Not too long before my wife and I separated, we sat down and had the talk. No, not about where the kids were going to live. Not about what school or what church they’d attend (we decided on 50-50 custody, the schools in my new town, and her church).
We talked about dating again.
Both of us knew the divorce could take forever, and neither of us wanted to wait until then to date again. So we kind of checked in with each other, to see where we were at with things.
After realizing both of us were not just ready but kind of eager to move on, we agreed we’d both start soon. We also agreed that we didn’t have to tell one another when or who we were dating, but that we’d talk to each other before introducing the kids to a new romantic partner.
About a month later, well established in my new home, I met someone. We were kind of taking it slow, both agreeing to wait and see how things progressed before introducing her to my kids. But my kids and ex knew that I was dating, and they even knew her name.
Now I hadn’t heard if my ex had started dating yet. I assumed she had, but didn’t want to pry. And I certainly didn’t want to ask the girls, as I didn’t want to put them in the position of informing on their mom.
Anyway, I’ll never forget one day when my girls came home from their mom’s. They were unusually silent in the car; when we got in the door, I immediately asked them what was up. My 12-year-old looked at my 10-year-old. My 10-year-old looked back at her sister. “You tell him,” she said. “No,” her sister replied. “You tell him.”
I thought this was my moment to jump in. “Girls, is this about your mommy dating again?” They both nodded, somewhat relieved. “Look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact it’s wonderful. Your mommy and I spoke all about it a long time ago, and we both agreed we’d start seeing other people.”
“That’s not it,” piped my youngest.
“So what is it?” Immediately my mind imagined the worst. He was a gangster. A drug dealer. Someone wanted in several states for armed robbery. In short, someone horrible and menacing, who was scaring my kids at a distance.
I could hear myself screaming in my mind. How could she do this? What the F was she thinking? Right away, I wanted to call her and give her a piece of my mind.
Then my mind raced in another direction. What if the new boyfriend was a girlfriend? I knew from clinical experience that a number of straight folks discover new or underlying sexualities after years of therapy, and wondered if my ex was one of them. If so, I couldn’t wait to get on the phone and congratulate her.
It was neither. “Daddy, we saw a picture of David.”
“Is that your mom’s new boyfriend?”
“Yes,” they said, almost in unison.
“So?” I waited. “And?”
They looked at each other again. My oldest one spoke up. “Daddy. He looks exactly like you.”
“Yeah,” her sister added. “Just a lot older, like with white hair and everything.”
I smiled, knelt, and hugged both my girls. “That’s fine, kiddos. Hey, why don’t you all go upstairs and do your homework while I get started on dinner?”
“Sure thing, Daddy.” They ran up the stairs. Once I was sure they were out of earshot, I dialed my ex.
“Hey it’s me.”
“Hi,” she said. “Is everything ok?”
“Yes, everything’s fine. The girls are here with me, and we’re about to have spaghetti and meatballs in a bit.”
“Oh good, their favorite.”
“Yes. I was calling just to let you know that they told me they saw a picture of David.”
“Oh. Hope that’s ok. They were curious, so I showed them his official portrait.”
“It’s fine. They told me he’s amazingly good-looking.”
“Well he is. And that’s sweet of them to say.”
“Well, you deserve the best.”
“Aw thanks. How are things going with your girlfriend?” She never could bring herself to say her name.
“Great. Anyway, I was just calling to congratulate you.”
“Thanks. I’m sure that if he and I ever get serious, the girls are really going to like him.”
“Of that I am certain.”