Monday, November 01, 2010

Coming Clean to My Kid — by Jamie Levine

In the 3 ½ years since Jayda’s birth, I’ve dated a bit, but my daughter has never suspected a thing. In the past, I’ve been critical of some of my single mom friends who introduced a man whom they were dating to their young child early in the relationship, and I’ve always believed that you shouldn’t involve your kid in your romantic life—until the relationship becomes very serious. Children of single moms need to have stable, trustworthy men whom they can count on in their lives, and just because a woman is hot for a guy doesn’t mean he should instantly be declared a role model for her child. I’d hate for my daughter to get to know one of my dates—and really like him—and then have him disappear. I’d also hate for my daughter to become jealous of a guy I’m dating and worry that she’s going to stop being the focus of my attention; of course that would never happen, but why plant even a seed of doubt in her mind if the relationship isn’t going to last? It’s funny, but for someone who hasn’t had a serious relationship in years, I sure have strong ideas about them, and a definite agenda when Jayda is involved. However, as I’ve discovered way too many times since I became a mother, things don’t always turn out the way you plan them.

The first time I met Library Guy, the man I’m currently dating, I was with Jayda, and now, several times a week, Jayda plays with his sons. So much for holding off on an introduction! However, it is still true that Jayda has no idea I’m dating Library Guy. The dynamic between us when the kids are around is much different than the one we share on Friday nights when we’re alone. Jayda refers to Library Guy and his kids as “our friends” when they show up at the playground we’re at, or appear at the library when I’ve texted Library Guy that we’ll be there, and always runs over and happily greets them. I simply wave to my guy, and eventually we ease closer to each other, but we never show any open displays of affection. Sometimes, when the kids are engaged, he’ll slyly grab my hand or rub my back, but our physical connection ends there. To the kids, our play dates are like any other play dates, and for some reason, they’ve never questioned the fact that we get together once or twice a week now—which is more than they see their really good friends outside of school.

Somehow, Library Guy and his kids have seamlessly integrated themselves into our lives. His boys often run over to me and tell me stories when they see me, and Jayda shyly flirts with Library Guy whenever she has a chance. So far, it’s been easy and comfortable, and sometimes I almost forget that no one’s supposed to know we’re dating. A few times, people have mistaken one of Library Guy’s sons for mine—and referred to Jayda as his daughter—so clearly there’s an apparent connection between us. But the kids have no idea. The other day, Library Guy shocked me by kissing me when our children were running down a hill in front of us; they didn’t see us…but they could have. And maybe one day they will. It got me wondering about when and how I should tell Jayda what’s going on. The ink on Library Guy’s divorce papers is barely dry, so it’s too soon to let his kids in on our secret—and I’m not ready to talk to about our relationship with Jayda either. But I can’t help contemplating it…and wondering what Jayda will think or say. I also wonder what will happen if our relationship starts to fizzle soon—and if Jayda will be disturbed about not seeing Library Guy and his boys for play dates anymore. Right now, I love that our kids play well together—and when Jayda greets Library Guy enthusiastically, it makes me smile. So isn’t she already getting attached to him and his family in some capacity? Is she counting on them to be around for awhile? I guess no matter how hard we try to shield our children from getting hurt, we can’t protect them from everything. They have to live their lives; and so do we. And being a good mom simply means acting as responsibly as you can, and doing the best you can do. As hard as it is for me to admit, I can’t plan everything, and I can’t predict anything. I can just keep hoping that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to…and that my daughter and I will live happily ever after—with a guy, or without.


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