After a decade of being a single mom, I must pause and celebrate the wisdom I have received from my children on the subject of love.
There are many schools of thought on divorce, dating, and children. Some people are of the mindset that their children will never meet anyone they date unless they are totally in love and convinced this is the person they are going to marry. My kids, Luke in particular, gave that theory the stink eye early on. “Mom,” said little Luke back in the day, “I don’t want any surprises. Don’t say, ta-da, this is my boyfriend, don’t you love him too? I want to meet people when you meet them, so I can decide at the same time as you.” So we have had a No-Ta-Da policy in effect for many years. And they have had plenty of opinions.
There was one man who got the boot because he didn’t like dogs. Another because he “talked funny” when he spoke to them, the dismissive baby talk that people use when they don’t have, don’t understand, or don’t particularly like children. Kids can sniff that out a mile away, and eye rolls and silent gagging gestures ensue.
There was one guy I really wanted to love. I liked his kids and my kids liked him. I tried, I really did. Grace just could not understand what my problem was. “Mom,” she said. “Just try a little harder. And keep trying. Remember how I didn’t used to like green beans? And you made me keep trying them and now they are okay? Well, pretend he is green beans.” She paused, and thought for a second. “But if he is asparagus, just forget it. I understand.” (He was asparagus.)
There was even a time when Luke picked out a guy for me. We met him in a grocery store parking lot, as we were loading groceries into the back of my VW and he was loading groceries into the back of his pickup truck, filled with surf boards. We made some chit chat about going to the beach and later on, what do you know, he showed up…with two darling kids in wet suits, carrying surfboards over their heads. Luke spotted him first, and started a conversation to stall him until I came back over. The cute guy asked if I liked to surf, and Luke said smoothly, “Yes, she loves it.” What? I hate cold water! I don’t surf! What the hell, Luke? I panicked and glared at my son. He glared back. It was a challenge and I could not back down. I stuffed myself into Grace’s size ten wetsuit, so tight I could not move my arms or take a full breath but I was not about to touch that freezing water with bare skin. I was abysmal; I think I drank more waves than I caught. Luke loves this story—especially because the guy had lots of tattoos and we learned he is a rescue paramedic fireman, specializing in getting injured people off mountains. Luke reminded me of my Navy Seal obsession and pointed out this was probably as close as I was going to get unless I follow through on my plan to fake a swimmer’s cramp off the coast of San Diego in hopes of Seal rescue. He also reminded me that to meet new people, you have to try new things. High five, Luke.
My children are wise old souls, emotional Yodas. After a painful experience with an unhealthy man, my daughter sat me down for a talk. I will be able to picture this talk for the rest of my life. She was fresh from the shower, wet hair over her shoulders, wearing a huge T-shirt for pajamas. She sat cross-legged on my bed right in front of me, took a deep breath and said, “Mom, we need to talk.” Aren’t I supposed to be the one saying these things? She was eleven for crying out loud. And when I tell you what she said next, unless you know her, you might think I’ve edited her words. But I can’t even write as well as she spoke.
She grabbed my hands and looked at me, her gaze direct, “Mom. It’s over. Whether you think it’s over with him or not, it has to be over.” “Let’s see,” my diminutive Dr. Phil went on. “How can I explain this? Okay. Think of a puzzle with hundreds of little pieces. He has his puzzle. We have ours. Our puzzle is pretty good. We have the edges, the corners and some of the middle done. It’s not perfect. Pieces get popped out; we mess up and have to put them back. But we are doing fine.” She paused. I nodded to let her know I was with her so far, with her no matter what.
“But Mom, his puzzle is a disaster. There are pieces on the table but most of them are on the floor, behind the sofa, all over the room, all over the house. Some are lost for good. This is why it can’t work, why it won’t ever work. If he mixes his mess of a puzzle in with ours, we’re screwed. No matter how much you try, you cannot fix his puzzle. Besides, we need you working on ours.”
It turned out he had puzzle pieces all over the country, she was right. This much I know for sure, if my three children all agree on the man for us—it will be forever. Our man will know that while, yes, he got rather lucky with the woman who is his wife, his greatest gift, his blessing beyond measure, are the children who welcome him home.