One of the funny bones of midlife dating is the fact that we’re a bunch of empty nesters who are actively reinvesting years of well honed nurture-nature in to new adult relationships. With grown children in various stages of financial and emotional independence, we miss the care-taking and are filling in the gaps with each other. We live alone, accountable only to ourselves but even so, our adult children are a factor in our dating game . . . They are, after all, our greatest assets (not to mention they look better than we do, which helps our beaus imagine how “hot” we once were) and it’s fun showing them off to a prospective suitor, especially if our kids are financially stable, law abiding citizens . . . It’s like getting high marks for a job well done.
But the kids see it differently than we do. They don’t want to know the details of our intimate encounters despite the fact that most of us are out of the house long enough and/or amicably enough so that our kids are now rooting for us from the sidelines. The last thing they want to see is a father-like figure, who isn’t their father, show a little PDA (public display of affection) and be rewarded with an obvious doodle under the table during the intros.
So how do you balance the old notion of their mommy dearest with the new you taking a second breath of life?
Pailey’s youngest son just graduated from college and he was crashing at her place until the last couple of weeks in August when she told him it “wasn’t working [for her]” and he’d have to “come up with a new solution.” She was on another roller coaster ride with CEO (I knew he was still in the picture; go figure) and dealing with the unexpected turn to business friendship from the Florida guy (who really would be a terrific game-set-match to her type-A personality). She needed to wallow in the weepies — hard to do when your son is sleeping on the living room couch. She and her ex sold their 3-bedroom apartment to now live in separate 1-bedroom apartments, so neither can house their recent college grad without sacrificing their privacy. I’m sure Pailey’s dictate will replay someday when her son’s laying on a shrink’s couch but net/net for now, it forced him to find a job sooner rather than later and he’s now happily launched into his future, untethered by mom’s apron strings.
All four of mine live in other cities, and in my homeless state, my ex has had to accommodate two of our kids last summer by moving in with his tall, blonde, 20-year younger, size-zero babe for weeks at a time. Not a bad deal for the old guy; not sure if all that quality time played well with the GF; he seems grumpy, but we’ll save that for another blog . . . If he didn’t curse at the inconvenience too often or too loudly, I’m guessing his grand gesture landed him a few Cub Scout points in her eyes, for being a great dad — and the kids loved having the apartment to themselves.
But I was handed a mixed bag when the 8-year-on-again-off-again-BF introduced me to his kids. Despite the fact that he’d been divorced for several years when we connected, his youngest son (who was in his early 30s at the time) invited us over to give us a lecture about appropriate and inappropriate behavior, declaring he would never again be in the same room with the two of us: clearly he had mommy loyalty issues. On the other end of the sanity spectrum, his older son (& his wife) took me to dinner years later when daddy bolted, to declare their unconditional love for me (and we are indeed close, 2 years later).
Regardless of their behavior however, we all love our kids –and in a real flip: we want their approval (i.e. thumbs up to our love choices). Kids matter. They have the power now –to put a wedge in your relationship(s) –or be your greatest ally.
I met Bond, James‘ son early on in our relationship, when we were “just friends,” and his daughter after we’d become lovers. Each time I saw them, I was careful to put him with them -before me. Both were a little quiet at first (it’s awkward when they’re staying with you) but impressively respectful of me and I believe we are genuinely fond of one another at this point. I have to give Brownie points to their mom for that –truth is, our kids represent us, and if we give them permission to accept & enjoy the new player, it’s a win/win/win for everyone.
So when I was in Tampa for 12 days at the end of August, Bond,James‘ kids came in for a long weekend… to see each other (his son brought his girlfriend) and to spend time with us. B,J & I enjoyed ourselves before they arrived… We took over the apartment –funny debauchery, howling at the moon when the mood struck. Then they showed up and we switched gears… became model grown-ups, setting them up with pillows & sheets, walking to brunches and engaging their help for a couple of dinner parties we hosted; very much “en famille.” But on another one of those evenings, when it was getting late and they still weren’t back from dinner at their mom’s, we assumed our playful positions, seductively moving to the music while we cleared the dishes … Until abruptly interrupted. “Plan B!” he whispered frantically to me when he heard them on the walkway outside the windows – “Plan B!” –we halted (!), luckily before we lit the candles and began the begin. We oh-so-smoothly invited the kids into the living room to watch a late night movie. I made the popcorn.
Crazy silly, but in this pseudo adolescent state of being single, I’m feeling an irresistible urge to reconnect with my own kids soooo differently than if I were still married to their dad and in a much more clearly defined matriarchal role. Hey, my gal pals and I are hanging at wine bars, lounging in lounges and going to bed after midnight… I’m wearing big earrings, showing cleavage…We be our daughters (!!!) only with wider hips, in flatter heels and less make-up.
But as much as I get a kick out of peeping in to their mature lives, there’s just not a lot I can share with them about my escapades… Eerily like our parents, they wouldn’t get it… who we are, what we’re doing and who we’re choosing to do it with. They probably wouldn’t approve.
So we need to be careful around the kids. Careful about our language and especially our body language = no kissy, no touchy; forget about the candles and popping champagne at midnight… save it for when the kids leave. And the good news is, they do.
NOTE TO SELF: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.