Moving on post-divorce can itself be difficult. Add kids and the balancing act becomes exponentially more difficult.
Jen and I shared our story with one of my amazing sisters. It was my sister Cassandra’s idea that we share this with you also.
Dating with Kids
Post-divorce, Jen and I both read articles on the dos and don’t of dating with kids. The advice was extensive and often contradictory. Introduce the kids right away! Don’t let the kids meet anyone you aren’t planing on marrying! Let your kids decide who you should date! Don’t bring your kids into your romantic life! And some of it was downright righteous and unrealistic. As a single parent you have no business dating at all! So when we met we had to wade through it all and figure out what was best for us and for our children. Here’s how we did it.
How Jen and I met (the kids’ version)
Visiting at a local giant playground Jen and I “happened” to sit next to each other while watching our kids play. Talking like parents at parks do, we “discovered” we each had a son and a daughter about the same age. Jen told her kids how I had two kids the same ages and introduced everyone. They all ran off and played. Later that afternoon the girls “discovered” that we had both planned a picnic dinner and after much begging of their respective parents, we all agreed to eat together.
After that day at the park, the girls suggested that Jen and I arrange more play dates, walks, and bike rides together. They all liked each other and wanted to play more and so we had many play dates. Then the kids thought that their friends’ parents should be girlfriend and boyfriend, then that they should get married because they wanted to be brothers and sisters for real! Most importantly though, the boys wanted bunk beds and the girls wanted everyone to know they are part cat, and to be flower girls too of course!
How Jen and I met (what actually happened)
We actually met online, which personally still sounds weird saying because I have always been against online dating. I thought online dating was weird and people should be able to meet naturally at a
bar REI camping (creepy) , the grocery store. See the problem? If you want to meet someone compatible with yourself you probably are only going to meet them doing something you enjoy. What if your hobbies involve being away from it all like ours do? That makes it pretty hard to meet. Jen and I actually only live a few miles apart, but we shop at different grocery stores, our bike riding paths never cross and our kids enjoy playing at different parks. If we had stuck to meeting in the “real” world we probably would have never met.
Thanks to Ok Cupid we did meet, went on a few dates, and decided if we wanted to be serious, then the kids had to be on board also. We didn’t want to get more attached only to find out our kids didn’t approve of our new love. Many people believe their kids are along for the ride and don’t give their kids a voice in their lives but we didn’t think that was fair. We did some research on how to introduce your kids to your significant other and read that kids often feel pressured to like the person their parent is dating. We wanted the kids to feel free to express their true feelings about the other parent. So instead of a formal introduction we arranged to happen to meet at a park so the kids could hopefully became friends. When we visited the park, we didn’t let them in on us knowing each other, instead we kept our distance and only smiled across the swings when little eyes could not see.
I think the biggest reason for the girls’ friendship could be attributed to fancy, puffy dresses. I never thought, as a Dad, that fancy puffy ballerina dresses would have any impact on my romantic life. I was wrong. Those girls both insisted on wearing fancy dresses to the park and when they both noticed the others’ super fancy, frilly, puffy dress they knew they were kindred spirits. By the end of the afternoon the new friends were delighted to discover that both had a picnic dinner packed and begged to eat together.
For about a month after the kids’ meeting we kept up the pretense of just being the parents of their friends. We let each other’s kids get to know us as just another adult in their life and not as someone they were expected to like. When the kids started asking to see not only the other set of kids, but also the other parent, we knew they had accepted and grown to like us on their own. It wasn’t long before the girls were suggesting we should date and only after that point did we let them see us holding hands, hugging, and kissing.
Why our method was right for us…
When we first became a couple and begin the motions of building a new life together, it wasn’t always easy. Jen and I certainly didn’t move at the speed of our hearts. We had to always put our children’s feelings and lives before our own. Luckily, we both wanted the same for our children and we accepted that each of us would be paced by our children. We knew that we might have setbacks; that if the kids didn’t want to accept the other then our relationship could be ended, for our children’s happiness, before it even really began. I think the key to our success in moving on with kids, was our willingness to compromise to everyone’s needs, the kids’ included. Our patience and open communication with all six members of our family has led to everyone understanding what to expect. Because we have always treated our children as fully fledged people with their own needs and valuable opinions, they have had confidence in our decisions.
Divorce itself can reduce a child’s confidence. It is an unknown for them as they figure out new routines and expectations. Letting them be a part of your decisions in how and when to move on, gives them a renewed sense of confidence that the future isn’t simply a mess of random happenings but something we can shape. I think for kids having gone through divorce that is an extra special feeling to have.
Now, as we plan on making this informal family we have become, an official one when we marry, we have the confidence in knowing our kids are happy with this new chapter of life as well.