Dating at north of 40 can be quite sobering, and when children are involved (as they often are) the degree of difficulty grows, or at least it should.
I’ve been a single father going on four years — my daughter is my life. I discovered awhile back that I had to dedicate some time to the other facets of my life if I intended to remain remotely sane while raising my child.
Socializing with friends and dating are commonplace activities for singles. I remember being single between marriages and having many care- and guilt-free relationships — the kind that are only everlasting on television series.
But dating as a parent has been different, to say the least.
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It is saddled with the responsibility of parenthood, which doesn’t always jibe with the romantic doctrines of Sex and the City. Who do you introduce to your child? When and how?
These questions are as difficult and gray as any other parenting quandary. The uncertainty of relationships mixed with the high stakes of parenting leave very little margin for error.
Parenting is something we never receive proper instruction for. Come to think of it, the other aspect of life we receive very little education on is the development of relationships.
Like most, I was thrust into both undertakings with the sink-or-swim, quasi-fatalistic approach that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time.
Since the fateful September day when I became “Papi” to my daughter, I have tried as best I could to absorb parenting dos and don’ts from any willing source of information.
In these turbulent, fleeting years of quantum-speed growth, I have mastered potty training and survived the first day of school (where I did more crying than my daughter). And I can now do a half-respectable job of fixing her hair in the mornings.
Yet the issue I am facing now is more complex and thorny than teaching your child the multiplication tables.
There comes a point in your life where paths cross and where functionality, practicality and sanity dictate that the person you are dating has to meet your child.
In the process of making other life-altering guesstimates, there are a series of indicators that can help guide your decision.
The first thing I’ve done is to look at the significant other’s parenting qualities with their own children. This provides a great deal of clarity, if only because it eliminates a large swath of candidates who are primed to meet my child.
While I hesitate to judge parenting abilities, given that I profoundly appreciate the complexities of the task, I have witnessed certain parenting styles that are so removed from my way of living that it makes it easier to perish the thought of the person ever meeting my daughter.
The other determining factors have everything to do with my daughter’s age and her current circumstances.
On this issue of deciding who will or won’t meet my kid, I’ve been more conservative than voters in the Florida Panhandle, and it has had adverse consequences on certain budding relationships.
Some women have pressed the issue, and that has had a chilling effect on the potential evolution of a relationship.
I have never initiated the conversation with anyone I’ve dated who has children about meeting the family. I have always waited for the invite to meet the kids.
Recently, I asked several friends who are single parents how they’ve handled the situation. The answers were quite disparate.
A female single friend told me she didn’t bring a male friend home until her son was in college.
Another female friend was less drastic, having introduced a couple of guys (in a matter of eight years) to her kids.
“The results were mixed” she said. “Follow your heart,” she soundly advised, “but always err on the side of your kids. Be a parent first.”