My older son–I’ll call him Alejandro, though it isn’t his name–has autism. He has difficulty with social interactions, especially any that go off script. He is disorganized and unmotivated. He finished high school but has never had a job. He can be very loving but also very thoughtless. He has a lot of anxiety and tends to perseverate. And he lies a lot. He started lying as a way to deal with his anxiety; he would tell people what he thought they wanted to hear so no one would be upset with him. This wasn’t always effective since his lies were not necessarily very difficult to see through, but sometimes they worked, at least in the short term. Over time, Alejandro developed the habit of lying to make his life sound more exciting or even when there was no apparent reason. Not surprisingly, this means his stepdad and I don’t trust him very much.

Over the past three years, Alejandro has developed a relationship with a young woman–we’ll call her Jennie–who has had a difficult upbringing, with some physical abuse from a grandparent, some emotional abuse from her dad, and a lifetime of living in pretty extreme poverty. She has not been many places and is afraid of a lot of things–escalators, eating in public, evil spirits. Jennie told my son stories early on of her grandmother dislocating her shoulder, which still gives her problems at time. Not to be outdone, Alejandro told her that my husband got mad at him and smashed his head against the wall. I imagine that he originally told her that as a way to show he understood her situation and could relate. But he’s sticking to that story.

Never mind it isn’t true. Alejandro and my husband do argue a lot, that part is true. It’s painful for me to witness it, because I only experience my husband as patient and understanding, but my son pushes all of his buttons (a big one being he can’t stand when people lie to him). The two of them have yelled at each other before. But my husband would never hit him, I know it. We have lived together for 17 years, and I’ve never seen any hitting or slapping or anything resembling physical violence. Alejandro tells me it happened when I was traveling for work and insists I should believe him. My younger son, Mario, says it’s nonsense and never happened. He is exasperated by his older brother.

Alejandro and Jennie are visiting for a few days (they usually live with her parents). Long story short, today was my first day back at work, and Alejandro had a big blow-up with my husband. Funny thing was, my husband didn’t even realize they’d had a big fight until I got home and showed him the raging texts from my son. He was surprised. He thought he had just asked Alejandro not to take food to the bedroom. Alejandro says he screamed at him and Jennie both and smashed his fist against the wall in a threatening way. He says that he and Jennie are afraid of him. He says if I don’t believe him, well fine, he just won’t come visit anymore.

I don’t believe him. But you know those parents who deny everything when told that their partner abused their child? I feel as though I am doing that. It’s really tearing at my heart. I feel guilty not to believe him, as though I am betraying him. And if I say I don’t believe my son, then I wonder if I should believe the girl? Maybe there’s a genetic mutation in my family that causes us to make things up and then believe them?