Dating someone with a child means that you have to at some point accept the fact that you might have a four letter word attached to you at some point. “Step”. While many people close to me know that I am not planning on having children of my own, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy or embrace the children in my life. My boyfriend has a 9 year old son that is enjoying this journey with us.
Being the product of a divorce myself, I am sensitive to how he must be feeling. I can’t totally relate because I was 16 when my parents divorced. They did divorce when I was younger also, but remarried before I started really remembering things so I have no recollection of it. When they decided to forever go their separate ways, I was a teenager ready and looking forward to them being happier… apart.
Both my parents are remarried now and everyone is happier and better people because of it. I see the love that both of my parents share with their other halves and I root for them always. This was easy because I never lived with any of the step parents and they didn’t have any affect on my life, routine or discipline. We never had any awkward, “you aren’t my mom/dad” moments. I was fully aware that something had been broken for a while in their original marriage and to watch them fall in love and flourish again was the part that gave me hope in a society with a high divorce rate.
Deciding to date J even though he had a child was something that I did consider before really diving into the dating arena. Not only was I childless myself and not 9 years into loving a child like he was, but I also had been in bad relationships where the person I was with had turned out to be liars and cheaters. This obviously means that it is hard to mentally (and in your heart) accept the fact and truth that someone my new love used to love will be in our lives forever.
People count down until the child is 18, but parenting doesn’t end then. Legally it does, but working together to shape and mold someone continues until you aren’t able to do so anymore. At 31 I still look to parents for approval, advice and as role models. I know they will always love, respect and trust me. Once in a while I flex that parent/child muscle just to make sure they are still there and still in active-reserve mode; ready to swoop in and wave their parent flag when necessary.
What does it mean to me to be building this relationship that could end in a step parent role? The most important thing to me is to do the right thing, be a positive addition, lead by example and be a good role model. Those are all very positive words and easy to roll off the tongue. In real life, it isn’t always easy to do all those things.
J and his ex share 50/50 custody. That means we are either gearing up to get V back, preparing to send him off, or actively interacting at home. It has definitely been a challenge at times. I am a person that enjoys consistency, planning and routine. These things do not define a 9-year-old lifestyle.
J has had 9 years of blood, sweat and tears invested in this wonderful adventure of parenthood. Despite having a sister, many cousins, many friends with children and two nieces myself, I find myself poorly equipped at times to figure out what the f*ck is going on. One minute we are all smiles, then we are having a mental breakdown, then sneaking cookies, then cuddling and smiling, and capping it all off is a fart aimed in your general direction and giggles accompanied by scurrying footsteps down the hall.
I have 9 months invested. I find myself fretting and worrying if I’m being good enough, understanding enough, a good enough influence, a stable and reliable addition to the family, good enough friend and confidant and in general a lighthouse he can turn to if he needs a little direction. I have to constantly remind myself that I can’t be perfect at something that I am still learning about. I’m sure as he learns and grows, we will be doing it together.
This is very much like Zumba. When you first start you spend all your time sweating and falling over your own feet, feeling awkward and unprepared. After many attempts and failures you finally start to get the hang of it. Just when you feel prepared to put on a sweat band, leg warmers and a hot leotard and go Zumba-licious on everyone… you put in a new Zumba dvd and are knocked down a couple pegs. You’re back to squinting at the tv, willing your feet to move faster and smacking yourself in the face.
V has two parents. I am not looking to replace one of them, be better than either or them, or in any way diminish the wonderful accomplishments they’ve made thus far… I mean… He is still alive. I had a hamster once, he is not so lucky. High-five!
I am looking to do everything I can to make his life the best it can be, make our interactions positive ones and hopefully give him opportunities, stability, structure, and another positive relationship that he wouldn’t have if I wasn’t in his life. We are all figuring it out. We might not be perfect, but we are going to have to do what we do to the best of our abilities.
I am also looking to be the person in the stands who waves a lot, takes too many pictures, and rewards his efforts (regardless of successes or failures). If I’m lucky I’ll get a couple prime moments to pass the torch and in the spirit of what my father used to do to me; I will embarrass him so badly that he will blog about it years later and avoid entire food products because of the horrendous flashbacks.
Shaping someone’s life is important. It’s different for everyone. This is what it means for me.