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Posts Tagged ‘single parents’

No, I’m not talking about the “right place, right time” sort of timing. I’m talking about realistic expectations about the development of a relationship. Mike’s written two posts recently that contained passing references to time frames that twisted my brain into knots. One was his attempt at getting inside a woman’s head with a recitation of the things she might have wanted to consider before giving up and moving on.

I disagreed with almost everything Mike said in that post, but one thing that really jumped out at me was that he was talking about a woman giving up on a relationship because she wasn’t getting the level of serious response she wanted after three weeks.  And I just kept thinking, “didn’t give her his heart”?  In three weeks?  Really?   I’d be a lot more concerned about a guy who thought he WAS “giving me his heart” in three weeks.  I could flip a coin, maybe:  Liar?  Or just an immature guy who has no idea what love is?  Either way, he’s not stellar relationship material.

I had the same reaction when I read Mike’s post about introducing women to his daughter, and learned that some women felt it was unreasonable that he didn’t want to make it a family affair in the first few weeks. In my mind, the “couple of months” Mike mentioned was wildly ambitious.  Of course every situation is different, but in my mind the reasonable point to start thinking about introducing someone to my daughter is between six months and a year.

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I read a discussion in an online forum in which it seemed that a large number of people thought that if there hadn’t been sex by the third date, something was missing and you’d better just move on.

I can’t help but think these accelerated time-frames are part of the reason that endings are so accelerated as well.  False intimacy is created when we say “I love you” after two weeks, to someone we barely know.  False intimacy is created when we have sex with someone we’ve been dating for a month (and think that’s “waiting”, because so many people would have done it the first night).  False intimacy is created when we drag someone we barely know into the tableau of our family and try to create not just one relationship on a foundation of sand, but many.  And when that false intimacy doesn’t hold up, we break up, move out, get divorced, move on and start the whole thing over again.

Maybe, if we’d all slow down in the beginning, the ending wouldn’t come upon us quite so quickly.

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Generally, I think that the challenges parents face are similar, and that most of the differences between mothers and fathers are the result of artificial social constructs.  But Mike’s most recent post about dating as a single parent has me thinking about the differences that exist purely by virtue of our gender.

I’ve always had many friends of both sexes, and when my daughter was young she didn’t give much thought to whether my friends were men or women.  She didn’t read anything into whether I went out with a group or alone with one friend.  She didn’t even think anything of the fact that one of my male friends had a tendency to drop by just about the time she went to bed at night.

But then, about two years ago, two things started to change simultaneously.  One was that as she started to get interested in boys herself, she started to wonder about my relationship with my male friends in a way that she never had before.  That changed my interactions with them considerably, even those who were truly platonic friends.  Once she reached that age of first impressions and explorations, it didn’t matter that we might just be hanging out and watching a movie downstairs after she went to bed–what mattered was that she might think otherwise.  And what she thought I did as she came into adolescence would, consciously or not, inform her own ideas about what was normal, healthy, acceptable.  That meant creating a lot of boundaries and hard lines that hadn’t existed before, because, to borrow a phrase from the legal profession, avoiding the appearance of impropriety was just as important as avoiding actual impropriety.

The other thing that happened at about the same time was that she blossomed into an eye-catching teenager.  I think (hope) that most single parents of teenage girls are aware of the special vulnerabilities that go with that age–they look like women to many men, but they’re nowhere near equipped to deal with the attentions of an adult male.  And many who are children of single mothers are all the more vulnerable because they’ve been lacking the positive reinforcement of a present, involved father.

With a background in the criminal justice system, the child welfare system and advocacy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, I’m even more aware than most.  You might say paranoid, if you haven’t seen what I’ve seen, but if you had…well, let’s just say that a 1% chance–even a .1% chance–is far too great a risk to take, and that mom is usually the last to know what a creep her new boyfriend or husband is.  For me, that’s meant that male friends I might have introduced to my daughter in passing five years ago won’t get anywhere near her until I know them very, very well.

Mike’s daughter is a little older than mine, but I don’t think that’s the key difference here.  I think the difference lies in the way that girls tend, at least a little, to become their mothers whether they want to or not, and in the risks mothers of daughters face in bringing relatively unknown men into their children’s lives.

Photo credit: hotblack from morguefile.com

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