During the timeframe when I was trying out the dating service that I wrote about in Stint With Dating Service, my daughter was 11 years old. I decided to use a couple of my dates as an opportunity to demonstrate what healthy dating is, with boundaries and awareness.
First, let me say that my rule is that I only date when she is away visiting her father. I don’t get a baby sitter just for me to go out on a date. I want to minimize disruptions of her routine and I don’t want to introduce feelings of insecurity— where she feels second to a stranger in my life. She needs to always know she is first. Additionally, since most of these first dates never turn into second, had I taken precious time away from my daughter, I would have regretted it. I don’t want to date at her expense, or even at the expense of me missing out on precious moments with her.
If she gets ill, she typically stays home with me, cancelling a weekend with her dad. In cases like that, if I had a date set up, I cancel the date. This shows her my commitment and love for her—And again, that she comes first. If she feels my attention and love, she will feel safe and secure enough to accept that mom is entitled to a life as an adult woman. I have on many occasions assured her that my role as her mom is the most important role for me and that I will always be her mom. I have said that my love for her is strong and never goes away, always exists even when I am away from her, spending time for me.
I remember my first introductory date that the dating service set up for me. I told my daughter, “I’ve got an appointment to meet someone at a restaurant to talk, so we can get to know each other.”
“Be careful,” she sweetly said in a cautious tone.
“I will Sweetie. We’ll be in a public restaurant where there are lots of people around. Since I don’t know him I won’t be going anywhere with him. I’ll be safe. Don’t worry. We’ll talk for a while then I’ll leave and come home.”
“Will you see him again?”
“It depends on how our conversation goes. Remember how I tell you that when you are older, before you pick a boyfriend that you first have to get to know him as friends before you know if he’s someone you want to date? Same thing here. I will talk to him to get to know him and I’ll figure out if he seems nice enough to get together again in the future, to talk again. Just one step at a time. If I don’t think he’s right for me, or right to bring into your life, then I won’t see him again.”
During the evening of the date, when I went to the restroom I noticed she’d called several times. The restaurant was so loud I didn’t hear her calls, so I called her back.
“Mom, are you alright? I tried calling but you didn’t answer.” Her sweet voice sounded worried.
“Yeah, I didn’t hear the phone ring. This restaurant is very loud.”
“How is he? Do you like him?”
“He’s friendly and funny. We’re talking and I’m asking questions to get to know him better.”
“Do you think you’ll date him?”
“I don’t think so. I want to talk a little bit more with him and see.”
“What’s wrong?” Apparently she could sense in my voice some trepidation. Our kids know us better than we give them credit, and at a very early age. They are the experts on us, having observed us their whole lifetime.
“Well, he was telling me about his 11 year old son and how he takes him to R-rated movies. Also he says that after the movie they sneak into another movie theatre. That’s not the sort of behavior I think is appropriate for a parent to teach a child.”
The irony didn’t escape me here. Who is the parent here checking up on whom? Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be doing this with her? At a later date of course. Well, I expect that she’s learning from me and what I am experiencing. All the more reason to do it the right way.
She continued, “When are you planning on leaving?”
"I should be leaving by 10 p.m."
“Okay. I’ll call you at 10:10!”
“That’s okay Sweetie—I’ll be okay. You can go to sleep now. I don’t want you waiting up for me. I’ll be okay.”
“No, I can’t go to sleep. I’m worried about you.” (As an aside, this was a period where she was very concerned for my safety since one of her friends lost her mother in a car accident the prior year.)
“I’ll be okay sweetie. I will be very careful. I will be very watchful when I walk to the car and drive home.”
“I’ll call you later.”
I realized she wasn’t going to sleep no matter what I said. So I accepted it knowing that her need to call me back was for her reassurance. Being summer, I didn’t feel too guilty about her staying up, though I’d prefer she get her sleep.
10:00 p.m. approached and we were still waiting on the bill. Before I knew it, it was 10:10 p.m. and my cell rang. I excused myself from the table once again, and talked to my darling daughter.
“Mom, when are you leaving?”
“Soon, as soon as we pay the bill.”
“When will that be?”
“Sweetie, in about ten minutes. I don’t want you to stay up any longer. You sound tired and it’s late. Know that all is well and I will be heading home in a bit. You can say a prayer for me and I’ll be home safe soon.”
“Okay. I love you, goodnight.”
“I love you too Sweetie. Goodnight.”
I hung up after hearing her hang up, and I smiled all the way to the table. I walked with the reassurance of my child’s love. How can I be lacking anything? I have it “all” already—regardless of any date’s outcome.
By now I knew I would not have a second date with him.
I lost count how many beers he had. It appeared he held his own, which only highlights his high tolerance to alcohol. I’ve read that over time ones body is trained to tolerate larger amounts of alcohol before it feels an impact. Its resistance grows. It takes more to give the buzz and the desired effects some rely on. I cradled my one glass of wine, but mostly drank a few glasses of water. He drank his beer like I drank my water.
Near the end of the evening he must have worked his way to the questions he must have most wanted to ask, but didn’t have the nerve to ask. He began to ask about sex but then said, “No forget it, you’ll probably think I’m crazy talking about this. I figured we’ve talked about religion, politics, the very things they say you shouldn’t discuss with people. I figure the only thing we haven’t talked about yet is sex.”
At this point there was no question about it, it’s was his libido and liquor talking. That evening, as is true today, I am prepared to receive into my life something more substantial than what he had to offer me. The love I have for me, overrides any flattery and attention he may have given me that evening. I’m at a place where I appreciate and honor myself. I didn’t need validation from him. What he offered was shallow and insincere. It wasn’t from a place of respect (for me nor for himself), nor a place of honor. I said my good bye.
Two weeks later I went on another introductory date with a different guy. I prepared my daughter ahead of time and asked her not to call me frequently during that meeting.
“Call me when you’re in bed to say goodnight but try not to call me more than that, unless you really need to talk to me, okay Sweetie?”
“Because it’s not polite for me to keep interrupting my conversation with him to get on the phone. And I need to have a chance to talk to him to get to know him. So I can see if he’s someone that would be good to date. Someone who’d be good to me and to you.”
“Okay mom, not like the other guy, right? It was okay for me to call you a lot last time because he wasn’t right for you anyway.”
I laughed so hard at this, that my stomach hurt!
A single parent’s dating life must be kept in balance so that it doesn’t impact our children negatively. Keeping our focus on the most critical part of our lives—our kids—is the most essential element to healthy dating. Maintaining our patience and sense of humor with our children allows them to feel safe during the process, and allows us to stay grounded.
Copyright © 2011 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.