Let me begin by describing my children: they are healthy — free of allergies, asthma and chronic conditions. (Knock on wood…we should all be so blessed.) They are energetic and love to run and play. Each has a mellow and sweet disposition and both are well-liked. Also, they are beautiful. Sure, I have parenting challenges like anyone else, but I am blessed beyond measure to have these bright, loving and cooperative children to nurture.
I try to be a halfway decent mother (despite, at one time, having had the inclination to write a series of parenting manuals called “The Bad Parents’ Guide to…” Shoulda.). Therefore, it was pretty important to me to try to take the high road (as much as I could) during the dismantling of my marriage.
Part of this, in my mind, meant limiting my children’s exposure to my interpersonal relationships with other men. I didn’t want them to see me going from one relationship right into another. However, from the moment my ex moved out, this proved a difficult task: Male friends seemed to come out of the woodwork in my first days, weeks and months of becoming single, stopping by to see if I needed something done around the house. One fixed the radiator on my car and another thanked me for a project I’d voluntarily done for him (well over a decade ago) with an envelope of cash. Others took us on outings to amusement parks or to the movies.
Children are keen to pick up energy, and mine sensed no hanky-panky as these were strictly platonic relationships. No harm was done — and, unfortunately, this volunteerism quickly tapered off.
As I’ve begun to date, however, I must be more vigilant about what I say and do around my children. They are my nearly constant companions and, at times, my confidantes. I try to maintain appropriate parent/adult-child boundaries yet, I have to confess, this can be difficult. My children are exposed to some prime time television, so they are not oblivious to the notion of crushes or liking others of the opposite sex or adults wanting to kiss. So they have witnessed a small handful of my (telephone) interactions with Chi-guy, for example. They were in the car when I called to wish him a happy birthday, and also when I asked him to take me on a date. They probably catch glimpses of my online dating site, but I doubt they understand what it is.
I feel blessed to be able to have open conversations with my children about having a boy for a friend but also having a crush on him. We speak in terms they can understand, and they have an opportunity to voice the requisite, “I wish you still liked Daddy.” Me too. That would have been much easier on all of us.
So what do my children know of my dating life? They know I have a friend in Chicago who I have a crush on. They know I want to meet men and find a life partner. They know I want to be married and live as a family together with a man other than their father, and that might mean with other children, too. And they ask questions about these things: “What will he be like?” He’ll be kind and loving. “Do you think Daddy might have a friend you’d like?” Um, I don’t think that would be a very good idea. “Will he like children?” He’s going to have to. And then I remind them about staying with Max and his family and how his step children snuggle right up to him.
The day I met more-like-it, my children got off the bus and my son asked how my day was. I told my children that it had been a great day — in fact, I’d met a really cool guy that morning for coffee. (I did not mention that it was a date.) My son asked, “Mommy, do you think you might have made a new friend?” I hope so, I told him.
I think I’ve managed all this pretty well so far. I have yet to date anyone seriously, so no love interests have been brought into my children’s lives. And I intend to err on the side of caution, dating on the weekends that the children are with their father. I plan to wait until a relationship is heading toward commitment before introducing any man into their lives. These are bridges I’ll cross when the time comes.
Meanwhile, my biggest fumble so far is leaving my sanitized vibrator on the counter top to dry and realizing it was still sitting there when my daughter dumped her water bottle in the sink after school. Oops! Not sure we’re ready for that conversation yet…