Dating a man with a young son
I feed her once a day, clean the litter several times a week and return her occasional affection. I blame my maternal deficiencies in part on the fact that I was the family princess while growing up.Maybe I'm giving my parents purpose, or maybe I'm lazy and self—absorbed—not exactly qualities that make a person fit for taking on a child. He and his wife divorced when Noah was 1 year old, and we began dating shortly after. For a while, I could be just me, the same me I'd always been. Our relationship moved quickly; one minute, we were courting over meaningful conversation and too many glasses of wine, and the next, we were spending our Friday nights playing Chutes and Ladders and pleading with a 2-year-old to eat his green beans.Mommy shows up in conversation whenever I try to do something nice for him.The squeezable applesauce I picked up at Whole Foods? Bob and I have explained to Noah that I'm not Mommy, but I can still be his friend.Partly, it's protection in case this whole blended-family thing doesn't work out. People tell me that it's different when it's your own kid.And maybe, if I decide to have children, it will be.At Bob's old place, Noah had insisted on sleeping with Daddy, at which point I'd go back to my own apartment or curl up on the couch. I've quit setting the record straight each time this happens.
" he cried over and over—I took a spoonful of the stuff and hurled it at him. There are nights when I'll read Noah a book before bed or help Bob pack his schoolbag.Already, I know that Noah sees me as competition for his father? He's just getting to the age where it's evident that he can feel the effects of his fractured family and is searching to understand his place? He talks about Mommy a lot, generally when we're all having fun.He'll say, "Mommy has a zoo near her house, too," as if he feels he has to declare whose team he's on; he might be enjoying himself, but he's still loyal.I felt uncomfortable sharing a bed with another woman's child and assumed she'd feel the same; I held my ground as much for myself as for her. Well, then it was my responsibility as the adult in the deal to figure out how to make it work. It's not easy when Noah doesn't behave the way I'd imagine my own offspring might or should.Now, when Noah gets up at 4 a.m.—and he does often—we direct him to a sleeping bag on the hardwood floor. I've always been a supportive, generous person. For many of us in our 20s and 30s, having it all was the plan—a career, friends, clothes/car/vacations, the man and, one day, maybe, the kids, in that order. Bob says he was a hyper child and is still, at times, a hyper adult.We were still evolving as a family but committed to making it work. I'm hyperconscious of not wanting to appear—to Noah, to Bob, to anyone standing nearby—as if I'm trying to replace Noah's mom. I'm acutely aware that to outsiders, I seem like a cold, detached mother. The worst was when one woman who'd found her way over to Noah turned toward me and instructed him to "wave at Mommy!Noah, a smiley, well-adjusted kid, was excited for a new playroom and a backyard, and he seemed unconcerned with the arrangement until it came time to go to bed. At restaurants, I let Bob order for him; in front of Bob's friends, I don't discipline. On a recent "family" trip, Noah was the toast of the hotel pool: "Your son's so adorable! " Before I could explain to this stranger that Noah was not in fact my son, Noah let her know that his Mommy lives in Massachusetts with a cat named Stella.As far as I know, I never sent Bob the vibe that I was the slightest bit maternal. At some point, I emerged from the haze of falling in love to look up—generally as Noah was doing something like urinating on the bathroom cabinets—and wonder, How the hell did I get here? But Bob and I were infatuated and naive, and there was no way to predict how challenging my role as "the other one" would be.(For a brief but emotionally charged time, that's what Noah called me: the other one.But as we wait to marry, we increase our chances of partnering up with a divorc? Having a baby is an adjustment, and one you usually plan for; having someone else's child come into your life is a major shock, more by-product than intention. He takes what I call a skater-dude approach to parenting.On the flip side, let's face it: No one wants a stepmother. Bob knew from the beginning that I wasn't sure about my own feelings about having children, but I think subconsciously he thought we'd be this instant family and that it would be easy for everyone to adapt. Daddy's house is the sort of place where no one thinks to lay a newspaper down on the vintage kitchen table before dyeing Easter eggs on it.