Family plays the 'don't tell Mom' game

December 10, 2006|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Columnist

DON'T KNOW HOW IT IS IN your house, but one of my children is always telling one of the parents, "Just don't tell Mom." Or, conversely, "Just don't tell Dad."

They seem to do just fine with this set of rules at the CIA and the FBI. ("Just don't tell Justice" or "Just don't tell the Pentagon.") But it is causing a lot of confusion in my house because my husband and I aren't sharp enough to maintain our deniability or keep our stories straight.

Add to that the fact that we can't remember what we said to each other the last time we talked and you have a web of unspoken truths or downright lies that would snare a small aircraft.

For example, my son, Joe, is currently undergoing military training, and he tells his father many of his adventures.

He tells me nothing. I think he thinks I will cry or faint or tell all my friends, but I don't know for sure because we never talk about it.

But when he leaves, his father tells me about his adventures.

Not everything. My husband also thinks I will cry or faint or tell all my friends. But he tells me enough to make me feel like I am in the loop.

But when my son comes home, I have to play dumb, so I say things like, "So, did you go camping this week with your Marine friends?"

He thinks I am an airhead mother. I am trying not to tip my hand.

Likewise, when my daughter, Jessie, calls, my husband leaves the room. He doesn't even want to hear my side of the conversation. Jessie says things like, "Don't tell Dad, but..." She needn't worry. He doesn't want to know. He might faint or cry.

"I am sure Jessie would be more comfortable if she thought those conversations were just between the two of you," my husband said once, slamming the door on my attempt to bring him up to date on our daughter's adventures.

What he meant was, "I am sure I would be more comfortable if those conversations were just between the two of you."

I don't know this for a fact, but I am pretty sure that when my children talk to each other, they say "Don't tell Mom." And "Don't tell Dad." They must be pretty good at this game because, so far, they haven't.

Occasionally, my husband and I are overtaken by technology.

My son e-mailed his father a picture of himself during his military training with the stern admonition, "Don't send this to Mom." I think he was afraid I would forward it to everyone in my address book or turn it into the family Christmas card.

My husband, either bursting with pride or afraid of what I would say if I found out he was holding out on me, showed me the picture. He didn't send me the picture. See? We are actually getting good at this.

But the picture showed up on a military Web site and people were showing it to me.

I am not sure how I am going to get out of this one. But for sure I am not turning that picture into a greeting card. My cover would be totally blown.

One last thing. If you see my son or my daughter, don't tell them what I wrote here. They'll kill me.

I know I can trust you to keep quiet.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear an audio clip of this column and others, go to baltimoresun.com / reimer.

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