We all know the scenario...you meet the man of your dreams but realize he is attached to another woman. I'm really not sure how I allowed myself to get mixed up in such a situation. I knew my place was to remain hidden from her. So there I was, sneaking out the front door as she entered his home through the garage, his arms wrapped around her. I was almost caught again in the produce aisle of the local supermarket but quickly ducked into the frozen food section while they embraced. He talked about her incessantly, loved her dearly, and I knew she occupied a chamber of his heart I have no chance to ever enter. Ok, enough....I'm referring to my boyfriend's 10 year old daughter, the little girl I hid from for months.
He came to me through the dark underbelly of the post-divorce dating world...online dating. Early on I knew he was whole, complete and as authentically crazy as me. But just as quickly as the word "exclusive" was said, I unpacked the proverbial Samsonite baggage I was dragging around with me. He learned I had brought my children into two previous relationships even thought I knew deep down were not worthy of my daughters. My girls were devastated when the relationships failed having attached to the men, their families, and the happiness they thought I had found. I was not going to make the same mistake again.
My man's reaction to this left me speechless: "We cannot involve your children in this too early; I do not want your girls hurt again." I was stunned. Could he really care that much? Is it possible that he gets it -- the importance of not rushing? Yes, he absolutely did -- for my children and his own. Time and time again as we have walked through this relationship, he has shown a care for my comfort level and the emotional heath of our five children. No rushing, and no pressure.
So many couples are a bit desperate for a relationship to work so they move forward too quickly. They think they have found "the one" and introduce the children believing they will somehow solidify the relationship. Rather than take the time to really get to know each other, they rush only to eventually find a bit of unsettling darkness revealed with the passage of time. By then children are attached, lives meshed, and little feelings get hurt when things fall apart.
Very early on in this relationship my friends gave my man the stamp of approval with comments like "you have found your person;" "he's just as crazy as you are;" "your heart is safe;" "you are his gal for sure." They encouraged me to introduce him to my daughters but I could not. My children knew he was in the picture, saw my happiness and wanted to meet him. And yet I was waiting. I read and researched in the area of introducing children so much so that I found myself in analysis paralysis. After eight months I dipped into my heart, allowed myself to feel the love, and knew it was time to move forward.
We started with solo experiences -- I met his children then he met mine. It was all very casual over those first few months. Then we did what any normal couple does. We sat all five kids down at a local pizza joint to meet and let them know that the following weekend we were off to Disney World as a group. (Have I mentioned we matched crazy before?) Since then we have done a few more dinners: Hershey Park, camping and a week at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Lots of fun, neutral territory, and just coming together as friends.
My boyfriend and I feel we have done our best to bring our children into our relationship with their well-being in mind. I know that the time I gave this relationship to breathe was a bit extreme by most standards. But, I also know we did right by our kids and can rest comfortably as we move forward. Nothing was forced. We watched them very closely and hung back at the first sign of any awkwardness. Where we are headed and what will happen next remains a wonderful mystery through which we will hold hands and continue to keep the focus on our five children.
When my man introduced me to his children, I realized the trust he bestowed in me. He had deemed me worthy of walking into the lives of these two little beings, those he holds most precious in the world. I knew would need to make emotional space for them and wanted to put time into getting to know them. Meeting the children of a significant other is not just about dinners and vacations. It is really about interacting with them as an extension of the love you have for your partner.
No longer being the mistress comes with great responsibility which is an honor for me to carry. I have these two amazing children in my life and I can grocery shop no longer in fear of having to jump into the freezer section and hide.