Six months ago I began dating the most wonderful man who I’ll call “J.” (It’s his first initial and I’m creative like that.) Prior to meeting J. I had 5 years of post-divorce dating on my resume – online dating, speed dating and blind dates galore – but only one experience had come close to what I thought might be a consistent, compatible relationship. The problem was that the consistency ran out early on, and I was left with a 3-month “relationship” of good intentions, bad luck and little follow-through from my partner. Not much of a relationship, after all.
So, with that as a backdrop, you can imagine my excitement when I began to date J. and discovered that he was 1) normal; 2) consistently normal; 3) consistently normal with no excess baggage (hey, we all have a few carry-ons after 40+ years); and 4) capable and willing to treat me with respect, love and honesty…consistently. Hooray!
It’s been great dating J., but at times it’s tough scheduling another person into my life. I’ve learned to squeeze two days of errands and chores into half a day so J. and I can spend most of our weekends together when my kids are with their dad. Or, we’ll try to fit in a few weeknight visits after work and homework and after-school activities for the kids…
Kids: there’s a twist to dating and relationships I didn’t experience twenty years ago.
Now, my two kids, ages seven and nine, are part of my relationship, too.
At first, I had the whole “Kids, meet J.; J, meet Kids” scenario figured out: I’d wait a few months to introduce them and then we’d gradually increase the frequency of visits in accordance with some fancy-schmancy Excel formula. As it turned out, my plan of waiting three months became three weeks.
My sister and her family were in from out-of-town, and things had been going swimmingly with J. and me, so I brazenly invited him out to dinner with my whole family. Amazingly, he agreed. I was a little worried about scaring him off, but I was more worried about how my kids would react to Mom’s new friend. But between playing with their cousins, and watching the Japanese steakhouse chef light food on fire, they barely even noticed J. was there at all.
The second time J. met the kids was a week or two later at our house. When he walked in they looked up and said, “Oh, hi, J.,” and went right back to playing. No big deal, as far as they were concerned. Things were going well.
Over the next few months the kids got to know my friend J. and he got to know them. He and I were casual and comfortable with each other, but careful to avoid any PDA. It wasn’t until we had been dating five months – and we were serious about each other and our future – that it occurred to me I was going to have to tell my kids that J. was my boyfriend.
The first opportunity came unexpectedly when my daughter and I were looking at photos taken at a friend’s wedding.
“Mom, I wish you weren’t divorced,” she said. “Can’t you and Dad get remarried?”
I had answered this question before, so it wasn’t surprising to me. I explained again, no, that wasn’t going to happen.
“Will you ever marry someone else?” she asked me.
Hmmm, now here was a new one…and a good lead in. I answered, yes, someday I might get married again if the right person came along.
“Well, who would you marry?”
Wow, this was perfect! I explained that, if I had to pick someone right at that moment, it would be J. I didn’t say anything more, waiting for her reaction.
She looked at me, puzzled. “Oh. Does that mean J. will be my new dad?”
Whoa, Nelly! THAT was not what I expected.
I told her J. would be her step-dad if he and I got married, but that it didn’t mean she’d lose her father or that anything would change her special relationship with her dad. (And, thankfully, they have a great relationship.) I could see the wheels turning as she processed this information. It reminded me not to take outing myself lightly.
Earlier this month I finally got my chance to spill the beans. The kids and I were talking about families and how they all are different. Sometimes, they can even include special people that aren’t technically related to everyone else…
“…you know,” I said, “like J. He’s not just my friend; he’s my boyfriend, and I consider him part of our family, too.”
My son gasped in mock horror and giggled at the mention of “boyfriend” as seven-year-olds are apt to do. My nine-going-on-seventeen-year-old daughter looked at me not so puzzled this time. “Well, yeah, Mom. I saw you guys all snuggly on the couch that one time…”
(Right. The night she woke up and came downstairs when J. and I were watching TV. He had his arm around me.)
“…I just didn’t want to say anything and offend you or anything.”
I told her, no offense taken at all!