Ahhh…the American Dream. The spouse, the kids, the big house with the white picket fence. Who doesn’t want it? It’s what we all aspire to have one day. Or at least, that’s what’s “sold” to us. The truth is, we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t want a family to call our own. In the dating era of the 21st Century, we now encounter the “ready-made family” package deal. Although this may present challenges to some, in the LGBT community, ready-made families actually reduce the stress of starting a new family. Whether it is adoption or surrogacy, the process can be more than what you bargain for. In fact, impacting a child’s life by being a co-parent does seem like an ideal situation to align yourself with the family structure. But what happens if the parent becomes uncomfortable with your role in the kids life; not because you’re a threat to their safety. It’s because you’re a threat to their existing closeness. What if the person you’re dating wants to dissolve the relationship because you’ve been given an ultimatum—it’s either their kids…or you?
I met Travis at an interesting time in my life. I couldn’t devote time to a full time relationship because I traveled both domestically and internationally five days a week. In fact, Travis traveled just as much as I did. The distance allowed us to really get to know each other and provided the necessary barrier to not rush into a relationship. Travis was a guy who loved to have fun. He loved amusement arenas and live music. When our limited scheduled allowed us to connect, we did nothing but have fun. As summer approached, I was anxious to plan a tropical destination trip where we could finally have some extended alone time. “So, out of all the places we could possible go, where would you like to go this summer?”, I asked. Travis laughed for a second, then quickly replied, “Ummm, we can go to the local park or museum. I’m getting my kids for the summer.” I must admit, that certainly wasn’t the response I was looking for. I was not looking forward to taking another summer vacation alone or with my friends. I needed some much needed romance in a freaky, sensual environment. “…and I want you to meet them”, he interjected. OK—Get the fuck out of here. I wasn’t exactly ready to “Meet The Browns” moment. Travis and I had only dated for a month and introducing me to the rug-rats just seemed a bit premature. Out of utter nervousness, I agreed. After all, what the hell was I supposed to say? No one had asked me to meet their kids so soon. Perhaps, it was his way of wanting to include me in his life. Hey, why not after all? I’m all about making great first impressions. It’s just what I do.
Dave and Busters is an excellent environment to meet kids. It’s a great distraction! So now, it’s showtime. Prior to all loading up in the extended Suburban, I met Travis and the kids at his apartment. Apparently from the looks on his kids faces, they were not apparently new to this. Wow. I guess that whole “special” thing I felt at the time was jab at the ole ego. Naivety, I had to learn to do better, but I digress. “What’s up kiddos?!”, I asked politely. They all responded in an exuberant manner. Hmmm…maybe this may be quite the endeavor I was about to embark upon. As the day progressed, it was actually fun and endearing getting to know the kids. Of course we had a blast playing games and acting silly, but when it was time to put on the conversational hat, they turned it on with no hesitation. Ranging in the ages of 12-16, they were extremely well-mannered. Travis had obviously done a fantastic job. But as the evening progressed, it went from a day of fun with everyone, to a day with me. Travis’s disposition went from enthusiastic to jealousy, even regret. As we entered Kroger to pick up a few groceries, his daughter and I played a game of tag. It was so entertaining, his other kids jumped in for the fun. As we ended our game, Travis expressed a moment with me that I wasn’t quite sure how to address. “You know, I’m actually jealous my kids are responding to you the way they are. They’re supposed to be spending this time with me and now the that you’re here, I feel like they forgot about it”. But wait a minute, wasn’t this what he wanted?
After ending what was a very enjoyable day, Travis and I had a moment to reflect on the day. Truth is, he wasn’t having it. Although he wanted to initially include me in a summer of planned activities, he knew I’d be a distraction. After spending an endearing amount of time with them, I’d have to agree with Travis. The truth is, he needed to have this time with them without me around. I can’t lie—I was disappointed. Not because of being asked to be excluded from the kids’ summer, but because he wasn’t able to appropriately assess how he wanted me in his life as well. What is it with single parents? There seems to be this need to balance a dating life and be the type of parent you want to be proud of. You want someone to come into your lives that will represent a stellar partner for co-parenting, yet the moment children start to gravitate to the person you’re dating, all bets are off. Really?! I’ve been a step-parent before. I enjoyed it immensely. But I guess in that moment, I’ve learned a lesson to. Perhaps, rather than choose a partner whose parental game is on fleek, focus on choosing a partner who’s not threatened by my capacity to be the parent they never knew could exist. After all, in some relationships, competition is sometimes that thorn in your side that occasionally rears it’s ugly head.