Dating with a family of young children can have some challenges. I have learned some lessons over the past year, some more than once. My children have learned too. It always amazes me just how smart they are and how much they understand. Dating with a family is interesting. For starters, everyone has an opinion. My kids are each so different and have their own interests and concerns and things that they like or dislike about people. They also have hectic schedules and live with me full-time which gives planning a date a whole new meaning. Especially when dating someone with their own young children.
Between coordinating time and going through the clearance levels of all co-parents/Exes involved and then actually finding a day, time and activity that works for everyone. Well... you arrive at the moment and there is the reality of actually managing a crew of small children with only 2 adults.
Finding someone that's good with Netflix and take-out dinner works well for me and the schedule of my little ones. When we do go out with the whole Crew my children like the fun activities like go-carting, bumper boats, or long drives in the country.
But, along with the fun times there are struggles too. Those are the times that I tried to protect them from. I worry about them getting attached to a man that might not be around long term. But at the same time they are with me all the time so they are going to meet people that I care about. And sometimes they will care about those people too. Sometimes arguments happen and/or relationships end. Children are aware of it all no matter how hard you try to shield them.
One of my friends told me her Ex gets concerned when she introduces her daughter to a boyfriend because he doesn't want her to learn that men leave.
But, the reality is people leave sometimes. And...Single Moms date. Women with children have the right to have people in our lives, but with that right comes great responsibility. Our children deserve honesty. There is a fine line between not introducing a new person because it is too soon and outright lying to children when a relationship is ongoing.
I try to balance it. They have only known one person that I have dated since I've been divorced. He has been in and out of our lives over the past year and a half. They know him enough to care. But, not so well that he is part of their daily lives.
The difficult part of dating as a family is that you are trusting someone with your childrens' hearts. When the relationship ends it affects them.
Since I have known the Wild One, we have taken "breaks" a few times.
Sometimes it affects the kids and sometimes they barely notice. It depends on the degree of the incident that caused the Time Out and the duration it lasts.
The last time we were on a "break" in the early Fall, my kids didn't get to say goodbye to him or his children. We didn't see him for a month. At first, I didn't mention it. I just let him fade out. My sons didn't seem to notice that we hadn't seen him in a while. Although one of them asked about his son on a regular basis.
But, Isabella is a little different. I was worried because she seemed to get more attached. She liked to have dinner with us when he visited, she thinks he's funny and looked forward to spending time with his children. One time Bella asked to call him to say goodnight, but it went to voicemail and she was too shy to leave a message. After that, she never asked again.
When I first started having him around the kids, I had tried not to encourage any type of dependency on him. I didn't want the kids to think we needed him or had to count on him for anything. Despite that effort to assure everyone of my independence and capability, my boys started to think that anything that goes wrong around the house we would just call him and he would fix it. Which was true, but I didn't want them to think there was no other way for me to handle things on my own.
Over time, I began to realize it is ok to need someone and to rely on them. As I came to that conclusion and became more comfortable asking for help when I needed it, my children opened up too.
At one point right before our "Autumn Break," the Wild One had made Isabella a promise. Trouble had been brewing in our relationship and I was afraid he would break his promise to her. He told her he was going to to build her something for her birthday and even showed her the designs he had drawn. She was excited about it.
But, a few weeks before her birthday we took a break and the promise broke too.
When I told her that she was not going to get the gift that had been discussed, she handled it very well.
She was helping me scrub the tub at the time. She just shrugged and said, "Well we have other friends that love us and that's what matters." Smart little lady! She just scrubbed away any disappointment she may have been feeling.
He had called and offered to fulfill his birthday promise to her, but in the moment I was being stubborn and refused his offer. I wasn't ready at that moment to let him back in.
Eventually the Autumn Break ended and The Wild One has been back in our lives. Isabella was more cautious this time around. She took longer to warm back up to him. She still thinks he is funny and still loves when his kids visit. But, she wasn't seeking him out like she did before.
She is wise beyond her years and instinctually knows to protect her heart. It bothers me that she is learning this lesson so young. It amazes me how children really learn what to expect from people based on their actions. The old saying is true…actions speak louder than words. The more the Wild One shows he is reliable, the more my children accept that he is. But, with caution.
Recently the Wild One made it up to Isabella by going out of his way to do something very thoughtful for her. She was very appreciative of his effort. The next day, she was struggling with assembling something and decided she would leave it to the side to ask for his help next time she saw him.
Faith in someone is a beautiful thing to see restored! However, it makes it all the more heartbreaking when the relationship ends.
Life lessons are tough. Dating with a family involved is tough. Trusting people is tough. But it can be worth it! New people add new ideas, new opportunities, new experiences.
People do leave, relationships end. People argue and sometimes see life differently. There might not be a happily ever after every time. Maybe it is not about protecting children from that idea that makes them better? Maybe it is about teaching them how to be resilient that makes them stronger? I want them to know that caring about someone is worth taking a risk. I don't want them to be afraid to love and to trust and to enjoy the people around them.
Maybe it's a good lesson, maybe not.
Either way I am going save money for when they all grow up and need therapy and blame me for everything that ever went wrong in their lives just in case.