There are four people that are most important to me in this world. Three of them I planned and hoped for since I was young. They are cute; they are smart and ridiculous, they are all under the age of ten.
The fourth is a man 12 years my senior who is creative, quirky, and outstandingly kind; a man who did not intend to have children.
The kids come first, I know they have to come first. But goddamn I love this guy.
I have known since we met several years ago that D. never wanted children. He likes kids, is fantastic with them, but has never wanted the responsibility and time commitment of progeny. He doesn't feel he could sustain being the best parent he could without resenting the energy that would take. I respect him for that, but when we moved from polyamory into monogamy, my worries started.
What if he leaves me for someone childless? What if the more he spends time with the kids, the more he realizes he doesn’t want this? How do I have a life and a family with a man who never wanted a family in the first place? And yet, I'm so in love that my heart urges me to try to make this work.
The other day, D. spent his first full day with me and my children. I was loading their bags and snacks and flailing bodies into the truck and pleading with them to please behave. My eldest was sitting between his sisters, sliding down the seat while jabbing his elbow into one sister who was screaming.
“Son!” I raised my voice “Just. Sit. Up.” Dear lord, I thought, as my son sulkily sat up and blondie stuck her tongue out at him, how is D. going to react to this? These children are little hellions set forth to torment adults and keep liquor stores in business. I love them, but I’m their mother and even I don’t know how I have the patience some days.
The girlfriend in me wants my three children to be polite and quiet and model citizens so D. will see life with kids is not so bad. I want them to ease his fears of child rearing and further his affection for them.
I acknowledged this in my head as we drove to his house. I told my heart it was wrong, and the passionate longing for D. had to take a backseat to my life with my little ones. But my heart doesn’t like to listen.
I realized I am performing a very difficult balancing act of “mother” and “girlfriend.” This has such a distinctly different feel than “mother” and “wife” because these kids sure ain’t his. I have become two women wrapped up in one redhead.
The me D. fell for was a confident woman who knocked him off his feet. This bawdy and gregarious Kate went to concerts and weekend trips to NYC with her boyfriend. She talked of maybe Puerto Rico in the winter and what year is best to go to Burning Man? Back then, I hesitated to talk too much about the kids' trials and tribulations. As this Kate, I could forget for a bit how much responsibility my life actually entails, and push to the corners of my mind that I might still want to complete the family fantasy.
The mom side of me is tired and wants to settle down. She doesn’t get enough sleep, worries she isn’t doing a good job, and does not want to do this alone. This Kate wants to bring the kids to New York City with us. She wants the children to have a good male role model. She wants to go on family vacations and spend nights on the couch at home with the children asleep upstairs. She thinks any man involved with her should realize the kids are top priority and part of the package.
I know I cannot continue to enjoy the fantasy of a perfect relationship by spending time not thinking about the kids. There are families out there who do compress it all into one bountiful life. Taking trips and outings as a couple while also making plans centered on the kids. I envy these people.
Like the couple we met on a recent camping trip. While D. and I luxuriated in nature and lack of sobriety, they planned camp outfits for their six-month-old and were elated she was at her first festival. I held her that weekend, her tiny legs pumping as she watched the bonfire.
I thought “Is D. watching this? Does it bother him I’m so at ease and happy with this baby?” I know there are women out there for him that could be as intriguing as I -- just as pretty or silly or open as I -- but without any mini-people in tow.
It makes me anxious as hell.
I realize that D. is going to see the kids throw fits and my patience slip; that he is going to spend days with us where he ends up tired and cranky from their frantic youth. He’s going to find out that I already have the family I always wanted and I can’t be the girlfriend without the mother. I know he is going to become more familiar with the entire woman and not just his bad-ass dream girl.
And that’s good. And it’s scary. And if it ends anything, it will be this beautiful romance. Because these crazy little nuts are part of me forever.