Dating With Children
I was 27 when my childhood sweetheart walked out on me. You know the age rockstars want to pass like speeding light? No one wants to join the dead rock star club and I didn’t want to join the “I’ve been dumped club”. I couldn’t wait for my birthday to come and go so I could put the time behind me. I didn’t even understand the phrase “childhood sweetheart” since he was anything but sweet. Towards the end anyway, it more like coldheart (him) and stupidheart (me). We had three kids together and I was now very much single but not ready to mingle. I had a few things stacked against me (like my post-three-kid stomach, weight came off, well mostly, but the stomach did not lie), we knew almost all of the same people and my self esteem followed him into the abyss.
One thing in my favor is I am social and still had some spunk. I went to a few parties, reunions and what nots and was asked out. Kids and all I was (gasp) going on a date! Scheduling was easy since he had the kids every Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. At a party a friend of a friend asked me out. So Friday night it is:
“Pick you up at 8”?
We went to see a movie, a semi-interesting, semi-arty film and he fell asleep. He paid for the tickets but as soon as the lights went out so did he. Yes, he was sleeping in the dark movie theatre. I had no idea why girls actually wanted to go on dates. I was mortified, wanted to leave, and he didn’t even offer snacks or drinks! This was not fun! No food, no drinks just a ride home only when we got to my house he perked up and had the audacity to think he was coming in? Holy awkward.He was not my type at all, barely talked, slept and I would have given him the $7 back if he stopped trying to mock being a gentleman now that it was time for me to walk in my house. No tiger. Don’t call again. Did he naively (or assholey) believe since I had kids it would be that easy? That I would be easy? Crap.
Date one part two: An old classmate.
“Can you pick me up parking in my neighborhood sucks”?
“Sure.” (clearly not a great word for me…)
I pick him up then proceed to the movies. Again. And I am not even a movie person! We walk up to the counter and he pays. Hands me a ticket then as we walk away from the cashier he tells me I owe him $7. He lives in a four-story Victorian (that he owns), has his parking spot and I have three kids and probably no parking when I get home. I hand him $10. He keeps the change. I felt like Clark Griswald when he was lost in the wrong part of town. He at least stayed awake, he didn’t shut up in fact and I couldn’t wait to drive him home. Oh after I paid for parking. I was not in any way, shape or form trying to be “modern”. Open the door for me jerk and pay for the damn movie at least. After I sped over to his house he then tried his best to look at me coyly and ask me to come up. To his room, that bluntly. No. Never, no way. You pretend to the movie clerk like you are buying my ticket only to turn and ask me for money back, keep the change at that, and want me to come in? Like I have to pay for that too! Ugh.
So my assessment dating with children was not going to be easy since men thought I was easy. I continued and finally realized my best bet was being honest and direct. What I mean was being myself. I didn’t have time to play games nor did I want to. “Look when you and all your friends, and mine, were off in college I had kids. First one at 20, two by 21 and all three by 24, yes same father. Met when I was 15, I went to City College, in my hometown, but started after my third child”. I had no real idea what I was doing but it was working. I’ve always been very matter of fact and really started to understand “You like me or you don’t and if you don’t someone else will”! Yes, the world is filled with billions of people and the sooner you realize you won’t like everyone just as they won’t all like you the better. Please just don’t waste my time. I eventually met someone and had another baby. It is what I do but in the meantime friend’s were asking advice. Dating advice from me? Okay rule #1 DON’T GO TO THE MOVIES!
- COMPLIMENT – During an introduction I made eye contact with him (but didn’t say anything yet) then looked at her and said (so he could hear) “oh, he’s very handsome” then turned and shook hands and this got the conversation going. Everyone likes compliments so learn how to give and receive!
- GO OUT AND MEET PEOPLE ORGANICALLY – Don’t start instagramming request while you have the opportunity to talk to someone in the flesh! Talk! Admire, look, laugh, observe, cheers! The internet allows us all to portray ourselves in our own way but the real and raw you will liberate you!
- BE HONEST – don’t say everything at once, at first meeting or even by the third date but think about what is important to you, what you want and what you need. This is your chance to start over. So it is okay to say you have limitations and discuss your child(ren) first but save some things for futures dates…keep the mystery, intrigue, questions coming.
- BE GENUINE – if he/she is funny then laugh. Don’t fake or force anything if the chemistry is there and right the butterflies will come. And who doesn’t love butterflies?
- STAY OFFLINE – In the age of cyber dating (and cyber stalking) do not try and track his or her whereabouts, read into status updates, scroll through the friend list and try and figure out exes, who is a potential threat (could be his married sister) or elaborate in any unnecessary way. Stand out in a refreshing way!
- HAVE FUN – with the right techniques you might not be single for long!
- DITCH THE DREAM – be open to dating someone that may not be your ideal partner. Typically like tall? Go for average height- like skinny go for thick – like hair open your eyes to the receding!!!
- DEALBREAKERS – most of us believe that sexual attraction is número uno but as important as that is so is knowing your non-negotiables. For me it’s work ethic. I’m a damn hard worker and worked two jobs for 10 years to provide for my children. I’m not afraid of hard work. To me, work ethic makes you sexy. Religion is tricky but having commonality in afterlife discussions is key. Initially it may not be an issue but after a few years it can complicate things (especially with children and rituals around holidays etc). Complacent – get comfortable but not too comfortable. Keep things spicy and maybe don’t let him see you with mustache cream? We don’t even want to see ourselves like that. Take care of your body and enjoy time together as much as you enjoy friend time. And please always (unless you shower together) keep bathroom time private.
- WAIT – on introducing the kids. Sex. Friends. Take your time and figure out if it’s substantial or just having fun. Meeting people you casually date or hook up with can be confusing to kids. Sex can confuse the relationship status so know what you want or what you are getting into first.
- AVOID JEALOUSY – What happened in your previous relationship had nothing (most likely) to do with your current situation. Jealousy is a wasted, and very unattractive emotion. Who I dated was done without the intention it would bother, annoy, hurt, create havoc, etc someone I had yet to meet. The pain someone else may or may not have inflicted on you have no connection to the right here right now. If you see signs of control and jealousy end things now.
Remember not everyone needs a title – someone might be a part of your life for a long time or a short time. People come into our lives for different reasons and even if it is not what you wanted now you know! We get one shot at this life so make the most of it!
Jake McKenna Ibarra is a mother, writer and 4th generation San Francisco native.