Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dating and Relationships

A commenter has asked: "If you feel comfortable, could you please share how you went about introducing your children to your firefighter. And the process of blending your relationship with him and your children.

It can be so difficult as a single adoptive mom to special needs children. Longing to have adult companionship and someone to share the ups and down of parenting with, but unsure how it will affect the children.

I have adoptive children ranging from preschool to teen all with different challenges and needs. I worry about them experiencing another parent loss if my relationship doesn't work out. I worry about adjustment issues and regression. I worry that this life I've chosen will be too much for him and he will runaway and leave multiple broken hearts.

I don't currently have a relationship because I'm clueless as how to make sure he'd fit with my family without my family getting close to him. He wouldn't know what its like unless he spent time with us but if he's with us some of the children will become attached to some degree, and then what if he runs."

Honestly, I've never been much of a dater. Ever. I always thought that dating is what two people did when they met, found each other interesting, and wanted to get to know each other better to see if the relationship could progress into a romantic one. For many years now, it appears that sex/romance come first and the getting to know each other happens or doesn't, depending on how the relationship turns out.

I recently browsed the Rumor Queen Forum and saw in the single parenthood area a post about dating. One person wrote: "...and have decided that if it's meant to be he will arrive on my doorstep wrapped in a bow."

That's pretty much how My Firefighter came into my life. He was assigned to the fire station across the street from my new house the same day I moved in. All the firefighters run or walk around the neighborhood close to the station every morning to stay fit. This means they pass by my house many times each morning. Being a captain and new to the neighborhood, he came over and introduced himself and, from July 2013 through Feb. 2014, we had a neighborly relationship. At first, we'd see each other in passing and just say hi. Then, we'd chat for a couple seconds. On Thanksgiving Day, he knocked on the door to see if we were okay and how the baby did with her surgeries. After the new year, he noticed that I still had my Christmas tree up and he asked about it and then helped me take it down when I told him my shoulder was injured and I couldn't get it outside by myself.

Things changed at the end of February 2014. We started exchanging dvds and I invited him in to sit down to talk instead of talking in the doorway. It was winter now, and cold, and I figured he was safe enough. Starting in March, he'd stop by each time he was on duty, brining the radio in case he got a call, and we talked - still just as friends.

Right at the end of June, things changed to a deeper friendship and feelings of love began. Then things got complicated. There have been several complications and the biggest is actually on his side, but on my side it is, of course, the kids. They already had seen him and spoken to him several times, so he was already a casual friend. We'd taken a tour of the fire station when we first moved in and I'd shared with him some of the necessary details of their special needs as our primary first responder, so he was quite aware of certain aspects of their special needs from the start. But, that didn't mean he understood about attachment and all the other issues our kids have.

On the kids side, we'd already been abandoned by someone we thought was a friend, a single dad with a daughter, who you've also seen on this blog as JJ, and they still feel that. However, it opens discussion about the reality of relationships. We've talked about the various kinds of relationships people have: being polite in line in public and making small talk with people we don't know, acquaintances, casual friends, close friends, dear friends. We talk about how getting to know someone is risky because we might end up not liking them as much as we'd hoped or they might not end up liking us as much as we'd hoped, but that if we don't take the risk, we'll never find out. It also opened up several discussions on how men and women get to know each other in that special way. We talked about how long it really takes to get to know someone, and their adoptions and attachment to me and feelings of love for me were great examples because they remember how long it took them to love me and get to know me so this part was very real to them.

We've also talked about the things that are important, like spiritual beliefs, moral beliefs and standards, similarities and differences, and it's been a very good lesson for my oldest daughter who is coming up on 16 in less than 2 months!

Now, the logistics are odd due to my unique situation with the kids. For example, we've been on exactly three dates and the first one was just a drive as friends in the middle of June, after my kids were in bed. My oldest can babysit her sisters, for short periods of time, but I'm most comfortable if they are already in bed. The second date was also at night and was supposed to be dinner and bowling or a movie, but ended right after dinner when My Firefighter had an allergic reaction. The third date, and most successful, was yesterday's hike. I hired a college girl to babysit, and honestly, compared to handing my baby over to the surgeon for major surgery, leaving them healthy and whole with this gal was a piece of cake! Yes, the girls did have some issues upon my return. Blossom cried easily yesterday, and Apple got up crying during the night last night, which is very rare for her, but today they seem just fine. Most of our time spent together has been at my place.

There have been other common issues, for example, boundary issues. The girls have all had issues learning the differences between what adults get to do and what kids get to do. One of my children really struggles with appropriateness. She needed to be taught that she cannot hug him and touch him the same way I do because she's a child. For example, I'll frequently touch his shoulders or the back of his head or his cheek and she cannot do this. Fortunately, My Firefighter is handling this in an exemplary way, having raised his own daughter on his own from when she was 10 yrs. old. He has established his own way of handling each of the girls and I've approved of everything so far. In fact, he's extremely respectful of me and what I've done by adopting the girls he's very careful not to rock our boat, but to see where he can fit into things in a positive and helpful way to enhance what we already have. He's even respectfully offered suggestions that have been very good. After all, no parent is perfect, so input can be a great thing.

It's hard to describe more than this, because I'm learning as I go along, too. It's definitely great having him, it's definitely scary to, wondering if he'll stick around through thick and thin, it definitely takes a lot of my energy, which is hard on me since I have the girls to take care of and the house and pets and I'm racing to get my daycare going, but he's also helping with all of these things. He's built shelves for me, come to my first IEP meeting, he's even come to Apple's physical therapy appointment, helped the girls with reading and memorization. It's been good for the girls to see a man being so helpful and caring and one who can cook, which they got a real kick out of.

I truly don't know where this relationship will go, but I have my hopes. Sometimes it seems so easy and obvious and other times so hard and complicated. I am acutely aware that the greater risks are on my side and are to my girls, so I am as careful as a mom can be, but life is life and we need to live it and teach our kids to live it, too!


Anonymous said...

Brava! Life *is* life and you are teaching your daughters important lessons. Life is perfectly imperfect, with lessons always to be learned. We can't close ourselves off to life.,..even though many try their very darn hardest. Blessings to you and your girls!

Peggy said...

I think you are handling this beautifully! If it doesn't work out in the end, then you'll handle that too. You have the best attitude about it...cautiously optimistic and real!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this.