Here’s the plan, are you ready? 1) I throw out a question I don’t know the answer to. 2) I add some thought starters, further solidifying my lack of knowledge on the topic. 3) You make comments in order to enlighten myself and others. 4) We continue the dialog through more comments. Okay, today’s question…
At what point in a relationship do you introduce your children to your special friend?
The easy answer is, “Whenever you know that the relationship has a good chance of being long term.” It’s an accurate answer, safe, uncontroversial, at times realistic, and very boring. I’m not ready to accept that one, at least for this discussion. I want something more. Here are those thought-starters I promised…
Let the kids answer the door at the beginning of the first date
Introduce them fairly early. On one hand, the kids are an extremely important part of your life, so if someone is going to get to know you better, it is impossible for anyone to really get to know you without experiencing that part of your life. On the other hand, “they” say it could be damaging to the kids to be introduced to these people that may only be around a few months. And it’s very hard to argue with “they.”
On the way to the Chuppah
Don’t introduce the kids until there is a high level of certainty that this one is the one. Maybe this means waiting nine months, a year, more. I see how this protects the kids, but what does it do for the relationship that you’re hiding it for such a long time?
Whenever she says so
I’ve used this one before. Without a strong opinion of my own on the subject, I’m somewhat willing to go along with whatever the other person says. Of course this solution gets thrown out the window if the other person doesn’t have kids, because, honestly, they just don’t get it (you know what I’m talking about).
The Jewish angle
This is a Jewish site, so I should ask, would our people answer this question any different from others? Would you be less likely to introduce if you’re dating a non-Jew (read: Shiksas are for practice)?
Does the age of the children matter?
Yeah, I would guess so. If you have an 18 month old that is going to have no long term memory of someone they only meet a few times, then I guess there’s no issue. It’s like worrying about introducing a date to the dog (c’mon, if I don’t get any nasty letters for the ‘Shiksas are for practice’ line, I deserve at least a few for comparing the toddler to the dog). But at what age does it matter, and what age does it stop mattering?
And what if the ages of your children are similar to the ages of your new friend’s kids? That could make a breakup harder if the kids have become friends. But not introducing could deny them all the opportunity to have fun group outings together, allowing you to spend more time with that special person.
Well, I’m no closer to having an opinion then when I started writing this. And I’m assuming this issue will come up again in my life, so I’d like some help. Start commenting, and remember, no “when you know it’s right” answers, because we already know that.
My kids are elementary school age. Here is the approach that I used when I was single.
The kids are not stupid. You can actually talk to them, and explain the situation, similar to how you had to explain the divorce – unpleasant, but it is what it is.
I think it’s important to have this conversation BEFORE you have a particular person in mind, and speak in general/hypothetical terms. Here is what I told my kids.
“OK, guys, so, you know how your dad and I are divorced, right? Well, it makes me a single person (as opposed to a married person). Single people date. So, I date. Dating is not a bad thing, it’s actually a pretty good, fun thing, if you do it right. But just because I am dating someone, it does not mean I am going to marry that person (though, it might happen at some point in time, I just don’t know when). When you, yourself, get older and start dating, you will not marry every person you date, either, right?
So, I want to get your perspective on what you think about me introducing some of my dates to you? Would you like to meet them?
Some of the guys I date have kids, and some even have kids about your age. Do you think it would be fun for all of us to do some fun things together? We can all go to the zoo, or a park, or, maybe be even on a trip together! Wouldn’t that be fun?!?
My only concern for you, guys, is that I don’t want you to get too attached to that person, because he may or may not stay in our lives too long. It’s kind of out of my control. Can you look at that situation for what it is, and just have fun with it? What do you think? You also have to realize that if that guy and I break up, you will probably never see him or his kids again. Again, it is kind of out of my control. Do you think it would be hard for you to handle?”
My kids took it pretty well, and I don’t see any damage done to them. There are a few rules to follow, though:
1. No touchy-feely stuff in front of the kids
2. If the date stays overnight, the kids do not need to know he stayed in your room – he needs to either leave or move to the couch before the kids wake up
3. If the kids don’t like him (or don’t get along with his kids), don’t bring him around anymore
4. If you feel that things are about to end, don’t plan any more kid-included activities
5. Warn the kids not to talk to the guy about your previous dates, and to NOT say things like, “Do you know how lucky you are? My mom usually dumps guys after a couple of months, but she decided to keep you!” Oops…
Hi, Jason, I really liked your post which is graceful and funny. I don’t have much advice, though I too dated when my son was little, by which I mean five years old. Here’s the thing though; I was dating a friend that my son already knew.
