We often hear of women who use their children as a gage to know if the guy is worth keeping around. “If the kids don’t like them, then mama don’t like them.” This is wrong on a couple different levels. First, it desensitizes children to relationships leaving them unsure of what a healthy relationship should look and feel like. Second, as children get older, they realize the control they have over their parent’s relationships and they use that control to keep their parent’s attention on them and only them. That is not healthy for the parent or the child.
Take my cousin, for instance, who is also a single mother. Unfortunately, she has a really hard time dating anyone for very long due to her temper and the way that she treats men. The most unfortunate thing about this is that she introduces her 8 year old son to every single guy she dates. The reason that it bothers me so much is that I watch this little boy, who wants nothing more than to have a father figure around, get more and more desensitized to love with each break-up. By the time he is old enough to date, he will be so desensitized that he too will have a hard time holding any kind of a relationship together because he will not know what a healthy relationship looks like.
My mother used to get mad at me for not introducing my children to the men I date. She did have a valid point though. She said that by not introducing the men in my life to my children, I send my children the message that they are not important enough to meet them. That is why I am so careful to tell my children all the time I will only bring home the dates I feel are worthy enough to spend time getting to know them. That is a key reason why, in the six years that I have been single, my children have only met three of the men I have dated. The first two people I let them meet only had limited contact with my children.
The first relationship that I involved them in was a long distance relationship. I was always careful to schedule my boyfriend’s visits on weekends that my ex-husband had my girls. Then one weekend that he was scheduled to be in town, I showed up at my ex’s house to drop off my girls and found him completely intoxicated. At the time my girls were only 2 and 4 so there was no way that I could leave them with him that weekend. I was disappointed at the time but it turned out to be a blessing because it forced me to introduce my children to the guy I was dating. Although he was a great guy I decided that weekend that it just would not work out between us and ended the relationship after nearly a year of dating. This meant that my children did not get to know him and were unaffected by the breakup.
The second guy that I let my children meet did not have to wait nearly a year to meet my children but I made sure that they did not spend much time with him and get attached. He only spent time with them in group settings where there were a lot of people around. This gave me the chance to see how he would be with them without them realizing what was going on. Again, I tried to schedule my time with him when my Ex had my children. The first 8 months together worked great because we had time alone and I had a free babysitter. Then my ex was placed under supervised visitation again so I had to make a decision about whether I let my children become involved in the relationship or not. Rather than rush into bringing them in, I decided to talk to the guy about it to get a feel for where he was with everything. Fortunately, he brought up the subject first making the whole conversation a lot easier for me. He asked me what I wanted out of the relationship and I informed him that I was hoping for marriage but did not expect it anytime soon. I was willing to wait 5 years or so if that was what we needed for both of us to be sure it would work. Then he informed me that he didn’t think he could raise someone else’s children or ever get married again. It was then that I knew that not only should I not bring my children into the relationship but also that I could not be with him any longer. We parted ways and have remained good friends ever since.
Knowing my history and my stance on protecting children as much as you can, my friend was surprised that I had no problem bringing my children into this last relationship. She was even more surprised that I had no regrets letting my children get so attached to him even though my oldest daughter is having a very hard time with the relationship ending. Of course, I never intended for them to get attached but I also never prevented them from getting attached like I did in the other relationships. So she asked me, “What was different about (this guy)?”
The biggest difference was that my children needed this man in their lives and much as I did. It had been 6 months since they had seen their father when I started dating him. To no fault of their own or mine, their father decided that if he has to be supervised with his children during a visit, then he just does not want to see them. Realizing how much they were hurting from his rejection, I started praying for the lord to send me someone to date.
So when a friend of mine from high school reached out to me and said lets go skiing and bring your girls, I didn’t think twice about it. I think it helped that at first I did not realize that it was a date. I thought we were just meeting up as friends to catch up and have some fun. When I got to the ski resort, however, he had already bought everything needed for the day. He rented skis for my girls, bought their ski passes, and paid for their lunch and ski school. When I exclaimed that I did not expect him to do all that, he said, “That is just what you do when you date a single mother.” I really liked his initiative and his confidence. After watching him with his son and my girls, I knew immediately that he would be able to help me show my girls what a healthy relationship looks like. In fact, when I told my mother about him I said, “Even if it does not work out, he is just what we need right now.” Knowing that from the start made me much more comfortable with how much we did with our families.
I am so thankful for the example he provided my children. He was always thoughtful and considerate of my feelings. He was good to apologize if he hurt my feelings. He opened every door throughout the relationship (not just on the first few dates). He encouraged me to do more for myself and his strengths minimized my weaknesses. That is how a man should treat a woman and I am glad that my children were able to see that first hand even if it was for a short while.