I’m a widow and have started dating this great guy who my kids just adore. We’ve been dating since the summer and my kids see our affection – holding hands, hugging, rubbing backs. One of the kids caught us giving a quick peck on the lips. The word got out among the kids and they were giddy and smiley about it. They try to spy on us so they can see a little peck. Between all the kids they’ve seen 2 little kisses and are waiting for us to kiss a third time! Ha! So, here comes my dilemma. We are on a weekend away to Yellowstone with his younger kids and my kids. We have two hotel rooms. The kids were asleep and my boyfriend brought ice cream over to my room for us to share and talk. Well, we are sitting in chairs by each other and making out. My 10-year old woke up so we stopped, finished talking and he left to his room. She saw more than we thought. I don’t know how much she saw but she’s shocked and upset. I explained that some kisses are short and some are long. She asked why we did that and told me it was gross. I was shocked myself that she had to see that and felt bad for my innocent daughter! I wasn’t sure what to say but I explained that it is normal for people to kiss like that when they are older and really like each other. I told her I was sorry she had to see that and reassured my love for her. She told me she didn’t want me to do that again. Not to kiss him again! This is all so hard! My kids have been so stable and resilient through losing their dad. Now I’m dating and they still have been so generous to this guy and me dating him. This is new territory for me that I wish I didn’t have to be in. If you had any thoughts I would sure really appreciate them.
These are really normal concerns to be facing when dating with young children. So here are some quick thoughts to help you move forward successfully from here:
- You are the Mom and the adult. You have done nothing wrong. I love how you normalized the situation and explained what is appropriate behavior between two dating adults.
- Your kids don’t get to tell you what to do. A pretty typical pattern to get into after the death of a parent (or even divorce) is one where the children, or often the oldest child, will move into that parent’s role. And the child will feel authority to make decisions or co-parent or be the confidant of the parent left behind. It’s just a very difficult time for all to transition. At the same time, it is important for the children to stay in a child role, structurally under the now single parent.
- As you already report doing, it is important to have a discussion about discomfort. It’s normal for her to be uncomfortable because intimacy at the level she saw is meant for older people. We feel discomfort when something is wrong. But we also feel discomfort when something is new or foreign and we are not used to it or when it is developmentally inappropriate. You have to remember that even if your husband had not died and your 10-year had accidentally seen you deep kissing or even worse, having sex – there would be normal, “gross” discomfort. 😉
- Validate her feelings. “I know this is hard to see mom dating. There are good, bad and weird things about it. Etc.”
- Depending on the relationship you had with your husband, you can talk about how you and dad had conversations about what might happen if one of you had died. And that he would be supportive of you dating and finding a new companion. That way it doesn’t turn into a loyalty thing. “I can’t like this guy because I need to be on dads side”.
- And it’s important to keep Dad in his rightful place. In other words, Dad will never be replaced. We may add to our family – but no one gets replaced.
So glad to hear you’re at a point in your healing to be able to date and have fun through that process. I wish you the very best as you continue on your journey.
What advice would readers share with the original poster given your own experiences?