Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How do you Explain?

The things that cross my path and inspire me in strange and unexpected ways are frequent these days. Yesterday it was my friend Greg, the "Tri Guy" writing about the anniversary of Elvis Presley's death that brought on that domino effect of linked thoughts that eventually lead to one of these more serious posts of mine.

I remember Elvis dying too. I especially remember it because my mother was a big fan. I was 6 years old; old enough to understand that my mother was in love with Elvis Presley (along with my father, I hoped), but not old enough to understand that Dead meant Gone. I remember Elvis's death being a turning point in understanding my own mortality. "Where did he go?" "Why didn't the doctor's fix him?" I do remember being told sometime before this momentous event that if I died that the doctors would bring me back to life so how come they didn't bring back Elvis?

I remember nothing of the answers given to me. But I DO clearly remember understanding that dying meant no longer living and no longer living meant not seeing my mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and my little brother and our dog Lady (who died about a year later) and it meant not having my favorite toys and it meant, for all intents and purposes (and religious beliefs not withstanding), NOT existing.

I have a 6 year old right now. He is just slightly older than I was when Elvis died. (But really eons older in kid-sense as he is 5 months older than I was when Elvis died).

He was 3 and a half when his father and I separated, what does he remember of that? Nothing, I suppose. I remember I used to break into tears whenever I mentioned the thought that he would likely not remember his mother and his father ever living together. His sister was, ironically enough, 6 when this event occurred. She will remember more.

But it was my son who looked at us sitting in the bleachers at the pool this past April who overheard his Mom and Dad talking about his father looking for a house, who so logically looked at us and in a tone of voice wise beyond his years said, Why can't you just live together already? Geez.

Made lots of sense to him. Simple.

Because we fight all the time, his Dad said.

But that wasn't really true. We didn't fight all the time and we still don't fight all the time. We just have nothing to say to each other and we aren't interested in one another. That is a whole other way to not be able to live together and is far more complicated to explain than the gigantic screaming matches that permeate other irreconcilable marriages. Although we did have some of those too at moments when the tension was impossible to contain. But marriages are supposed to have some overwhelming disastrous circumstance that brings it to an end -- so goes the cliche. There is nothing dramatic about a quiet petering out of an unnourished flame. Or the fade-out at the end of a song that was once one of your favorites and now you don't remember what made you like it so much.

I've been in two relationships that involved my kids since the end of my marriage and that is a hard one to explain to a 9 and a 6.5 year old in their egocentric little worlds. They don't get relationships. And even though their parent's relationship ended, they don't get the end of relationships.

One of my most heartbreaking moments of late was being at a BBQ with my kids when one of these past relationships turned up unexpectedly. I was helping set up the food table when I heard my kids in unison say, Hey Mom! Look what we found!

I turned to find one kid on each hand of the first of the two gentlemen who've been involved with my kids, who sheepishly allowed himself to be dragged along. It was like being stabbed in the chest. I'm sure it was hard for him too. And I thank him for being a good sport about that in that moment.

I have really loving kids. I had put him out of my life, but also theirs too. 

Just this evening my kids have been complaining about how sharp our cat's nails are and can't we ask (name of the second gentleman) to come over and cut them? They've also been asking to go to Fun Mountain all summer and they want this second gentleman to come along. He hasn't been to our house in nearly 3 months. Haven't they noticed? 

But what have I done to explain?  Honestly, not much. I told the kids that gentleman #1 was not going to live with us after all, and I hoped for questions that never really came. I've said little about gentleman #2's disappearance other than I told my daughter, and I don't think she really asked anything specific to make me say this, that he was busy with other things in his life right now. Again, my explanation failed to bring on more questions.

I have a belief about honesty with kids. Honesty is ALWAYS best. And if they are old enough to ask the question they are old enough to hear the answer. Either they understand more than they let on or what I've said is enough for their understanding. At least for now.

But it breaks my heart.

How do you time introducing kids into relationships? The first time it happened before I was comfortable with it but I let it happen because I didn't know what was right and he seemed comfortable and he had his own kids and had been dating for a while and had been here before. I considered him more of an expert and his judgement HAD to be more right than my gut which told me, "not yet."

With guy #2, it just felt right -- so I thought -- he felt right. I didn't count on the end coming when it did. And my kids knew him more as my "friend" than anything else. There were never any "sleepovers" although every time he came over they asked if he was going to "sleepover."

I've heard people say, not for a year. I've heard of people who set strict rules around such things. I don't know. I prefer to go with my gut. But the truth of the matter is that I'm not even sure how trustworthy my gut is? I don't appear to have very good sense when it comes to relationship choices. I tend to be one of those blessed with the curse of believing that every guy is THE ONE.

The first relationship happened before I was ready -- and I KNEW I wasn't ready, but he was ready enough for the both of us so it was hard to resist. His readiness and attention were infectious. Until my lack of readiness made me sullen and miserable and the things that made me not ready started spilling out of my mouth quite beyond my judgement and my control.