When things got more serious, my guy did not stay overnight if my son was around. And they liked each other instantly and very much. So it kind of seemed “bashert” from the first. Though my friend (now husband) was not Jewish, he was and is very supportive of Shabbat and all our rituals.
If I were dating serially, though, I might have qualms about introducing all of them to my five year old! As you say, there are no easy answers.
Interesting issue, my son (mein boychik; oy, such a shayneh punim; your mother and I used to kiss your face till we plotzed with joy). Sorry to digress, but the image of your beautiful 3 year old face with the shock of white blond hair and the sunny disposition just overcame me.
To address the issue of your article, I have but one question as an answer to your question (Why not? A Jewish father I’m not?). When, do you think, is it the most appropriate time for the single-Jewish-parent son to meet his divorced (Who’s counting?) and dating-like-a- vildeh chaiah father’s most recent lady?
To Olga, great response. Interestingly, in many ways I try to treat the kids as humans with brains and opinions (like last week when we asked them if they wanted to go to my great aunt’s funeral instead of making the decision for them), but I didn’t even consider it when writing this article and thinking about the topic. Everything you said makes sense, and the way you said it is perfect. I’m totally going to do that.
To my father I can only say this… If at some point I decide to use my forum on TCJewfolk to start talking to my peers about vildeh chaiah Jewish parents, I know it would be a popular post because the whole lot of you are meshugeneh. Over the years you’ve provided me enough material to never run out of topics. The surrealness and ridiculousness of your time with one of your ex-wives, who will remain nameless (but thankfully isn’t my mother – though she has also provided volumes of material) would make for quite an entertaining series, possibly worthy of Pulitzer consideration.
But to answer your question, I think you should introduce your most recent lady as early as possible, but for only one reason… It gives my brother and I an excuse to sit and sip scotch while we mock you and your choices. And, a year or so later when you look back on that relationship with whomever the lucky lady was, you can join us in our mocking of you and your choices. Ahh, family together time.
Perhaps the other question is, “why make an unnatural process around introducing your children to certain people?” When you invite a new person to your home or on an outing, is it necessary for your children to have an explaination regarding your guest’s affiliation with you? KISS acronym anyone?
1)”I invited a friend over for dinner.”
VERY different than
2) “Children, sometimes mommy/daddy meets someone they think is pretty special, and we would like all the special people in our lives to get to know each other. I thought we could have a nice dinner together. Now, just because this person is here doesn’t mean they’ll always be here, but it might mean that. So, don’t get attached or ask if we’re getting married tomorrow, because Friend and I haven’t discussed those matters yet.”
“I’m sorry- what time am I seeing the therapist?” Don’t add crazy karmic weight to meeting people, children will take that advice with them everywhere; developing minds tend to go global with application. No matter your age, your children’s age, all people understand without detailed explaination that some friends we see more often than others. Some friends we only chat with in cyberspace, a precious few become a true part of us.
Might be better to prep Friend with, “be ready for anything, children are fearless when asking questions and don’t attach feelings (outside of personal curiousity) to what they say.” This statement will be true up until your children are about 20 years old. They don’t care about putting their parent or paren’t Friend (regardless of their relationship) on the spot. In some cases, they will do it on purpose, just to try and get a rise out of you.
Assure Friend that they can answer, or dodge answering, in whatever way is comfortable for them. Remind children (and prying adults for that matter) in the event of uncomfortable topics arising, not everything is their business and redirect them into talking about something else, such as a hobby, sport or music in which they are involved.
Bottom line, you are an adult, and you will not need to justify ANY of what you do to ANYONE when you hold yourself to the standard of “choices made for the highest good” and stop looking back. Your children and friends of all kinds will pick up on that confidence and deflate the bubble of fear and lack created with by the insecurities of “will this choice/person be right?”
Technically, you are already answering yourself. You don’t trust it is, but you’re hoping to be convinced otherwise, and in fact are relying on the other person to help make it so. Highly recommend not dating until you have the confidence within yourself to make conscious decisions YOU believe in. You won’t always be “right” but with self-confidence you will always remain agile.
I agree with Jen about not making too much fuss over having a “special friend” over for dinner.
My suggested conversation with the kids about dating was meant as a one-time thing, BEFORE you have a particular “special someone” in mind. The whole issue does not need to be re-discussed every time you introduce a new friend to the kids. But I do believe that this topic needs to be addressed in general, hypothetical terms at least once after the divorce.
I definitely agree that you need to prepare the date him/her-self for what might be coming his/her way from the kids! That’s why it’s always easier for a single parents to date other single parents – they are just better prepared!