Sunday, August 23

Dating A Family

When I was in first grade my Mom and Dad separated. We lived in the Bahamas at the time and my Dad was going to be stationed in Hawaii the next year, and me, my brother and my sister would move to Long Island with my Mom and her new Boyfriend Jeff. We lived with Jeff for 6 years I think...my selective memory doesn't allow for specifics, but it was at least that. Jeff became a part of my life, a father figure. I came to expect his presence and know it, and although there was an obvious gap there, because he could never fully love me as his own, He was present, loving, and involved, unlike my own father. Because of this I grew to Love him...count on him too I think.

But then they split. After that my Mom dated many a man for a time, my selective mind only flashes with memories of some of them, maybe 5 different guys, but those 5 make an impression because, like with Jeff, I came to love them, expect them to stay, or just wanted them to. My Mom was dating them, but in some ways they were dating us all. We fell in love with their role as a father figure that we were craving and needing, they filled a void, they spoke to our need. So with each break-up, we too had to let go of the idea of them staying, of being part of our close little family. We ebbed and flowed with the changes, with the comings and goings of these men, but it tore at our hearts and created a pattern of loving and leaving. I think some part of me learned not to count on forever concerning anything, and yet I took that part of me duck taped it's mouth and threw it deep down in me, somewhere where it couldn't share it's opinion or remind me that happily ever after rarely if ever does happen. I chose to move past it. I still chose to believe in "happily ever after"and the possibility that it could exist.

So I find myself a single Mom now. Just like my own Mom, and I face this expanse of an unknown dating reality before me. The last time I dated I was 16, and here I am 33, having to get back out there. It is strange but because I stopped dating at 16 it feels like that is where I am picking up from again, so if a 45 old man hits on me I balk that he could be my father! But not so! He is a mere 12 years my senior (still too old!) and it is not too obscene I guess, but still bizarre from a 16 year old perspective! Even more complicated is that I have 2 children to think of. I stand to put them through the same revolving door dating situation my own Mom had, and I sadden at the thought of it. So what do you do? How do you keep your love life separate without feeling torn? How long do you wait until he meets your kids? What if he's awesome with you for 6 months and you feel it is a committed relationship, so you introduce him to your kids and then discover they don't mesh at all? How soon is too soon? How long is too long?

It is so fragile in a way because he is not just dating you, he is dating all of you, he is dating a family. I give a lot of credit to guys even willing to enter in to such a family as there are so many men that are up front and admit they are totally uninterested in a "woman with kids" scenario. Understandably, it is more complicated and dynamic, it takes much more flexibility and selflessness, patience, commitment and time. The man who is up for it is quite exceptional in my book. But even then, after entering in, there is such risk in not only your attachment but with your kids attachment. You set the stage and you introduce the characters at this point, you say when they enter stage left, and you say when there is a curtain call. Your choices become choices for many. HOW HEAVY! HOW IMPORTANT TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES! and this is why we are parents....adults. We better act like it and tread carefully, use calculatingly slow moves as we glide towards new love.

He's not just dating me after all, he's choosing to date a family.

~C

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