Dating: The How To…. If She/He Has Children?

I have reached a point in my life when I now have a few very close single friends who have children, and most recently found out that a friend is dating a man with a child.  Aside from that being a really scary reality check, I know that there are many questions out there about this topic.  So I thought I would share a bit about my knowledge on this subject.  Please be pre-warned that I am very passionate about a few points I will bring up and I will do my best not to point fingers in the process.

I was raised by a single mother for over half of my childhood.  Although things weren’t perfect one thing looking back that she did incredibly well was to ensure that any dating she did, didn’t involve me.  She is still a very attractive woman, who has told me a bit here and there about her dating life now that I am an adult.  As a child though I was kept in the dark.  She always put me first and foremost, very similar to the powerful women in my life who are raising children of their own.  With this being said, there is one incident that I hope will raise a bit of a warning, and I write it again trying not to point fingers.

My mom and dad divorced when I was less than two years old.  I lived with my mom full time and saw my dad without any real consistency.  My mom explained that she couldn’t be with my dad, and in my eyes that meant that every time he came around it was for me and me alone.  Being an only child this meant that my mom lived only for me, and my dad lived only for me when he was around.  When I was eight (or thereabouts) that spell was broken.  I walked upstairs to kiss my mom before school and found her and my dad asleep in bed together.  I vividly remember the shock and wave of emotions that overtook me.  I went to school and I think I even got in a bit of a fight but its a little hazy.  That moment when I realized that I now had to share my parents, and that they could have a relationship that wasn’t all about me sent me into shock.

Here’s the thing though, both my parents really thought that this was a great thing for the family.  My mom who had protected me all those years didn’t have a clue how much this upset the precious balance of our divorced family.  And I had no idea what these feelings meant at the time, or why I had them.  I do know very shortly after I received my first puppy, I wonder if this was related in any way?  At any rate this traumatic event set into motion my extreme empathy for all children who have divorced parents, and really gives me a passion for the subject. 

When I was recently told by a friend that her new boyfriend had a young child I very quickly gave her some words of advice.  I asked her, “please don’t rush to meet the kid, as it complicates things”.  In a new relationship its all about getting to know the new and potential partner.  Statistically the relationship will not last more than a few days or weeks.  It takes a lot of time and a bit of luck to really find someone who is a potential for a more long term commitment.  But when you rush to meet the child too soon that can really skew the natural process.  In most cases the kids are really cute, and amazing.  The innocence is intoxicating and you see the other person in a whole new light.  A person living for their child, a very tender and incredible sight.

I personally would have a hell of a time walking away from that, or not letting this invade my thought process for a long term commitment.  Introduction of children into a new and budding relationship is just not fair.  The feelings now go beyond anything superficial and become about family.  You have been given a pass to overlook certain characteristics of this potential suitor because you now see them in this most amazing environment.   Our instincts to toss out, and be a picky as we can become less than accurate.  This doesn’t even take into consideration if the child is older and sees you as this new and exciting person.  Adults must remain adults in this situation, as the child lives free hearted or vicariously through a new and unique situation. 

As for dating when you have a child, being that I don’t have any of my own, all I can say, is that it is your responsibility to protect your children from an adult environment.  Date, get laid, have fun and live your life, but keep your child first and foremost. Sheltered from the dating life that is no place for a young child.  Place boundaries on adult time and the undivided attention that you give them when you are home.  Try and be a real person to them, this will help so much when they are teenagers.  Again, my mom did an amazing job with this and I love her so much for being a real friend and mother when I needed her.  And sometimes when I didn’t think I did.

Dating… The How To?

So I was listening to a Dan Savage podcast this morning, whereby the caller said that he had forgotten how to date.  This is a very common statement that I have heard time and time again and if I have used the same line in the past, let me apologize right here and now.  I am very sorry for ever saying that I have forgotten how to date.  Let me tell you why.

Last night I was having a conversation with a dear friend and we were discussing past relationships.  Dating of course came up and I mentioned that I really didn’t start dating until university.  On a side note, my parents both asked me if I was a lesbian all throughout junior high and high school because I never brought guys home or dated, thanks mom and dad!  I had one major relationship that ran its course through many dating scenarios (which I will save for a later date) over an 8 year period.  But that really I was not super informed when it came to dating and made many many mistakes along the way.  The guy I was talking to looked shocked and asked such a simple question, which to paraphrase was, “well how can you be blamed, did anyone ever teach you how to date or be in a relationship?”  Crap!  I know for a fact that was never sat down by my parents and told how they dated, what worked or didn’t work.  I of course had the birds and the bees talk when I was 6 or 7 and that was a very funny story in itself.  I recall the horrible time my mom first asked me if I was sexually active, also a hilarious story that I can just finally laugh about now.  But nothing on dating.  

How can we possibly be successful in finding a mate if we are never taught how to date?  Doesn’t it seem strange that the only tried and true method is trial and error?  I am positive that within my family alone there so much wisdom and knowledge about how to date.  But the only stories I grew up hearing were about how the current spouse was met.  And this is why I must apologize for not knowing how to date.  I was not taught, it was through trial and error that I found any male in my life.  Realizing this, its almost laughable that we are able to find anyone compatible on any level.  Thank goodness for the aid of dating websites.  At least those sites allow you to ask and answer question about the people out there, but when it comes to meeting them, sink or swim!

The typical relationship out there is a failing vessel.  Not only do many relationships fight true happiness (whatever that may be for each individual), but we do not have the tools to meet the best possible mate in the shortest amount of time.  There is so much knowledge that our parents learned, or even our grandparents that just seems to be a taboo topic.  Or maybe its just a detail they would rather leave out.  The perpetual cycle that they weren’t very adept at it, so they were great full to leave the dating scene as soon as possible.  A very common sentiment, that rush to leave the dating scene as it is too big and scary.  The safety of a relationship, which I might mention was not on my how to list either.  

So please, if you have a family, try and break this cycle.  Teach your children that dating isn’t so scary, it can be a lot of fun and an amazing way to truly learn who you are before you say your I do’s.  Keep the next generation as informed as we can so we pass on knowledge and not just our baggage, even if it is embarrassing.

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