There is this idea out floating around that mothers are not supposed to introduce their kids to a guy they are dating until they know he’s “the one.”
I have news for these rule makers: there is no such thing as “the one.” There is a person you have fallen in love with and maybe you are willing to work through all of your stuff with. We fall in love with people all the time. We choose the person we want to marry and commit to because that person is going to meet us halfway. That person is going to work through their stuff too. And learning to deal with each other and support each other takes time, usually years. If you both still want to make out after being slathered in your own crap, then maybe you got yourself a winner.
Nine years ago a friend said, “My mom dated a lot growing up. I never wanted to get close to anyone because I knew they would leave at some point.”
This used to haunt me -- actually it still does. I worry all the time. Will my daughter get close to the person I am dating? Will she get her heart broken? What if it doesn’t work out? Will she be afraid to connect to another person? Will my boyfriend want to take her to the movies if we break up? Will she be angry with him? Will she be angry with me? Did I choose the right person? Am I doing the right thing?
I could avoid all these questions. I could save myself a lot of worrying, if I just decided to leave my daughter out of my love life completely. In fact, if I only dated in my “free” time or not even date at all, then maybe everything would be fine because dating doesn’t exist. Done. My daughter is saved from getting too close to someone.
I introduce my daughter to people that I am not sure if I will marry because it’s healthy. This is what life is. And I don’t want to shield her from it. My idea of unhealthy is when we attach ourselves to an expectation. That’s when we are teaching our kids that it’s not okay to let something go that is no longer serving our needs –including old ideas of how women should be.
It’s important to involve our kids in your dating life because it tells them they are a part of the process; they have a say in the people that may come into their lives. And bringing your kids around the guy you are seeing also gives a mother a good idea if the guy is ready to be a parent. If he sits on his hands and acts like the kid isn’t there, I think you know how far the relationship is going. But if he isn’t afraid to jump in and give a few pushes on the swing, there may be a day-date two.
I don’t think that a mother’s home should be a rotating door, but I don’t think it should be a bolted one either. When a kid meets a potential mate, it doesn’t need any more than “Here is a guy that mom thinks is fun.” Making it any more in the first introductions puts way too much pressure on the kid, the guy and the mother. There is nothing wrong with a day-date in the park with a guy mom likes.
My mom married an alcoholic when I was one year old. They fought every single night. My mom's screaming and crying and my dad’s slurred undercuts put me to sleep for 17 years.
In a way, I think my mom held on to the marriage because of this “one” idea. If you bring someone into your child’s life you should marry him. Kids are supposed to have a father and a mother. And if she didn’t have a man on her side, and if she chose to be alone she would hear, “You really need to work it out with the father,” or “Your kid really needs a father figure. Don’t be so selfish.”
My mother is and was a smart woman, but she paired herself with someone who belittled her, didn’t care for her, and didn’t care to be a parent. For what? So she could be married? So she had what others thought she was supposed to have? So she wasn’t alone? I know that fear. It scares me all the time. But it shouldn’t be why I throw a white dress on and run through bubbles. Fear is why a woman stays with a man who drinks a six-pack every night and laughs while jiggling her tummy. Fear is why a woman stays with man who says inappropriate things to his stepdaughter and chuckles when his friends say inappropriate things to her too.
There are two different sides of fear: avoid or cling. My mother clung.
Treating a relationship like it’s “the one” doesn’t give it any room to expand or to crumble. Sometimes relationships need to crumble. And that’s okay. And there needs to be room for that. Sometimes two people need to work through their shit to pick up the pieces and build something better. But when we come into a relationship with an idea or an expectation of what it should be or what should happen, we are wrapping a rubber band each other’s necks and saying, take a deep breath.
My current relationship now may not last until next year, or it may last for 50 years. And if it does last until I am 80, it will not be the same relationship I had while I was 30. People change. Relationships change. Dynamics change. And that’s okay.
I cannot shield my daughter from that. It’s a part of life. And I want her to see her mother is living in it, even if it’s painful, even if she gets close to people and they leave. I want her to know that it’s okay to get your heart broken, and I want her to know that as women we are fully capable of putting it back together.