Sockpants and Super Heroes: Dating with Kids
While I have ridden the rollercoaster highs and lows of mothering special needs children for over a decade I’m still relatively new to the world of single motherhood. When you first experience the end of a marriage there are countless things that you spend an exorbitant amount of energy obsessing over: your former partner, loss of friendships, finances, suitable housing. While I was at peace with my marriage coming to an end, I was extremely stressed about the potential impact the divorce would have on my kids. I was also stressed about the impact it would have on my relationship with my adult step-son who I have come to love very much.
I really can’t complain. The kids surprised me and transitioned into life with divorced parents exceptionally well. We have our occasional challenges but I am very fortunate that my ex-husband and I are able to positively co-parent our kids, and I am fortunate that the woman in his life treats my children with love and acceptance.
I’ve noticed that the common reaction after a divorce is to immediately start dating. Being alone is a very intimidating prospect especially, in my case, after a 20+ year relationship. Even my own children began pressuring me to explore the scene of dating. While sitting in a restaurant eating lunch last summer, my son Tyler asks, “Hey, Mom! Look over there. Do you think that guy is good looking?” I looked out the window to see an extremely muscular man getting out of his lifted, blue and chrome Chevy pickup. “He’s not bad. I like his truck,” I said. “Oh good. Cause if he sits near our table, I’m going to find out if he’s in a relationship.” Shocked, I pointed out, “I don’t need my 11-year old kid trying to find me a date. I can handle that myself, thank you very much.” He laughs out loud and says, “No offense, Mom, but who has more dating experience here, you or me?” I really couldn’t argue with his logic.
Even my 7 year-old son with high functioning autism felt the need to intervene in my single status. One day, as we were heading out the door to hit the grocery store, Caleb presented me with a plastic cow horn headband. “What’s this for?” I asked. “Boys like good horns. These will help you find a boyfriend, Mom.” He looked so hopeful, I didn’t have it in my heart to argue. With all the dignity I could muster, I wore my horn headband through the grocery store all the while Caleb beamed ear-to-ear. “Mom, it’s working! Look at all the people looking at you!” I didn’t snag myself a boyfriend, cow farmer or taxidermist on that particular shopping trip (although I was complimented on my “nice rack”), I did come to realize that my kids very much associate being in a relationship with happiness.
Refusing to succumb to the pressures of my children, I have followed the advice of some very wise divorced mothers in my life. I’ve used the past 18 months learning about myself. It sounds silly but when you have been in the same relationship since the age of 18, it’s hard to really know yourself as an individual when you’ve been a couple for that length of time. It becomes even harder when your identity is so heavily entwined with the lives of your high-needs children. Because my ex and I split time with our children, I’ve had to truly learn what it means to be alone. I’ve used this time to learn through single person experiences which activities I truly find enjoyable and which hobbies and interests I did to please the partner in my marriage.
Without a real understanding of how or when, I’ve come to the recent realization that I have become comfortable in my new life as a single ME. Somewhere unexpectedly along this journey I began loving myself and the woman that I am. I’m still asked on a regular basis why I don’t venture out into the dating scene. The answer is simple. I’m still enjoying the relationship that I’m having learning about my single-self and a partner does not yet fit into that equation. But I do have comfort in knowing that when the time is right, my children will be supportive of a man in my life. The real challenge will be seeing if Spokane has a man adventurous enough to handle the lives of Sockpants and Super Heroes.