To Tell or Not to Tell

Alma Gill | 4/2/2014, 3:11 p.m.
The mom of one of my 10-year-old daughter’s friends confided in me that her husband had been physically and verbally ...

Hi, Alma,

The mom of one of my 10-year-old daughter’s friends confided in me that her husband had been physically and verbally abusive to her several times. (Unfortunately, as many people do in this situation, she did not press charges because she didn’t want her kids to have to deal with the fallout.) The husband and wife are separated now. My daughter’s friend invited her to a birthday party at her dad’s new house. The husband has been polite to me and my child, but I’m uncomfortable with the situation, particularly since I have some experience with an abusive partner who was a “nice person” to outsiders. I’m planning to tell my daughter she can’t go (but not tell her the real reason). What do you think? I’ve pointed the mom to some resources on domestic violence and counseling. Here’s hoping she can heal.

Signed, Cautious Reisterstown, Md.

Dear Cautious,

I see your red light earrings flashing, and I can understand why, but you’re wrong on this one. I say you should let your daughter go. Here’s why: Your daughter is 10. It’s a birthday party. Her best friend’s father has never hurt his own daughter or yours. If he had, I suspect his wife would not allow him to host a birthday party. You said yourself that the BFF’s father has been polite to you and your daughter. You also said you’re familiar with abusers being “a nice person to outsiders.” So why not let your daughter go? She was not the only one invited to the party. I’m sure other adults (parents and family members) will be there.

A part of me wonders if you think that by allowing your daughter to attend you would be giving approval to the father’s behavior. Don’t worry; that’s not so. Unless her mom asked you not to participate, I just can’t come up with a good reason for your daughter not to go. This isn’t a sleepover. Don’t make this a grown-up issue for your daughter. I understand that you and the other mother have bonded over shared sorrows, but you can’t let the pain and suffering of your marriages overshadow a very fun time and lifelong memory for your daughters. Joint custody arrangements, especially after a spiteful split, can be extremely exasperating. It’s horribly difficult to move past the hurtful events and heartbreaking history you have with an ex-partner. The key is to put your child first.