A Single Parent’s Dating Dilemma: The Sleepover

A late night scramble onto the balcony outside my bedroom, a stealth tiptoe up stairs, an early morning getaway. It was fun to sneak around, like teenagers, stealing kisses. But there comes a point when it feels deceitful. It’s a sticky place to be. You want to make sure its right before you announce the occurrence of a sleepover. That the relationship is on solid ground – something that can feel both certain and elusive at the same time. It’s the uncertainty that makes definite proclamations difficult, but after talking it over with several friends, I realized it was time to come clean.

By now my kids are old enough to get it. There is no pulling the “we’re just good friends” wool over their eyes. I don’t want to teach them that sneaking around is the proper way to conduct a relationship because I don’t want them doing it (!). It was time to model what relationships can be, the wonderful, the scary, the awesome, the difficult.

I wondered over the years since Arron’s death, what I could possibly have taught my kids about relationships. There have been so few, and the early ones they don’t remember. I never considered that I might be teaching them about love in the way I grieved. But this year, I got am amazing mother’s day letter, where this was addressed:

“I knew what love was supposed to feel like because I not only felt it after losing him (daddy), but I primarily saw it within you.”

I was overwhelmed. Despite myself and the fact that I was only one person, I managed to show my children what love between two people looked like.

All very nice and ethereal, until there is the reality of a strange person’s shoes in the entry. Folding a new person into the mix comes with loss. Loss of old routines, old patterns, old habits, the kind that are sometimes difficult to let go of.

“How will I talk to you if he’s here?” I am asked. “The same as always,” I say. “and if it’s private then we will find a private place to talk.”

“I will never stop loving you, the same as I always did,” I say. “But its important for all of us that I am able to live my life too, just I as I allow you to live yours. I may not always agree with your choices, but I will respect them, just as I hope you will do for me.”

They are old enough to hear this now. Can understand it. And I’m finally in a place where I am strong enough to say it. A key piece of this puzzle is the leeway he gives me to do and say what I need to in order to pave the way for him, so that he can come into our lives in whatever way he chooses. And he gives me time. Because in the end, I realize, it’s always time that makes the difference. With time, the tiny adjustments can get made, little-by-little, step-by-step until one day you look back and you realize you are right where you need to be.

A new basketball net has arrived in our yard, the workings of a pellet gun explained and there is talk of jet-ski paint balling. Whole new worlds are opening up before our eyes.

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    1. Abigail - Site Author May 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      Thanks Michele! Hugging you virtually back. Fun stuff indeed.

  1. Jackie May 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Love you, Abby. And again, you have given me hope and a knowledge that “living” is allowed. I love you my friend. XOXO

    1. Abigail - Site Author May 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      Aww, honey, you are too kind. Living is indeed allowed. We all know too well how short life is. Gotta live it!
      Hugs, A

  2. Kim May 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I feel this uncanny parallel with you again Abby. Just last Saturday I smuggled him in the lower level doors until the wee hours hoping they would not wake up and call out for me. What am I doing I wondered? This is ridiculous, but maybe a necessary evil given my son’s open dislike of this man he hardly knows. I realize it’s not the man, but what he represents. All painful and complicated. Your post was enlightening and hopeful as always. Thanks Abby.

    1. Abigail - Site Author May 31, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Yes, always complicated. I think you are right though, its not about the person, but what the person represents. I think for us, its also about having to share my attention with someone else. The kids are used to having us all for themselves, so its hard for them to give that up.
      Such a difficult tightrope to walk. It’s nice to know we aren’t alone in this though. Thanks for your comment.

  3. BigLittleWolf May 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    What a beautiful letter. It sounds like you’ve taught your children a great deal about relationships and loving.

    I can understand the strangeness – going so many years with few relationships and even fewer you might name as such, much less position as more than “friends” to children. I’m glad for you. It’s new territory, but so wonderful. For all of you.

    1. Abigail - Site Author May 31, 2012 at 10:43 am


      It was an amazing letter. She possesses a maturity that often surprises me. All of it is new territory for sure. It’s interesting to realize that he is often making better choices for us than I am. I think he has an objectivity that I don’t have, plus a maturity that allows him to not be fazed or to take personally any reactions he gets from the kids. Perhaps it really takes both people in the relationship to handle the kid situations, something I always thought I had to handle alone.
      Ever learning, aren’t we?

  4. TonyK June 1, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Ah, this is the post you were referring to at the reunion. I finally found the time to catch up. I have a similar but different situation. I have my girls half time and I have been in a relationship for the past five years. My significant other and my daughters never really hit it off even though I tried numerous times. I basically am a single dad half of the time and then I live with my lady friend the other half. Now that my younger daughter is almost 12, I have started going out on short dates on my “daddy days” to do things like going for a run or meeting up with friends on wing night. I guess my girls fear that this lady will replace their mom so they can’t act naturally around her. It sounds like you have a great start going. I’m so happy for you!

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