Within a few short months, I felt myself falling head-over-heels in love. I did not plan on meeting someone so perfect so soon after the divorce. I was worried what people would think, and I was worried that I would fall into the same type of relationship that I had been in for the last 9 years. I was also worried that rushing into something would take away my ability to grow and work on myself as an individual. There was a big part of me that just didn’t know how to be single, and didn’t I need to know how? It wasn’t until I was single that I learned that there is a huge difference between being independent, and being alone. For me, being independent meant financially supporting myself, doing well in all of MY endeavors and not needing anyone’s help on a daily basis. Being alone, on the other hand, meant not needing anyone to spend time with and share things with. Although small doses of alone time was nice, I didn’t want to be alone. So I spent a lot of time contemplating why I was in this relationship, and why I was falling in love. Was I falling in love because I wanted to be in love? Or was I falling in love with who he was?
These types of questions were so important as I tried to gauge the longevity of the relationship. In a normal situation, where no kids are involved, people don’t have to think about the future of their relationship at month 3, but our situation was heavy. We both had families at one point; full-on white picket fence, SUV driving families. This relationship had the power to change all of our futures and that meant planning ahead was critical.
Something that I was not expecting, was my how strong my urge to introduce Eli to my kids would be. They are my world, and he had the potential to be, yet I had to keep them in separate galaxies. But I didn’t have to, right? Well, right. No one has to do anything. But most of us have a conscious and can feel guilt and empathy. It wasn’t my decision to make alone, and if I wanted this to work, I needed to be thoughtful and considerate. Enter my Ex, W and L’s dad. If I asked him what he thought about the introduction, that would be an admittance of having pretty serious feelings about someone. I didn’t want to hurt him again/more, but I knew to get his input was the right thing to do.
I was nervous on the day that I asked him. I texted him, “In general, how long do you think we should be dating someone before introducing them to the kids.” Then I waited. Pretty soon after the text went through I saw the three little dots signaling that he was replying. He said, “Are you serious?” Ugh. The worst reply I could have gotten. He knew it wasn’t a hypothetical question. I was stuck. I tried to ask the question again without truly answering his, but he called me out. After some back and forth, he threw out his preference on how long he thought we should be dating a significant other before bringing them into the kids’ lives. A full year. Wow. That seemed like an eternity to me. I told him I would think about it and get back to him.
In the days following, I read everything I could find about introducing new love interests to your kids. If you are looking for an answer to this question, I will save you a lot of time by letting you know that there is no “set amount of time” that is recommended by professionals. It could be 6 months or 12 months; when you know you are committed to the person or when you are married (yes, seriously, someone suggested that). In short, every situation is different, every relationship is different, and every child is different. I had to come up with this magic number on my own, which meant I had to take a long, hard look at my relationship with Eli. In months 3 and 4, sure, there was still some lust going on, but I felt like I loved him. How do people tell the difference?
So there I was, trying to predict the future. I felt like Eli and I had a deep connection that would only continue to grow, but no one truly knows how life is going to unfold. I thought about the confusion and heartache that the kids would experience if they got to know Eli and then things ended. I thought about the option of waiting A YEAR, to introduce my two favorite people to the person who may one day be their step-dad. A year seemed like too long to me. How would I continue to essentially live a double life and keep this giant secret from my kids for a year? Not happening. So, I decided that 6 months was appropriate. I told my Ex, and he was disappointed. Very disappointed. I remember trying to sell him on it – “But this means that when you meet someone you only have to wait 6 months!” “The more attention the kids get, the better!” He wasn’t really buying it. But I stood my ground because I felt that I was being reasonable and I believed in what I was building with Eli.
Now that I had decided when to introduce them, I had to think about how to introduce them. My research on this topic was a little more helpful. Many professionals and people who had experience with this type of introduction recommended handling it as slowly as possible. So, this is where “Mommy’s new friend” came into play. We decided to have our first 4 meetings outside of the house in neutral locations. Meeting one was at the park. The kids and I were playing basketball and Eli started walking towards us from his car. I had let the kids know earlier that a friend of mine was going to meet us at the park, so I pointed him out and said, “There is my friend Eli! He is going to play with us!” When he arrived at the basketball court and stood just feet away from my kids, I could barely contain my excitement. I introduced them calmly, but what I wanted to say was, “YOU GUYS! THIS IS ELI! YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE HIM!”
My son, who is extremely social, immediately took a liking to Eli as they took turns shooting baskets. My daughter was a little more reserved, as usual. She was at that cute stage where she would totally stare at people and have no idea that staring was impolite. She sized him up for about 30 minutes while he played with W. We made our way over to the play structure and they all chased each other around. This is when L warmed up to Eli. I wasn’t even really participating because I was so in awe by the special bonds that were being created before my eyes. They all laughed and played for another half hour until our one-hour “play-date” came to an end. We said goodbye to Eli and I told the kids that we would hang out with him again soon.
Our next few public meetings were amazing. The kids were really taking a liking to Eli and I could tell that he enjoyed his time with them just as much as they did. Now to decide when I could meet his kids, and when our kids could meet each other. His situation was a little different than mine…