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Krytptonite and Dating as a Divorced Dad

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I was the baseball coach all the kids loved.

I gave everyone their own unique cheer for the rest of the team to shout when they came to bat: "Polsky! Polsky! Hit the Ballsky!" "Gillian! Gillian! Help us score a million!" "Heave ho! Avivio!"

I ran them through silly drills as well as skills and was supremely supportive.

One little girl came up to me and said, "Adam I want to you know that my friend feels bad because she has trouble catching the ball and is shy about asking for help."

So yeah, the kids loved me, and when I separated from my wife over the winter and returned to practice in springtime as a single man, I discovered, so did some of the single moms.

It turns out that the mother of that little girl who came to me to share a secret also got divorced that winter. I would watch her grading papers on the sidelines and thought what a serene and beautiful woman she seemed. But when she smiled at me as I approached her, I could feel in my bones that she liked me on a whole different level.

We entered a very gentle, fun, healing -- and on the sly -- relationship. Divorce was new to both of our kids and we didn't want to introduce the fact that mom and dad were dating.

But the best laid plans of dating divorced moms and dads easily go awry. Her daughter, who loved me on the ball field, suddenly saw me as a threat when she spied us kissing. I went from helpful coach to threat. Every time I called, she would howl like one of our Topanga Canyon coyotes in the background so much so that her mom and I couldn't hear each other.

It was my first lesson in the tender hearts of the daughters of divorced parents. It was almost harder for the daughter to deal with the breakup than her mother.

My own sons took our divorce with amazing equanimity. We had sat them down on the living room floor and told them we were separating just for a test period. There was no rancor, only exhaustion.

"That's okay," my 10 year old son said, "I know how it goes. You'll both try extra hard to be nice to us and we get two of everything."

"It's all right," said my Zen-like 7-year-old, "Now we'll be real L.A. kids."

Divorce didn't seem to faze them. And they liked the new women who would come into my life and introduce them to new skills, recipes and experiences.

But daughters? They seem to be a different breed.

And their sensitivity and wounds would come to challenge my whole sense of my place in the world.

When you are a parent, or a coach, if you genuinely love the kids, you feel a bit like Superman. Your care and support and mentoring make you feel as if you have mighty powers, and it's gratifying to share them.

But when you date a single parent, you are stepping into a whole other planet with whole new gravitational laws. It's a whole other set of narratives. New rules, new emotions.

It's not about you any more. You are a bit part player in the lives of tender, conflicted, raging young minds. You don't get to set the narrative. If you have any insight at all, you understand that you have to fit into the narratives of others.

And sometimes Superman lands on planet Krypton and you are lucky to get out with your life.

A couple of years later, I was dating a woman with three wild, passionate kids. Their dad was a multimillionaire, but also raging narcissist and coke-fiend at times and his walking out with a 23-year-old was probably the best thing that could happen to them.

I fell easily into good dad mode with the youngest, reading her to sleep at night (on the nights my kids were with their mom) -- something her dad never did.

But the 14-year-old girl? Kryptonite.

She was a crafty and too-worldly Beverly Hills adolescent. I did my best with her. I sat and did homework with her. I brought her her favorite things when she was sick. And she even complained to her mother, "I don't' know what to do about Adam. He's so nice to me."

It was an adult male experience she was not used to.

And as her feelings see-sawed, things turned dark. She started to undermine me, sending me to the wrong restaurant so her mom and I would miss each other. She would insult me directly or ask me insulting questions in front of others.

The last straw came when she entered the bathroom where I was taking a bath and reading -- and she was wearing a see-through negligee. "What do you think of this? Do you like it?"

I immediately covered my eyes and ordered her out. Drying off, I went to her mom and said, "That girl is going to put me in jail. She's capable of it!"

We broke up, largely in part to keep me a free man. Some women wonder about the signs that a man won't commit. Running for his life is a pretty reliable one.

When you date as a single parent -- or when you date single parents -- sometimes you get to feel like Superman, as you bring your narrative of good parenting and good communications to one and all.

But sometimes you get kryptonite shoved down your throat -- and there's very little you can do but move on.

My experience is that boys handle their parents dating with more acceptance. And that daughters are a churning sea of emotion -- alternating between hope and guilt, shame and hurt, betrayal and loneliness.

Often, even if they like you, they resent you.

And that is something that can be smoothed out only with a great deal of time, patience, love and a willingness to realize that these burgeoning Supergirls have some pretty potent powers themselves.

Best Selling Author, Emmy-Nominated Producer, Screenwriter and Entrepreneur, Adam Gilad leads a community for over 80,000 men and women on their quest to create love and a bold, inspired life. Having served as a Stanford Humanities Center Graduate Research Fellow and host of National Lampoon Radio, Adam blends a bracing mix of research, humor and global wisdom traditions to help men and women break through the habits blocking their ability to open into love and freedom.

He's a regular contributor to Vixen Daily's Inspiration section.

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