It began innocently. Carter playing a game on my iPhone impatient to go to an appointment he didn’t want to go to because he didn’t want to miss school. Who WAS this child? The text message that popped up was meant for my eyes only. Carter’s eyes widened. I cursed. Blushed. Told him it was meant for me only. I fumbled, words lost. How to explain?
Later on the phone I heard his frustration. “Maybe your phone should be off limits.”
“But… he was just playing a game.” The text was not the point. The truth was that I had been hiding him from my kids, attempting to slow the pace for them, give them time to get used to this change in their lives. But in effect I was sneaking around, not telling them the whole truth, and it was showing. “Its not my right to tell you how to raise your kids, but…” I didn’t want to hear those words that all single mothers dread. I felt like a cat, hair raised, ready to strike. But I tempered. “Ease and Grace,” he said. “That is what we bring to our canvas. That is what we need to introduce to your kids. Show them our sense of ease and grace so they can have it too. We will model it for them. But it’s going to take a frank conversation.” And he was right. It was time to be completely honest with my kids. This is happening. It is past the stage of maybe.
Later I picked Carter up from school for another ear appointment. We weathered the news that he needs a new set of tubes. His hearing is still compromised. The drive home gave me the opportunity to have our frank conversation. The issue of S.E.X. in a ten-year old boy seems to be the foremost concern. My “it’s none of your business,” became a straightforward “Yes. This is something adults do and enjoy. It is something I do and enjoy. It would be something I would do and enjoy with whomever I was dating. It is not a bad thing.” This was followed by many very frank questions. Ones I didn’t want to answer, unsure the answers were appropriate for a ten-year old boy. But I answered them all truthfully. “From now on I am going to be perfectly honest with you. I need you to understand that I love you just the same way I always did, even though there is a new person in my life. But he is in your life now too. And he might just offer you some pretty great things too, if you give him a chance.”
His shoulders straightened. I could almost hear him grow up. “How would you like things to go, I asked, “in terms of getting to know him?” I needed him to feel in control, feel vested in how things were going to proceed, at least with regards to his interaction with the new man in his life. “Maybe invite him over for some dinners and stuff?” “I can do that,” I said.
The next day, I tried to have the same conversation with O. “I don’t feel like talking about that now.” And so we didn’t. When he came over for dinner, the only interaction they all had was during the 10 minutes it took the kids to eat before they skittled back upstairs and closed their doors. He laughed. I guess this is what he means by “dinners and stuff.” Later we watched a DVD, cuddling in my bed (still waiting for a new couch for the basement) while Carter sat on the floor and built a cardboard model of the World Trade Center for a class project which he is basing on the non-fiction book he chose to read: 102 Minutes: The Fight To Survive Inside the Twin Towers. Not a book I will ever read, but one that is part of Carter’s journey. When he was done, he threw the models at us and we praised.
The irony was not lost. There will be many awkward, jerky steps before we can dance with ease and grace.