Introducing your kids to your new partner can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences. Ever.
When I was first single (post-separation), I was not thinking about dating. I didn’t once consider myself "available," I wasn’t getting out there, and sex was never on the forefront of my mind.
Those topics felt surreal and off-limits to me, somehow.
I’m not going to say that I didn’t swish ideas around in my head, or that I didn’t allow myself to have any fun, but when it came to the social hemisphere of my brain, the hot topics were:
When I did go on dates they were the result of mechanical "yes-saying." The guys were super nice, good-looking, funny . . . and the first thing going through my head was still:
When relationships end we manifest our most vulnerable selves. We are exposed. Our natural tendencies are to react protectively and/or defensively when it comes to our hearts and things close to them.
So, when we finally meet someone who we feel we can be open with, who we trust and *gulp* have the potential to love, the stakes go up. They seem to go up even more with every milestone in the relationship. Sex, staying over, meeting friends, meeting parents, and the most important—meeting your own kids.
Even if you’ve been open from the get go about being a parent, you will likely still feel weird about that moment, and that’s ok. Because that’s a make it or break it moment where you see your kid interact with someone who could actually be in their lives in one way or another. It’s stressful. For all parties. It’s kind of like watching for a toddler’s first reaction to shellfish. Are they going to like it? Or is someone going to die?
But that’s ok. You’re not alone. My next two posts are all about how I tackled The Big Intro.
Don’t Schedule The Time Before You’re Ready
So, many people have asked me how I knew I was ready to introduce my kid to Cap, but the truth is the answer is going to be different for everyone.
I knew I trusted him, I knew he was going to be part of my life (at the very least as a close friend), and, most importantly, it just felt right. It was also just a natural crossing of paths that—after some self-searching—I decided was totally cool to let unfold.
Of course, I just casually let Cap know that I’d have Vee with me. I didn’t say anything to Vee either. Because I didn’t feel like I needed to. I simply said, “Vee, this is mummy’s friend, Cap.” And that was that. I figured I’d field any random inquisitive preschooler questions on the fly.
I’m sure in different situations and with different kids, different degrees of talking about dating again with your kids is in order, but I just dove in.
When in doubt, follow your gut. And if you’re not ready, there’s nothing wrong with pulling the rip cord until another time.
The last thing you, your kid(s), or your partner wants is to feel trapped between a blind date and an observation lab.
So, instead of creating an event specifically to introduce them, bring your partner over into your kid’s environment or into part of your regularly scheduled activities to be part of some of the regular family dynamics.
For example, invite your other half over for dinner like you usually do, except this time, let them know that your kid will be there.
Ask them if they want to come and catch one of your kid’s soccer or hockey games.
Heck, ask them if they feel like tagging along as you all go grocery shopping.
The beauty with something this simple is that your kid and your kid’s routine serve as the itinerary. Your parenting isn’t on display, your kids aren’t on display, whatever your partner does or doesn’t do with them isn’t in the limelight.
It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be perfect or scripted. Let it just be what it is. Hanging out with you and yours in your natural habitat.
Don’t Censor Parts of Your Life
We all do it. You’re in a new relationship and you skim over the glitches at work. You gloss over the way certain things make you really feel. You quirk where you could kvetch. It’s not lying, because you know eventually you’ll tell them, but for now it’s part testing-mechanism to see where you stand trust-wise, and part ego to make sure that you retain your smooth, have-it-all-together veneer for just a while longer. You know. Until the crazy breaks through.
So, we censor. So what?
The problem is that if you want someone to be giving you 100% of their energy, and you’re only giving them 70% of who you are (regardless of the motivation behind it), you’re still pushing them away. And they’re going to pick up on that.
Likewise, if you draw a clean line down the centre of your life and establish your relationship on a 50/50 breakdown where you’re half "fun new boyfriend/girlfriend" and half parent (that they never get to see), you are really only letting them get to know 50% of you.
If you’re at the point where you want your other half to meet your kid(s), you need to commit to being 100% upfront with them. I’m not saying you have to be 100% sold on the relationship, but let’s face it—you have to be 100% "in it." And I know that’s terrifying.
As a matter of fact, there are only 3 things I can think of that embody complete vulnerability in relationships. The first is being seen naked. The second is saying, "I love you." And the third is letting them meet your children.
If you are still trying to shield either yourself or your kid(s) from any residual or potential repeat of relationship heartbreak, censoring is even more common. But a real, stick-to-your-ribs relationship is not going to crumble because they know your kid peed on the floor, or that you had to shift dinner an hour later because of homework.