No one warns you that the rules of dating will change as you get older.
With divorces come ex-wives.
Sometimes with divorces and ex-wives, there are children.
Jason had all three.
When Jason asked me out the first time, I felt like I had to make a choice before I said yes. Was I prepared to enter into a relationship with someone who was also a parent, accepting all that would mean?
I decided yes, I felt like I was. Kids like me. I like kids. I get that when there is a child involved, their needs come first and always. I have enough friends who are parents to know that conversations, plans and lives get interrupted by potty trips, bedtimes, bath times, accidents and meltdowns. Rolling with the unexpected is the expected. The responsibility that accompanies raising a tiny human leaves no room for selfishness. My friends love and respect me for my compassion in this area, but to me it’s simply common sense! So I jumped in with Jason, knowing full well what weight this decision carried. I accepted Jason and that meant accepting his son, too.
I wasn’t prepared to fall for them both.
LittleJ was a quarter-sized replica of his gorgeous father. He heart-melted me with his blue eyes, smattering of nose freckles, astoundingly brilliant mind and goofy grin. On our designated days together, we went fishing, swam, ate ice cream, and cuddled up to watch superhero movies. We sang “Call Me, Maybe” loudly and off-pitch in the car. LittleJ would hug me without warning and give me slobber kisses and tell me that he missed me during the days he was with his mom. I learned late one night just how heavy the dead weight of carrying a sleeping child can be. Our affection was such that in public, strangers made assumptions that I was LittleJ’s birth mom and that Jason and I were already married. The conclusions caught me off guard, but didn’t bother me.
But then I began to feel as if the petal-fragile days of dating someone new had already passed me by before I’d really had the chance to enjoy them. It was too soon to be expected to pick LittleJ up from school if Jason was held up at work. It was too soon to have a small body crawl into bed with us if he had a nightmare. It was too soon to be expected to step into a role for which I was completely unprepared. It’s not that I didn’t want these realities eventually. It’s that Jason had five years to adjust to them, where I’d only had two months. And then Jason and I began to have problems of our own, too. Big problems that landed us in a gut-wrenching stalemate.
Ending it with Jason was difficult enough without thinking about the impact on LittleJ. The added concern of what this sweet boy thought about what happened between his dad and I… whether he believed I was mad at him, or if I left his dad because of him? All this, very soon after a nasty divorce? It felt horrible. It still does.
Children aren’t graced with our familiarity of love’s harsh truths and I hated that LittleJ’s heart was bruised by my hand, even indirectly. It’s my one regret.
If each relationship is meant to teach us a lesson, then my knowledge bomb this time was that kids change the rules. I learned that what I believed to be “taking it slow enough” was “nowhere close to”. I learned that if I am the party more concerned with the feelings/reactions of the child than the birth father, then something is seriously amiss. I learned that I do look forward to being a mom someday, should that be in my cards.
But most importantly, I learned that if I’m dating a divorcee and/or parent in the future, to make wiser choices where children are concerned. I may not be able to control the unknown elements of an adult relationship, but the least I can do is help shield the innocent from the shrapnel of the dating world. Lesson learned and duly noted.