I’m a single parent of a 13-year-old boy, but not a parenting expert. Every day is a learning experience, and I realized early no two days are the same. Before I found out I was pregnant, my son’s father and I had already broken up and gone our separate ways. He was in Texas and I was in New Jersey, even though our child was made in Maryland. After my son was born, although we remained amicable, I knew the responsibility of raising my son would fall 99.9 percent on my shoulders and I was fine with that. I was only 24, but I was well prepared for the challenge and was already settled in my career and home, and I had a support system that consisted of close friends and family.
Throughout my parenting career, I haven’t had a significant number of relationships. I’ve dated a bunch, but rarely did I bring any of those dates around my son. I didn’t want to be like so many other women constantly parading men in front of their children. Unfortunately during my childhood, my mother happened to be one of those women. After my parents’ separation and eventual divorce, my mother went on a dating spree. There was my baby brother’s pulmonologist. Then her high school crush. Then her high school nemesis, who turned out to be a long-term relationship, but we didn’t care for him at all. Even into our adulthood, my mother always had a “flavor of the year.” The biggest mistake my mother made while dating was allowing us to feel as though we were being abandoned. There were several times when she made us feel we were not the priority. Even after she would introduce us to her boyfriends, we were never made part of the equation. Most of these men received the gas face from us when she brought them around. It wasn’t the fact that we were loyal to our father, but we could smell a rat a mile away. We weren’t disrespectful to them, but we didn’t act as if we were interested either.
A few years ago on Super Bowl Sunday Doritos ran this commercial:
After watching the commercial I wondered how long was it before this woman brought her date home to meet her son, especially since she introduced them to each other as if they hadn’t met. I know everyone who’s a single parent, whether a dad raising a child alone or a mother, has his or her own ground rules for introducing someone to children when first starting out.
My rules are pretty simple and straightforward:
- I don’t let a date pick me up from my house and always prefer to have a common meeting place.
- I don’t introduce the man I’m dating to my son until about four to six months later, and that’s dependent upon how the dating relationship has progressed.
- I don’t invite dates to my house, even if my child isn’t home. When I tell men this, it usually has them raise an eyebrow, but most tend to understand.
In dating, as in being a parent, keeping the lines of communication open with the person you’re seeing is necessary. Letting them know your “rules” is an important factor so there won’t be any misunderstandings or hurt feelings. In past experiences, most men are fine with my rules, because nowadays, a lot of men aren’t trying to meet someone’s child immediately. Also, most importantly, your child should know they’re not being replaced. There should be dialogue between a parent and children to reassure them they still are the priority in your life, and just because someone has been added to the equation doesn’t mean that’s going to change.
When the time came to introduce my son to someone I’d developed a relationship with, I tried to plan an outing everyone could enjoy. The first time my son met a long-time male friend I’ve dated off and on, it was after a few months of dating him, and we simply had lunch at the mall. At the time my son was about 4-½ years old, so the conversation centered around cartoons and video games. Over the next few months there were other outings that involved my son, and till this day, although we’re not in a relationship anymore, this man is still a big part of my life and he interacts with my son occasionally.
In my son’s 13 years, he’s only met two of the men with whom I was in a serious relationship. As he’s grows older, I wonder if I’ll have a hard time breaking out of these rules I’ve set for myself. As the saying goes, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
If you’re a single parent and dating, how long do you wait until you make the introductions?