In last night’s 60 Minutes interview with Roxy Jacenko, we learned that Roxy has told her children Pixie (five) and Hunter (two) that their father is in China.
Oliver Curtis was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of insider trading in June. He’s eligible for release after 12 months with a one year good behaviour bond.
Roxy told Kyle and Jackie O that the only time Pixie was allowed to speak to her father on the phone since he went to prison, “she actually broke”.
“I thought, ‘Oh, she’ll be happy to speak to him’, but it was a disaster. She cried for the whole day after that. Her first words were, ‘When are you coming home?’. It was a mistake.”
Perhaps Roxy’s approach is understandable given the peculiar nature of her personal circumstances. She’s a high profile woman, her children are incredibly well known, and the Jacenko-Curtis family attract a great deal of attention.
But it’s not an approach taken by all parents who find themselves in this situation.
Mel Jacobs has written a book based on her experiences while her husband, Patrick spent time in prison.
Fairfax reporter Stephanie Wood, who interviewed the couple for Good Weekend, writes, ‘one day soon after Patrick was jailed, Mel drove past it [the prison] with the children in the back seat. “Is Dad a bad person?” [her son] asked.
‘When Mel replied, “No, of course not,” he reminded her that she’d once told them that the jail they were driving past was where bad people were sent. “They started to see that life is complicated,” says Mel. “They have got an education they wouldn’t otherwise have got.”
‘Now she sends the children off to their rooms for some rationed screen time. Telling the truth does not mean they need to know every detail of their father’s ordeal.’
Roxy references something similar in her explanation for telling Pixie and Hunter that their father is in China; that jail is a place for baddies and she doesn’t want them to think he’s a bad guy.
Both approaches feature parents who are trying to protect their children, a completely natural impulse.
Listen to Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo interview a father who has been to prison, on Mamamia’s parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues below.
Lie seems like a harsh term, given it’s clear Roxy’s intention is to protect her children, but the question this has raised for me is this, is it okay to lie to your kids?
We all tell our kids fibs, even the most honest of us. ‘Sorry buddy, the television is stuck on the news. It’s broken and I can’t change the channel to ABC Kids.’
But telling an untruth to your children on the magnitude of Roxy’s explanation of where Oliver is feels like it’s asking for trouble.
Setting aside the concerns about how to keep up a pretence about where Daddy is (Roxy describes reminding visitors to the house that ‘Daddy is in China’ in her interview with Kyle and Jackie O), at some point Pixie and Hunter will learn the truth.
Surely it’s better to describe the situation honestly in an age appropriate way, to say, ‘The police think that Daddy made a really big mistake and he has to go away to jail for a while, but Daddy loves you and he will come home as soon as he can’ rather than get caught in a difficult untruth in the future?