about the children

The other night, I held my phone out at arm’s length and snapped a photo of me and my daughter enjoying dinner out. I posted this photo on Facebook, checking in at the restaurant we frequent. Then I messaged the photo to my guy. I didn’t think twice about it.

I’ve had my guy over to my house, he’s seen photos of my children and listened to my stories about them. But that was the first time I’d sent him a photo that included one of my children. And it kicked off (again) the whole discussion about when it’s appropriate for him to meet the children. Sure, we’ve talked about it…

Early on in a relationship, most responsible women don’t introduce men to their children for several reasons, which (just off the top of my head) include these:

  • They barely know the guy and want to be sure — let’s be honest about this — that he’s not some creepy pedophile who’s going to prey on her children.
  • They don’t want their children to see a revolving door of men coming in and out of their lives.
  • They want to step into the fantasy world of dating without children.

While the first of these needs no explanation nor commentary (and I’m confident my guy is a pure soul), let’s further explore these other reasons.

I’d hate to allow my children to become attached to a man who I’m not certain will be in my life for good. Divorce, I’m sure, was hard enough and I’d hate for them to go through something like that again.

Then again, I’m pretty open with my children. I’ve talked to them about dating, and they know I have a boyfriend. We’ve talked about whether they should meet him, and they know I haven’t decided yet whether to introduce them anytime soon. You see, I think it’s important that my children know that decision-making is a process, that I don’t always or automatically know the right answer, that some things are worth deliberation and discussion. An early conversation included these observations:

Eight-year-old:  “He should like to play football and go sledding.”

Ten-year-old:  “I’m going to give him a quiz, like his favorite food and color and stuff. And preferably he won’t be blond.”

Another of our conversations went something like this:

Me:  “I’d hate for you to get attached to someone I’m seeing, because then what if we broke up?”

Eight-year-old:  “Well, maybe he could come and play with us sometimes anyway.”

Ten-year-old:  “That would be awkward.”

Conventional wisdom says that we shouldn’t introduce a man to our children until we know it’s going to grow into commitment. If not, they’ll see a “revolving door” of men and develop beliefs about that — e.g. men leave, or Mom gets tired of men and kicks them out, or some such. Furthermore, in the event that things don’t work out, I don’t want the breakup to be harder than it might otherwise be, because he’s attached to my children or they’re attached to him.

I recently read a book (by a man) who suggested the opposite is the proper approach for men. He opined that women should introduce a man to her children early on, because a man needs to see the whole package so that he can envision himself as a provider and man of the family before deciding whether to stick around.

My children are resilient and, while I want to spare them heartache and pain in every possible way, I genuinely believe they can handle meeting someone with whom I’m spending time, as long as it’s in a casual environment, their meetings are few and far between, and we keep the dialogue going. But there’s more to the decision than that:

Right now, I get to date and spend time with my guy on weekends when my children are with their father. At those times, it’s almost as though I’m young and single — it’s romantic and exciting and fun. How will that change if I introduce the children? When he comes over to pick me up for a date, will they try to persuade him (us) to stay home and play a board game instead? Would he be tempted to relent to their pressure to win them over? In other words, for purely selfish reasons, I’d like to prolong this “just the two of us” period. I’m not sure how the dynamic might change if my children meet my boyfriend, I’m only certain that it will.

So, while I’d love to include my beau in my family’s holiday activities — that would definitely give him a view to what he’d be getting in to — we’ve decided to wait to introduce him to the children until we figure out our own relationship first.

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About failedatforty


2 responses to “about the children

  • btc

    I read that book, too. I do think that at the point where we are committed and the relationship is significant, all parties could stand to get together a little bit at a time. If only because you don’t want two weeks to go by without seeing your beau, do you?

    Just try not to allow him to become too much of a fixture in their lives.

    I see your point about engaging in a youthful, carefree dating fantasy. Having him know you in your full personhood may change his perception of you, and maybe you want that sooner rather than later? I don’t know. Just thinking right alongside you.

  • Suzi

    It sounds like your children are well adjusted and you are doing a great job with keeping them in the loop. All is calm. I want to know how you do it? How do you bring that up with your kids? How long did it take them to accept your divorce? My 9-year-old still laments the divorce (2 years later) and will burst into tears at the thought of me ever moving on (his dad is already remarried!).

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