My Kid Caught Me Cheating…Now What?
If you’re a J. Cole fan you may have caught the surprise ending of his video for the single, “She Knows”. I won’t give it away if you want to check it out, but the moral of the story is if you’re going to cheat, try not to be messy about it. It always amazes me how people will cheat so egregiously and then have the nerve to act surprised. It’s all fun and games getting it on with your side piece in the same bed you sleep with your partner in until you’re staring at hidden camera footage with the host of Cheaters.
In this digital day of screen caps and Catfish, it’s becoming harder and harder to get your creep on and what’s even worse is that children are increasingly more technologically savvy than their parents meaning that all too often they become aware of a parents’ infidelity before their spouse even does. I had a friend who discovered her dad was cheating on her mom just because he didn’t know what the “Trash” folder was for. In my opinion, this is the worst kind of secret you could ever place your child in a position to have to keep. It’s right up there with the “bad touch/this is something special between me and you” betrayal. And although some may think I’m being pretty harsh with that comparison, I believe it’s ultimately disrespectful to a child when you force them to deal with adult feelings and make mature decisions before they are prepared for them.
Relationships are complicated enough for children. There are some adults who can’t even make sense of their feelings, so to ask a child or even a young teenager to make sense of complicated emotions like love vs. lust and “growing apart” can be an unrealistic expectation.
J. Cole may be relieving some trauma from his child in the “She Knows” video. The lyrics in his song “Never Told” reveal that he was forced to keep quiet about his own father’s infidelity:
“Could it be cause my father let me know
That he cheated, and somehow I never told
I never told
Hey, you wanna be a man?
Yeah I wanna be a man.
A man don’t run tellin’ mama everything he see.
I ain’t gonna tell.
Alright then man. You’re a man now.
When a child witnesses a parent being unfaithful it sends the indirect message that you don’t respect their mother or father. On top of that, you place a child in the painful of position of choosing to be honest and hurt one parent or protect their bond with the other one. It compromises all the values that parents are supposed to want to teach their children like respect, honesty and integrity. People make mistakes, parents or not, but that doesn’t mean your children should be traumatized because of your carelessness.
If a child chooses to reveal to a parent what they have witnessed, the reaction of the parent could have a serious effect on how honest that child chooses to be in the future. If the parent believes them, the child may feel like they are partially to blame for their parents’ breakup. But if that parent doesn’t validate that child’s feeling or flat out tells them they are wrong, they may never feel free to talk openly again. So often what children say is invalidated or not taken seriously. Especially when it comes to the painful truth, so many parents are quick to discredit their children if it means they can spare their own feelings.
I won’t get into a lecture about avoiding infidelity, but I will say if you are going to cheat, make an effort to protect the ones you love, especially your children. And if they do catch you cheating, don’t ask them to keep it on the low to protect your own ass. Being an adult is all about accepting your flaws and taking the burden off your child to be the bearer of bad news. Once your child catches you cheating it’s time to come clean to your partner and explain to your child the best way possible how you and their mother/father will proceed and take ownership of the part you played in the deception. Cheating is not only disrespectful to your partner, but being careless about it is also disrespectful to your child.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.