Why I Hid My Mother's Affair From My Dad

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Little girl kissing her dads head while peering over at her mom and her boyfriend

From the start, my mom and dad getting back together seemed weird. I was twelve years old when it happened, and my parents getting back together was like a dream come true. They took me to Denny’s and announced they were getting married out of the blue, but something wasn’t right. I knew it but didn’t speak up to either of them.

My mother hadn’t seen my father for a year before they gave me the news. My dad told me privately that my mom had called him and asked if he wanted to marry her. I found that strange because she never mentioned to me that she was even seeing my dad.

My father was still desperately in love with my mother, and he was excited about the idea of living with both of us. I had always been a Daddy’s girl. When my mom first left him, I was eight years old and heartbroken. The idea of being without my daddy was unthinkable. I never got used to his absence around the house.

I would have done anything to keep them together, but deep down I didn’t believe it was possible. When my mom took me and moved clear across the country away from him, I swore I’d never forgive her.

She left my dad while he was in the hospital for cataract surgery. Because of the operation, he couldn’t see much out of either eye. He told me that she came into his room and said a sentence that struck terror and shock in his heart.

“Glenna and I are moving to New York. What are you going to do?”

That was it, no explanation at all. She offered to let him stay with us before we left so he could recover from surgery, but he had to pretend he was all for us moving away, even though it was tearing him apart.

When my dad got out of the hospital, my mom and I picked him up. During a stop at the grocery store, I remember she took the cart and hurried away.

“Let’s run,” she whispered to me. “We’ll see if Dad can catch up.”

He couldn’t, of course. He could barely see. I looked back at him standing in the aisle looking confused. It made me incredibly sad to see him that way. My mom was being mean, and I didn’t understand why.

I ran back to where my father was standing and took his hand.

“Come on, Dad, I can walk with you.”

My mother looked angry.

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After all that, there we were three years later talking about becoming a family again. I didn’t know that my mother’s boyfriend had just dumped her, but I was glad he was out of our lives regardless. I never liked him, mainly because he wasn’t my dad. He was also still married when he started cheating with my mom.

I was genuinely happy that my dad was coming to live with us, but I had a sinking feeling that none of it would last. My mother’s behavior was too out of control. Although she suffered from mental illness all her life, she didn’t start acting out until she left my dad for the first time.

After that, she started drinking a lot and dating several other guys to make her married boyfriend jealous. They would show up at our apartment at all hours. I hated them all because I wanted my dad. Finally, he was coming back, and I should have been thrilled.

Instead, I worried that she was just using my dad to get a rise out of her boyfriend. I tried to put it out of my head because I didn’t think my mom would be that cruel.

When my dad moved in with us, I tried to put my worry aside. I was so happy to have him back and see him every day. To me, that was worth everything. We played Blackjack and Double Solitaire after school just like we used to, and his stories and jokes were as hilarious as always. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

One day, I came home from school to find my mother’s car in the driveway. I thought it was weird because she was supposed to be at work. There was also a car in the driveway that I didn’t recognize right away. My dad left for work in the early afternoons, so I didn’t expect him to be there.

I went inside and headed up the stairs to find her and ask what was going on. Halfway up, I ran into my mother’s ex-boyfriend.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him rudely.

“I … I just came to see your mom,” he stammered as he made for the exit out of our front door.

Suddenly I heard my mother yelling from her bedroom. She seemed to be angry at her boyfriend, accusing him of leaving her and other crazy things. I walked into her room to find her drunk at 3:00 in the afternoon. When she saw me, she yelled at me to get out.

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It became a regular thing. My dad would go to work, and my mom’s boyfriend would show up an hour later and stay all afternoon. I was furious at the way she disregarded my dad’s feelings, but I didn’t tell him what was going on. Mostly, I was afraid that he would leave me. I also didn’t want my dad to be hurt, but it seemed like that was inevitable.

“Why is your boyfriend here?” I asked my mom one day when I got brave enough to confront her.

“If you tell anybody,” she answered in a mean voice, “your life is over!”

It was enough to scare me out of telling my father. He deserved to know, of course, but I didn’t want to be the one to tell him. Between my mother’s threats and knowing how devastated he would be, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

It was a Sunday when my dad called me from the downstairs bathroom.

“Do you know anything about this?” he asked me as he revealed about twenty empty beer bottles under the bathroom sink. He wasn’t accusing me of anything, but he seemed confused by the sight of the bottles.

“Yes,” I answered honestly. “She’s been drinking a lot more.”

“I can tell. I found twice as many in the master bedroom.”

I looked up at my dad and started crying. It had been so painful keeping secrets from him, and I couldn’t take the stress anymore.

“Dad,” I said sadly, “Mom’s ex-boyfriend comes here every day when you’re at work.”

My father stood stunned for a moment, then reached down and gave me a giant hug. Both of us were crying by then.

“I’m sorry,” he told me. “You shouldn’t have had to go through this. It was wrong of your mom to put you in that position, but everything is going to be better now.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I went up to my room to hide. There was no way I wanted to be anywhere nearby when he confronted my mom. I heard my mother come home, and I welled up with a fresh set of tears.

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After what seemed like forever, my dad knocked on my bedroom door.

“Your mom has something to say to you.”

The idea of being told anything by my mom terrified me, especially if she was drunk again. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say after she hurt both me and my dad. My dad insisted, though, so I followed him downstairs.

My mom was sitting in a chair in the living room looking livid. She didn’t look at me, but she seemed enraged. She reminded me of a little girl throwing a tantrum, holding her breath until she got her way.

“Don’t you have something to say?” my father asked my mother.

She finally turned to me with a look of total hatred in her eyes. Having my mom be that mad at me made my stomach hurt. I almost wished she wouldn’t say anything at all.

“I’m sorry,” she finally said in the most sarcastic voice I’d ever heard. It was clear she only said it because she’d been caught, not because she really meant it.

I looked at my dad with tears in my eyes once again. When he nodded, I hurried out of the room as fast as I could, rushing back to my room so I couldn’t hear my parents fighting.

My dad came to me later and told me my mother was going to rehab that night. I didn’t care. After years of pushing me, she had finally lost me. As far as I was concerned, I never wanted to see her again.

I felt terrible for my father and tried to cheer him up. He pretended that he was fine and that his main concern was me. I knew better, though. His heart was shattered, and nothing I could say would make it okay. Both of us had so many hopes for starting a new family, and it was hard to let them go.

I never quite forgave my mother for hurting my dad.

She moved to Florida to start over after rehab, and I stayed with my grandmother because my dad couldn’t afford to support me alone. Eventually, I was sent to live with my mom again, but things between us were never the same.

Fortunately, my dad moved to Florida as well. He promised me that we’d never be apart again, and that was a promise he always kept. I trusted him wholeheartedly to take care of me. Other than that, I learned how to take care of myself.

I thought it was incredibly cruel of my mom to use my father’s feelings for her to make her boyfriend jealous. Her plan actually worked, but the cost to our family was too great to ever be the same again.

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Glenna Gill is a writer and blogger from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her articles have been featured in Scary Mommy and P.S. I Love You. When I Was Lost is her first full-length book, a memoir of love, loss, and hope.