There are some things parents try to avoid talking about.
Whether it's wild stories from dad's youth or mom's poor grades in high school, many subjects simply aren't the kind of thing parents want out in the open.
One mother, however, took to the popular subreddit "Am I The A**hole?" to ask internet users everywhere whether she was at fault for keeping her husband's secret from their children.
Reddit user wifeofawidower wrote a post entitled:
"AITA for withholding from my children that my husband had a wife and child before he met me? They've just found out and are acting like I've betrayed them."
In it, she outlines the entire situation:
"My children are 17 and 14 respectively, and I'm hoping the fact that they're teenagers is the reason for their incredibly s****y behavior."
"My husband, before he met me, had a wife and a newborn baby that passed away in Canada due to hazardous road conditions that resulted in a 4 car smash up. No one was at fault, it was a horrific disaster, and my husband was devastated as a result and fell into alcoholism to cope."
Fortunately, the author and her husband managed to find each other:
"I had my own trauma from the past, and similarly turned to alcoholism to cope. It was at an AA meeting where we met, 20 years ago almost to the day now, and we slowly started to heal together here in the US."
"I have always been incredibly respectful of my husbands last wife and child. I like to joke that I'm keeping her seat warm until my husband enters heaven. I've had too much loss and hurt in my life to feel jealousy like this, and tbh- I am so damaged that I just feel lucky that I got to actually feel love in this world and that my husband could open his beautiful heart to me."
The new couple got married and had children who, naturally, didn't know about their father's previous family.
But as the sons became teenagers, their grandmother felt she had the right to share the family secret:
"We had two children- two sons. We'd never told them about my husband's wife or baby, because it's a part of my husbands life that he keeps under lock and key. He has never healed from his grief, and therapy etc has helped him only to a degree."
"My mother in law told the kids this Sunday gone, as she decided it was 'time for them to know'. She didn't consult us before telling them, and certainly didn't do it in our presence."
The author's sons are not taking the news gracefully:
"Since then my sons have been making the most disgusting dead baby jokes, they've been prodding their dad asking why we'd never told them, and instead of approaching the topic with respect they're acting like we've kept a secret affair family from them or something."
"My 14 y/o went on to say to me in private, thank goodness not in front of his father, that he was glad my husband's previous family was dead. I broke and yelled at him, and told him it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever heard him say. I asked where his anger was coming from, and he burst forth that we were shitty parents for keeping secrets."
As the dust settles after a minor family crisis, wifeofawidower just wants to know if she was in the wrong.
"He told me that it made 'so much sense' why we were abnormal, why we don't drink, why we are so boring and quiet, why my husband is panicky around roads, etc."
"The two are pretty heartbroken, and I feel like we have just destroyed a part of our children's lives as a result of us staying quiet. I am hurting, my husband is grieving all over again, and I don't know how to proceed. I have and will always reiterate to our kids that they are loved, but this behavior seems so overreactive for the news."
After hearing the full context of the story, most readers agreed wifeofawidower was NTA ("Not the A**hole").
"NTA. But your mother in law is for thinking she gets to decide when to tell them. Also your children have a right to be upset but that behavior is intolerable. Stay strong."
LiteUpThaSkye agrees, but with a caveat:
"NTA, but it sounds like they are mad because the death of the wife and baby have affected your husband so much that it effects their life too."
"It sounds like you all need to sit down as a family and talk. Your kids are practically adults at this pointI almost went with nah but the dead baby jokes and stuff cross the line."
Kayano905 also thinks a family meeting would be a good idea.
"NTA. Your kids have a right to feel hurt, but it sounda like you all need to have a family meeting to discuss the past. Have you thought about a counselor? Maybe that would be a great "middle man" to help everyone come to grips. As for your MIL.....she needa to butt out!"
Krazyrobus said what everyone was thinking—this grandmother and grandkids need to get their act together!
"Nta. But holy s***, your mother in law and your sons are like the kings of a**holes."
d0n7w0rry4b0u717, however, thinks all parties are a bit to blame:
"ESH. First off there's your mother in law, who sucks for telling your children without consulting you. Second, your kids suck for making dead baby jokes and saying they're glad that situation happened."
