I have been dating a great guy for the last 3 months. I have a 2 year old and his father and I have been separated since he was 4 months old. Neither of us have been in relationships since our separation so my son Xander has never seen either parent in a relationship.
Xander has already met Chris (new partner) and we have lots of fun but I am often drained with worry that I’m doing something wrong or that there are more things I could do to make the transition easy and age appropriate for Xander. I would appreciate any insight you might have. Xander is my world and I want to do this right!
I can see how much Xander means to you, and really appreciate you wanting to “do this right,” as you say. Parenting is so tough, and after a separation things get more complicated. The truth is all of us are just trying to do this right, one step at a time.
I am going to pretend, through the magic of the internet, that we are besties and have a history of being really honest and loving with each other. I am a little hesitant to tell you what I think, because you may not like my answer. But, I can tell that you want to do what’s best for Xander and I have a pretty informed opinion on what that is, so here goes, with an overwhelming amount of love for all three of you.
I don’t think you should expose Xander to Chris in any meaningful way.
By meaningful way, I mean no overnight stays, no open shows of affection, no presence when he is waking up, going to bed, or transitioning. Don’t do anything to suggest that Chris is an extra-special person in your life.
I know you want to the two people you love best to connect, and I think given you’ve already introduced them, occasional play dates and meals will begin that relationship effectively. Xander is little enough that he only needs to know Mama is safe and happy and that he is too. He will enjoy anything age appropriate you plan for the three of you.
Casual, fun interaction will work beautifully until you and Chris are committed to spending your future together. By committed, I mean moving in, combining resources and/or engaged to be married. That’s committed with a capital C, not committed in your hearts, as I can clearly see you joyfully are today.
My first motivation is to protect Xander from any grief or loss.
Your sweet little guy will want to love who you love. Until you and Chris are committed to each other, allowing him to do that exposes him to the potential for loss. My advice is designed to keep your baby boy safe.
I am in no way making a judgement about whether Chris is the guy for you or whether your relationship will last. I hope very much that he’s the one. I don’t know either of you. What I do know is new love is exhilarating, especially to we single parents who have loved and lost. We uniquely understand the value of a strong, loving partnership.
My second motivation is to protect you and Chris.
The ancient Greeks make a distinction between chronos time and kairos time. My in-my-head-and-heart-but-not-yet-real-life friend and NYT bestselling author Glennon Doyle Melton describes the two this way: “Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s…the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in. Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. Kairos is those magical moments in which time stands still.”
For me, falling in love again after my divorce was kairos time. Those early days with Gabe shine clearly in my memory even years later. Dinner dates lingered for hours and we often spoke on the phone until the pink morning light shone through my bedroom window. Our conversations covered wide-ranging topics, with the only objective being to learn about the other. We shared no responsibilities, joined instead only by our mutual excitement in discovering the other and dreaming of a future together.
We were gifted the time and space to know and love each other deeply, and to focus only on our budding relationship. I want you and Chris, and every person who finds love again after loss, to have those same powerful, precious memories. That is my second motivation to speak honestly with you about slowing down and savoring this season.
Children complicate kairos time. Their needs are, by their very nature, chronos needs. Feed me, change me, hold me, wash, rinse repeat. There is magic in parenting, to be sure, but it is not found in abundance when parenting is newly combined with dating. Experts recommend not introducing anyone new until the relationship has been exclusive for six months. That protects both the relationship and the children.
Parenting in a blended family is hard and good and complicated. You deserve to begin that journey with Chris on a rock-solid foundation and fueled by the magic of your kairos time together.
So, my advice? This time you have with Chris will not come again. Sink into the safe and loving space you’ve found and begin your life together as two adults in the magic of kairos time. Once you and Chris have made a determination to spend your future together, begin to slowly allow increased exposure to Xander. You have all the chronos time in the world. There’s no rush to your love story.
Sending you all the love and strength I have,