I had the fantasy in my head that a lot of heterosexual, child-wanting women probably have: I’ll date someone single and unattached, we’ll get married, and pump out a couple of squirts together. It’s not that I thought there was anything wrong with dating someone who had already been married and/or mated. My mother is my father’s second marriage and he came with three children as part of the package.
But I thought my mom and dad’s story had been really anamolous. A union like theirs was abnormal when I was a kid; there weren’t a lot of blended families out in the suburbs when I was growing up. Today, though? With the divorce rate being what it is? Divorcées with a kid or two are all over the dating pool.
So, never in a million years did I think I would fall for a divorced guy with two kids. And even though it had never occurred to me to dive into that end of the dating pool before, I’m cool with it. I love kids. I’ve wanted kids of my own since I was a little girl pushing around my dolls in strollers. (In fact, Le Ex-Boyfriend’s lack of interest in having children was one of the reasons I tossed him to the curb.) That O’Boyfriend is an engaged, responsible father who has actually been to the American Girl Store of his own volition is attractive to me.
The question is: when is the right time to meet the little critters?
When we first met, common sense said we should meet when we were sure this relationship is going to be solid and long-term. Not that he has a revolving door of ladies in his life, but the O’Children have met ex-girlfriends in the past and he doesn’t want them to get attached to someone unless she’s really going to stick around. So the first question wasn’t when the kids and I would meet each other, but why.
The why thing isn’t up in the air anymore; both of us are feeling — based on the best information we have about each other right now — that we are going to be long-term. The “do I want this person in my life?” trial period is over. Meeting his kids is a Thing That Is Definitely Going To Happen. Now it’s just a matter of when.
In preliminary discussions about this, O’Boyfriend and I agreed “after we’ve been dating three months” sounded like a good, arbitrary date. By three months into a relationship, you’ve stopped being polite and you’ve started to get real, so to speak. My therapist agreed that three months sounded like a good, arbitrary date.
But I’ve talked with other people who think waiting longer is better. I was chatting about the issue with my friend Sara online and she suggested waiting six months at least, possibly even a year. ”When you’re in the throes of first love it can feel so right to meet the kids,” she replied. “But it’s better for the kiddos if you’re past the honeymoon stage and you’re somebody they can bet is gonna stick around. Kids need continuity and structure.”
A year would be waaay too long for both O’Boyfriend and I. But I hate to admit it, she’s onto something with that “honeymoon stage” stuff: dopamine is coursing through our veins non-stop right now. We’re all schoompy and makeout-y (which would probably make the poor children vomit anyway) and it’s new-relationship-blissful. This is a great place to be in and I want to enjoy it while I’m here. Feelings may be advancing fast, but actions — especially actions involving young’uns — don’t have to advance as quickly.
Meeting the kids is serious and it will happen soon enough, but it also doesn’t need to be rushed. I, personally, feel like the stronger the foundation of our still-burgeoning relationship is, the better for everyone in the long run. Because the reality is that there’s a big difference between my generalized feeling of “I love kids” and spending actual time with my partner’s actual children and building an actual relationship with them. Because Sara is right about kids needing continuity and structure. And ultimately, that’s what is most important here.
Three months at the earliest sounds good. So far he has mentioned me to them. And I’m OK with that first step. It seems like a good start.