The Boyfriend and I were having a tense conversation. Nothing dire, just the kind of tense that happens when blissful twosomes butt up against the rest of the world. We were at my house, and I knew we needed to have this conversation, so I asked Daughters Younger and Elder to excuse us for a few minutes while we adjourned to the (quasi) privacy of the patio. Ah, Suburbia.
Younger Daughter wants nothing more than to be left alone, so she was only too happy to oblige, and scuttled off to the Cave of Introversion we call her bedroom.
Older Daughter HATES to be left alone, hates it, like seriously--if she were a character in 1984, that's what she would get instead of the rat cage face mask: ALONE TIME.
So The Boyfriend and I were sitting on the patio, having our tense conversation. Only I was having a hard time focusing, because behind The Boyfriend, I could see Older Daughter through the sliding glass door. And she was expressing her displeasure--nay, rage--at being left ALONE IN THE HOUSE while we TOLD SECRETS AND KEPT THINGS FROM HER on the patio. And I saw her marching back and forth, from her bedroom, through the dining room, into...THE GARAGE. And back again.
The Boyfriend was saying important, heartfelt things, and here I was with an inner monologue that went like this: Validate his point. Express yours. Seek to understand first, then to be understood. HOLY SHIT WHY IS SHE CARRYING A CORDLESS DRILL?
Eventually, we wrapped up the conversation. It went well, I think. There was hugging. Then we went back into the house, and Older Daughter explained that she was SO ANGRY with me for EXCLUDING HER that she had no choice but to HANG HER OWN MODULAR SHELVES WITHOUT MY HELP.
And (teeny issue that made me say "Do you know what a 'level' is?" notwithstanding), she did an excellent job.
I mean really, I should be so productive with my negative emotions. Instead, I binge eat or engage in retail therapy.
The next night, I was laying on my bedroom floor before bedtime, doing sit-ups. Older Daughter was in her room, getting ready for bed. "Mom?" she called.
"I like The Boyfriend."
Ummmm..."Thanks, honey"? (I already knew this. She is transparent.)
Suddenly, she was towering over me and my flabdominals.
"I think it's only fair I should tell you this," she began. Hoo, boy, I thought. "Because the other night when you guys were talking out on the patio? I thought you were going to break up. And then I thought about how I might never get to see The Boyfriend again. And it made me really sad."
We were both tearing up.
"And that's when I realized I like him," she said.
"Well, he loves you girls," I said.
"WHATEVER!" she shouted, and bolted from the room before I could hug her. God, Mom, SO AWKWARD.
I switched to push-ups. A few minutes later, Older Daughter was back in my room, breathless.
"What's up, honey?" I asked.
"Oh, gosh, Mom, I just realized that puts a LOT of pressure on your relationship. Listen: You do what you need to do. If it turns out that The Boyfriend is a psychopath, just break up with him. I'll figure out a way to move on."
"Um, Thanks?" I said. I hugged her before she could bolt, and as I kissed the top of her head, I said: "You're a nut."
And that, dear readers, is the alpha and the omega of dating when you have kids: It's hard. And beautiful. And scary, for all parties. Your children stand to gain so much--another adult who loves them and helps them and models one more way to navigate the world. But having been through a divorce, they will be wary, because they know that the price of attachment is how much they stand to lose. And you know it, too.