… but I don’t really care.
Years and years ago, back when I was first separated, I met a man in a coffee shop. I remember that I was wearing this vintage-style tshirt that said, “Satisfied” in a baseball jersey style kind of way. That shirt was his “in”… Smooth operator. He ended up being the “big time republican” — that’s actually how he would describe himself. We’d be sitting around at a bbq or, really, anywhere, and he’d lean forward, rest his elbows on his thick knees and use the air quotes/bunny ears as he said, “I’m what they call a ‘big time republican’.” Seriously.
I dated a republican. But not just any republican, but a big time one. We all go through dark spaces, right?
I didn’t end up breaking up with him because of his political misgivings. No, it was because of the way that he parented his two year old son.
See, the boy child was only a year old when his father left. I fell into what many single mothers fall into when suddenly thrust into the harsh lonely light of single parenting. I was so afraid of being alone, parenting alone, sleeping alone, paying bills alone, eating meals alone… I was also pretty broken, damaged by the sharp words and slivers of insecurity that my husband had planted in me. I wasn’t pretty. I was fat. I was unlovable. I had been left. I had this BABY — who wants to date a woman with a BABY?? AAAAND a baby-daddy!? I felt undateable… My only touchstone for dating was from pre-baby days where you’d go out and get yo drank on and go dancing and live a life full of debauchery. What was I supposed to do on a date now? Talk? Actually talk? It was terrifying.
So, the easiest option for me when it came to dating was to find someone else that had a kid. LOOK! We have so much in common, other single parent! We’re both parents and… um… Like, we both had kids and stuff. You know. Whatever. It’s really a stupid thing to base your entire love-match search on, but I was young and stupid and insecure.
So, when The Big Time Republican questioned my level of satisfaction that afternoon in the coffee shop, whilst pointing at the screen printing across my tits in that tight purple shirt, I listened. While fumbling through my purse for my phone to save his number, he saw all the baby-crap in my bag and asked if I had a kid. My heart jumped vertical, straight into my throat and I squeaked out a yes, as if it was some kind of secret confession. His face brightened up and I learned about his son.
We dated for about eight months. Most of it was good. Really, he was a fine boyfriend. Attentive, kind to me, thoughtful, tender. It wasn’t until about seven months in when I realized, “I never want to let him parent my son,” and I knew in my gut that it wouldn’t work out. There was one incident where is his son was being all toddler-rage-y and screaming and crying and blah blah blah and he popped him hard on his thigh and hissed, “Stop crying!” I remember feeling my forehead wrinkle as I raised my eyebrows, eyes wide and mouth agape. How can you hit a child and expect him to NOT cry about it? He’s two for crying out loud!
We fought pretty much non-stop for that last month that we were together. It took me a little while to figure out that I was dealing with a deal breaker. After that break-up, my divorce was finalized and I was reborn and renewed and certain that I would never date someone with children again.
Right, I know… It’s totally unfair. “But, Jami… YOU’VE got a kid. How can you impose a stipulation on someone like that when you have a kid yourself?” I get it. I understand that it’s hypocritical. I’m okay with that because, for me, it’s not something I am willing to do… Creating a new family (me, boy child and a new hubs for me) will be hard enough, but the idea of blending a family in that Brady Bunch kind of way is just something that sends panicked shivers up my spine and turns my stomach. It is what it is…
So, for a long time, I dated for me… I dated without the intention of finding a step-father for my son and a husband for me. I dated for fun. For short-lived satisfaction. And it WAS fun, for a while. But like cotton candy, after a while, it makes you sick and your fingers get sticky and you just can’t keep it up.
So I quit dating. I would ebb and flow, back and forth… Dating… Jaded… Not Dating… Renewed… Dating… Blah blah blah.
And then I met Colin. On accident. Sideswiped, really.
Colin never dated a woman with children before. And dating a single mother is hard, guys. I get it. Our schedules are crazy (Read: “Sure, I’d like to go on a date. I am available on Tuesday from 3:15-5:45 and then on Thursday for lunch and then I’m not available again for two weeks.”), our lives are crazy (Read: obsessively controlling exhusbands that stalk you and call it “research”), we’ve got a different set of priorities. It’s hard. And most men can’t hang, no matter how much they love YOU, sometimes they leave because they aren’t ready to be parents. Sometimes they stay and resent your children because they have to share you. I think that, eventually, if a man doesn’t love your children like they were his own, he will leave you or the resentment will cause you to leave him.
I’m just so grateful that Colin didn’t look at me the way I looked at men when I was dating. I’m so glad that he didn’t rule me out because I have a kid… I’m consistently amazed at how he continues to fold himself into the corners of my complicated existence, filling all the chipped corners and cracks like that insulation foam. Patching up my tired and weathered heart. Easing himself into my son’s life as a friend and confidant. He defaults often, ever so modestly, by saying, “I don’t know how to do this!” because he’s unfamiliar with the territory. But watching him, all I can see is the little invisible daddy that has been living dormant inside of him for his whole life finally stretching his little invisible arms and waking up.
Colin and the boy child sitting on the back stoop the other day. Colin was teaching him how to use his pocket knife to make a spear out of a stick. They were out there for most of the afternoon together.