Our Story Begins:
When the “Single” in Single Dad Sinks In
“Dad can just get a dog.”
That was the final determination, as far as my son was concerned, ending a debate among the three children in my home.
It wasn’t a discussion I’d started nor was it a discussion I really wanted to have with my children. “Dating” Dad wasn’t a person I wanted to bring into the household until it was abundantly clear that he was actually dating, not just going out on a very rare date. (I use the term “date” exceptionally loosely, too.) It wasn’t long before the single Dad became the focus of the debate.
Like all discussions in my home it began with my sons making fun of their sister and prodding her to find out if she had a crush on anyone. The prodding, emotional poking and discussion quickly degenerated as they informed their sister that she was the only one in the house that would have a crush on someone.
“What about Dad? He might know someone he has a crush on,” was her immediate deflection of the latest insult.
The horrified look of cognition on my sons’ faces drove home the point that they hadn’t even exercised the possibility that their father might want to go out on a date, let alone actually have a “crush” on someone. I didn’t have the heart (read didn’t have the courage) to tell them all that I’d been on a few dates already. I didn’t think, seeing the looks on their faces, that it was wise to inform them that I’d been bowled over by a woman I met working on a story some months ago.
I’d been down this road once before. I started to explore my feelings for a woman I know last year, before my oldest daughter left for college. When my daughter found out she fell apart and made things quite difficult for me, at least emotionally. All the worry and concern turned out for naught anyway.
Grief is a veil that falls on everyone differently. I have a friend who lost his wife and it took him a very long time to date again. I have another who lost her husband and started dating right about the time I’m at now. Less of that veil fell on me than it did others. When I walked out from under it I was changed. In a lot of ways, I was changed for the better. I also changed who I spend time with compared to who I chose when I was in my early 20’s.
But for kids . . . that’s a whole other story. It’s not sharing time it’s the fact you cannot replace their mother. Nobody is or ever will be their mother, that’s just a fact.
I don’t look to replace my wife, who passed away in 2011. I look to share time with an adult. I love and enjoy most moments with my kids but at the end of the day they are my kids. I’m in charge and the authority figure. Even just having coffee or a friendly drink with another adult is a wonder for me. I take off the mantle of duty or decision. Time and conversation are a shared utility in those moments. In parenting, it’s sometimes sharing, sometimes guiding and other times . . . it’s being the bad guy. When you’re the only parent, you’re the bad guy a lot.
The bigger issue for me, today, is time. It’s not a luxury I have. An occasional drink, a dinner, coffee, I have time for those. Full-fledged attention, when I’m parenting, working full-time, and trying to finish material to record another record? That leaves no quality time for another person . . . and that’s not fair to anyone. Still, if the right person came along, it doesn’t mean priorities wouldn’t rearrange themselves. The kids have to come to an understanding, eventually, that my life – just like theirs – was moving forward even though my wife’s stopped. I also feel it’s better to slowly acclimate them to the fact than it is to drop it on them, like happened with their older sister.
“I can have a crush on someone, how do you know I don’t,” was my question to my kids?
“Why would you?” My sons couldn’t figure out why, if I’d been married, I’d want to do it again. The look of disgust was priceless.
“You don’t understand today, but someday you’ll meet a girl who takes your breath away. Then you’ll wonder how I ever waited so long to go out on a date.”
My son huffed, wrinkled his nose, and dutifully informed the room: “Dad can just get a dog.”
What about you? What discussions would you have? For the single, divorced, solo parenting people out there, did you have similar discussions?