Dating is tough when you’re a single dad, especially when tackling the subject of introducing a new partner to your kids.
The dilemma: My kids were sleeping at my sister’s on Friday night. It was a treat for them; they were going to watch The Princess Bride. It was a treat for me, too. It gave me a free night—the rare opportunity to head out with this girl I’m seeing without a babysitter-imposed curfew.
There was a good chance we’d end up at my place, and I wondered whether I should change the sheets on my bed. I’d already washed them five days before. My five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter tend to share the ol’ king-size with me. Have you seen a five-year-old boy’s feet in July? Dude, those things are funky. Playground-sand grit and cookie dust had invaded the bed, and there was a stain on the duvet cover that was probably chocolate ice cream or possibly Fudgsicle.
Somehow, it didn’t seem right to subject my date to Fudgsicled sheets. So, I should change them. But then, for the next night, was I supposed to change them again? What a pain in the ass!
The trouble is that I’m getting serious with someone, and getting serious with someone is really exciting, and kind of nerve-wracking, and fun—particularly so with this girl, who sends me stuff in the mail, like postcards that say, “You’re great!” and the first-ever Hardy Boys hardcover, from 1927. Actually, it turns out I’m dating someone who shares a lot of similarities with Nancy Drew. Which makes me…Ned Nickerson?
Except it’s tricky, this getting-serious business. There’s a scene in the third-season premiere of Louie where Louie’s girlfriend basically breaks up with herself. “It’s been six months, and I haven’t met your kids yet,” is the gist of one of her lines. “I’m being careful,” Louie says, plaintively. Oh, did I ever feel for him. The scene illustrates how different dating is when you’re a single dad. It’s not like dating was in my early 20s, anyway—I can’t stay in bed all day, for example, because the Royal Ontario Museum day camp gets out at four. My teenaged babysitter, Julia, has a curfew of midnight, or, if I’m really lucky, 2 a.m. In my teens, I can remember hanging out on the couch with my girlfriend, ostensibly watching movies, and then freezing—was that a creak on the stairs? Were my parents up? Twenty-three years later, I sometimes find myself in a similar situation, except rather than avoiding waking my mother, now I’m worried about my daughter. Shhh! Whisper! We don’t want to get caught!
Then again, it might be easier for Nancy Drew to date Ned Nickerson, now that Ned’s a single dad and not a childless college sophomore. I’m less neurotic than I might be otherwise. Rather than worrying about why the girl hasn’t responded to that text, I’m reminding myself to do the laundry, because my daughter’s sun hat is filthy.
I am getting anxious about introducing the kids to her. My kids happen to be the people I spend the most time around, and it feels a bit weird to insulate them from someone who’s becoming a big part of my life. Plus, I’m growing tired of being the single parent at the public pool, play dates, and soccer games. It’d be nice to have some company for that stuff.
My therapist tells me to wait. Don’t make the introduction, she says, until the relationship is permanent. But how can I know if she’ll be around permanently if I don’t know how she gets along with the kids? Another friend says, wait till you love her. But I don’t want to let myself love her until I know she kicks ass with my kids!
Couldn’t we hang out with her, and she’s just like my friend? “But they know,” said my therapist. “You’ve mentioned her to them, right?” I nod. “They already know.”
So for now the kids stay at my sister’s, and I’m washing my sheets once or twice a week, putting my electricity bill up around the altitude of Mars. What a pain in the ass. But then, so are many things in this stage, and even if that’s the case, I’ll take this stage over the lonely one I just left.