Before the second relationship started it was already marred with a gigantic complication (perhaps more than one actually) which gnawed at both our senses of security which I think we both naively thought could be overcome.

And I blinded myself to the potential for disaster that was set from the beginning in both these relationships. I blocked it out because I didn't want to face reality. But then again, hindsight is 20-20. .

And as much as I fear introducing my children into a relationship, I equally fear being rejected because I have children. But then again, any man who would do that to me is not the one. They are part of the wonderful package that is me. And as I have learned, you cannot mold someone into fitting the bill of the perfect guy if there is something huge about him that makes him imperfect.

I don't know. I don't have the answers. I do sense it is something that will make me hesitate in future relationships -- I don't want to let it hold me back but I don't want to hurt my kids too. And I'm not one to avoid taking risks. So I would appreciate if you would weigh in and share your thoughts ... from both sides.


Story Teller said...

Hi Kim,

I don't have kids, but I can completely relate to not being able to trust your gut. I've been engaged three times, and--while I'm glad I didn't marry any of those guys--I always doubt that my relationships will last now. This is doubly sad considering I'm finally with a guy who's 100% certain that I'm The One for him. He deserves so much more than my "We'll see how things go".

As for when you should introduce your kids to a new man, I think the longer you wait, the better-up to a point, of course. I once dated a man who had a two-year-old daughter, and he threw us together way too quickly. The relationship only lasted a few months, but by then, his daughter and I were really attached to each other. "Don't worry," he said, "she'll get over it." And he proceeded to shove that poor little girl from one woman to another. I've always wondered about how hard that was on her.

It's difficult to resist when you have such great feelings about a new relationship, but the end result will be a lot less heartbreaking.

Good post!

Kim said...

Thanks "Story teller" it is a really really tough thing, and it is interesting to hear what it looked like to the person meeting a child in a relationship. I feel hopeful about every relationship I land in. I over romanticize and absolutely cannot see the negative in someone I adore. Guy #2 I adored from the moment I met him and we were friends for about a year and a half before we were a couple. Guy #1 I adored by email and thought I knew him as a result. I think I was smarter with guy #2 for sure and certainly the kids ask about him and think he is still around but haven't clued into the fact that the pattern of his around-ness has definately changed. They don't appear heart broken about either of these guys but they sure are excited to see them when they do. And kids are pretty resilient but they do eventually reach an age where they won't allow themselves to get close to a person I might be with as it might be transient. If the pattern continues anyhow. Which I really hope it doesnt.

Carly said...

Good post Kim. From my brief meetings with your kids, especially Emma they seem to be very level headed and easy going (kinda like you!). I believe in your honesty policy and think that is the best way to go. While they may not entirely understand the situation now, they will later.

Kim said...

OH thanks Carly. I think you are right about their level headedness, they definately roll with the punches (especially Emma) Nolan follows because she does. And for sure the hardest part is not knowing how much to say, weather that be talking about death, talking about divorce, or talking about relationships.

Tri-Guy said...

Honesty IS always best.

Lisa said...

There were two guys in my life too after my divorce. Guy #1 lived in another city, so for the most part, his visits were scheduled for the weekends I didn’t have my kids. Because they hadn’t met him, and only knew “of” him, they called him “mom’s friend”. There was a crossover once during Christmas when he was visiting and I had the boys for two days. He slept on the futon in the living room and respected my wishes that we act as friends. At that point I was really close to letting the boys know of our situation, but something, I guess it was my gut feeling, held me back. Just as well…things began to go south and it was over within the next six months. Because they never really knew him there was never any kind of attachment. The boys occasionally ask me about my friend, and why he doesn’t phone or skype anymore. My half-truth was that he lived too far away so it was expensive and tough to keep up the friendship like that.

Guy #2 lived in the same city as us. He also came into my boys’ lives as “mom’s friend”, but they saw more of him on a regular basis, and got to know him gradually. The relationship kind of evolved and they saw us growing close and the boyfriend part just seemed to come naturally. He was already a pretty regular part of our lives, so they weren’t surprised when first, mom told them that he was going to be her boyfriend and then secondly, a while later, that we were going to be living together. But being older than your kids, and not so easily won-over, I think it’s different for my kids.

It’s also harder when you think the man in your life is going to be “the one”. You let down a lot of guards when you let him into your life. It’s tough to predict that it is going to end and when you are already close and your kids are close there’s no easy way about it.
Some people say a year…I was living with Guy #2 before the year was out. It’s different for each situation.

Kim said...

I would prefer to always go with my gut and go with how the situation feels and in 95% of my life my gut has proved to be a reliable judge of circumstances. As soon as my emotions are involved it becomes very unreliable. I have believed that every guy I've had feelings for since I was 15 years old was THE ONE and so far my track record has been 0/xx (I shouldn't reveal the denominator -- lol).

If you look at in terms of trying to get published it would probably be the same track record. Lots and lots of rejection before hitting the jackpot I suppose. I'm still in the phase of rejection for writing too.