"Third, you and your husband suck for keeping it from them for so long. Though I'd say suck is a bit harsh but mistakes were definitely made by not telling them. Your kids don't suck for feeling betrayed. You kept a huge secret from them. They didn't know they had a half sibling that passed on. They definitely had the right to that knowledge."
"They may even feel like their father doesn't love them as much as his first kid. When you keep secrets and people find out, people start to think of reasons as to why it was a secret. Its very possible your son's are thinking you kept it a secret so they didn't know that they aren't loved as much. Not that its true but they could make up that reason in their head, and it's not really wrong of them."
"Also, it's very possible that your children are grieving the loss of their sibling and their way of dealing with it is by cracking jokes and trying to act like they don't actually care about the sibling. Also, they found out that they only exist because people died. Of course that'd mess them up. I think family therapy might be a necessity."
Cipher_3 thinks these kids are old enough to handle knowledge better.
"NTA your kids are old enough that they should understand why such a thing isn't easy to just bring up in casual conversation."
"What did they want? 'Oh yeah by the way your dad had a wife and kid before we met but they died. Just thought you should know.' ? It's none of their business. It doesn't affect them whatsoever. They'll never meet them, so why does it matter at all? Why did anyone at all think 'oh, these kids should know this'? I'm so sorry you have to deal with this, and I hope your husband is coping okay."
"Edit: based on most of the response to this comment I find it safe to assume most of y'all have not been in this situation. I have. I did not act like a jacka** like these kids have. It's not something you get uppity about"
sujihime doesn't blame the author, but knows how the children feel after being in a similar situation:
"Look, my dad died before I was born. No one talked about it. Ever. My mom was incredibly fragile and rebuilding for the first few years of my life. She was an AMAZING mother and took care of us (one older sister) better than a lot in similar situations and I don't begrudge her her time she needed to heal."
"However. I was 17 before I heard the first inklings of how my dad died. A major heart attack in front of my mom while she was 7 months pregnant. But that was the extent of my knowledge. Again, no one talked about it. I'm 36 now and only starting to get details of what happened from other people."
"Giant blank pages are being filled in and it's been healthy and healing for me and finally allows me to acknowledge that it was a huge tragedy that affected me despite not being born yet and begin the grieving process. I've never been angry at my mom for not telling us what happened or really talked about it. Like your husband, she was broken and needed to heal. But I DO blame my relatives for not being more proactive in talking about it and helping my sister and I grieve and understand what happened. I'm not angry, but it did leave some unprocessed issues in me for 36 years."
"Your children are grieving. They just found out they had a sibling they never knew about. They are dealing with this horrific story and knowing their dad had to go through it. They are feeling guilt for being alive because it only happened because their dad's first family died. Family counseling and individual therapy would be a good idea so they can talk about it to a safe space (you are not a safe space for them to talk about it right now)."
"NAH. You did what you thought was best to protect your husband, but help your children understand and grieve, too."
Ultimately, Clarice_Ferguson thinks the author might be in the right, but that doesn't mean the family doesn't need to talk.
"NTA. But I don't think the problem is you withholding this information. I think your family had issues long before it and your kids aren't stupid. I know you're ok with saying 'you're just a seat warmer,' but kids pick up on the underlying feelings - even if you don't express those feelings out loud."
"Look at it from their point of view - they've witness an unique and probably unhealthy family dynamic for their whole lives. They just now found out the answer to why that is and they're acting out."
"Yes, they're being assholes about it but they're teenagers who just experienced a massive 'this is why things are the way they are' moment. Their dad is still in a state of grief where he won't talk about his previous family and you acknowledge that you're not his first choice. Which is fine, you do you. But that also means having his sons with you isn't his first choice either. And that sucks. It sucks to think that your dad would prefer a life without you."
Maybe there are some secrets worth sharing before your mother-in-law jumps on the opportunity.
You never know how some kids will react to big news.
Recovering from the revelation of a family secret is not always easy. The book Family Secrets - The Path from Shame to Healing is available here.
"What you don't know can hurt you—but it can also lead to self-acceptance and healing. Family Secrets gives you the tools you need to understand your family—and yourself—in an entirely new way."