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Child’s Play

Dating is tough. Dating a man with a child (or two)? Even tougher. See what advice our relationship guides had for a woman who's not sure she's ready for an instant family.

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Dear 4-Way,
I recently started dating a really nice guy. We’ve been dating for about two months, and at about a month and a half, he finally told me he has a seven-year-old son. (He and his ex-wife have equal custody, which is why I didn’t figure it out before.) Though I wish he’d told me sooner, I wasn’t upset, because he’s a good guy and was just nervous to tell me. The thing is, I don’t like kids. I don’t want them and I don’t typically date men who have them. But I like this guy; he’s special and I could see myself with him. I’m willing to give it a try, but I’m afraid if he finds out what I really think about kids, he’ll dump me. I’m about to meet his son for the first time, and I’m worried that he’ll see all over my face how I feel. I’m debating whether I should tell him the truth and see what happens, or just see if I can pull off looking comfortable and natural with his son. What do you guys think I should do? —KP, Atlanta, Georgia

The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
This “really nice” guy’s actions are as backwards as shoulder blades. (Pause to take in that metaphor I just created. Thanks.)

A month and a half is too late to tell you about his son, and it’s too early for you to meet him. Tell the really nice guy you need a couple more months to get to know him first, before you proceed to the next level of meeting his son.  As for your statement “I don’t like kids,” let me first applaud your honesty. Most people who feel this way pretend that they don’t feel this way.

Let me also point something out: “kids” is plural and generic. It’s easy to dislike broad attributes, like out of control, dirty, time-sucking, or all-consuming. Don’t worry, there are plenty of people who have children who aren’t fans of kids but truly love theirs.  But that’s not your concern. All you have to do is like Kid—singular. His kid. It’s very possible that as you get to know his child, you’ll find attributes you like and enjoy about him, such as his curiosity, high energy, lovingness, and innocence.  I’m not saying you should feel bad if you don’t like dating someone with a kid, but you could give it a shot. I work with kids, so trust me when I say that the kid and his dad will definitely know if you’re not comfortable. No act will work, so you shouldn’t pretend. Just be natural and give it your best effort.  In a couple months, if you’re still together and ready to keep moving forward, meet the son. Until then, back those shoulder blades up and see what happens.

The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
So, let’s say this out loud (by typing and reading) together: he tells you a lie, and now you’re considering telling him a lie by trying to look comfortable and natural with his son. WTF, KP?! You can’t react to a lie with another lie—you need to tell him the truth.

He didn’t tell you about his son because he’s nervous and probably afraid you’d dump him; you’re afraid he’ll dump you if he finds out how you feel about kids. It sounds to me like you both like each other so much, you’d do anything to ensure the other keeps liking you. It’s a good place to be if you handle it correctly. Actually, it kind of reminds me of the Gift of the Magi story, only without the ill-timed haircut, the wig, the combs, and the pocket watch.

But I digress. Tell him, but be mindful of your word choice. Telling him you don’t like kids is harsh. Maybe try: “I’ve never really been around a lot of kids, so I never thought I wanted any.” I really think you need to be open to change if you want this to work, and it sounds like you do. The good news is, his son is seven, so you’ve missed the diaper-changing, staying-up-all-night, can’t-leave-the-house-for-two-years phase. (Sorry, parents, not trying to focus on the negative, but that’s the stuff that scares the crap out of us childless people.) Maybe he’s a little cutie, like his dad. Maybe you’ll actually like him. Either way, you’ll never know until you give it a shot.  We don’t usually get everything on our wish list when it comes to Mr. or Ms. Right, but sometimes we get something that makes us incredibly happy that we never even knew we wanted. (That’s what they say, anyway. Still waiting over here. Still. Waiting.) Just don’t cut off your hair to make a wig, KP. Not for anyone. That’s going too far.

The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
So, let’s break this one down, KP. What in hell’s half-acre do you think you’d do to give away that you don’t like kids? Are you planning to wear a T-shirt proclaiming your hatred for Dora and SpongeBob? I doubt it. (Besides, I might have to kick your ass myself if you said you hated SpongeBob. But Dora … is she serious with that monkey?)

But I digress. Look, if you have an office job, you have to deal with people you don’t like every day. Just pretend this kid is one of those annoying coworkers. How do you cover it up with your annoying coworker when he’s telling you about his weekend and you pretend to give a shit? Do the same with the kid.  You’ve been dating this guy for two months. You like him. So what if he didn’t tell you he had a kid right off the bat? He probably didn’t want to scare you away and wanted to actually get to know you first. I’d take this as a sign that he really likes you. Most single parents are very cautious about bringing people they’re dating into their kids’ world, for fear that the person may not be around in the long run, and that it will lead to confusion when they have to explain where the person went. If you feel like you need to say something to the man you’re dating, just tell him you’re not good with kids. Leave it at that and see how you feel. Who knows? You could love the little guy.

The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
You don’t build a relationship of honesty and trust by pretending that you’re something you’re not. If you’re thinking that this is a guy you might have a future with, then take the risk and be vulnerable with your fears. After all, he was vulnerable and honest with you when he told you about his son. You could have walked then and there, but you didn’t.

Even if you make it seem like you’re comfortable when you meet his son, you’re forgetting that his son is a big part of his life. It’s not about pulling off a one-shot deal here. KP, are you willing to learn to live with being uncomfortable for a moment in an effort to become more comfortable down the road? No, it won’t be easy, but if he’s the guy you think he is, perhaps he’s willing to accompany you on your journey of getting to know his son.  As far as not liking kids goes, that’s fine, but every child is different. Don’t let your fear of all children block you from finding out what’s unique and wonderful about this particular child. Who knows? He may have a lot of his dad in him. And we already know that’s someone you’re fond of.

 

 

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