it.

Danielle Herzog blogs at Martinis and Minivans. You can follow her on Twitter.

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