Are you a single parent trying to have a dating life when you have a teenager at home? Do you feel like you have a “parent” watching as you walk out the door?
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Here’s a snippet of conversation between a single parent and their 17-year-old. Let’s listen in.
“Where are you going?”
“Out for a few hours. But I’ll probably be back late.”
“Who are you going out with?”
“A friend. Someone you don’t know.”
“Where did you meet this friend?”
“It’s a long story.”
“What do you mean it’s a long story?”
“Look, I really gotta go, I’m running late. We’ll talk later, OK?”
Sound familiar? Can you tell from the conversation who’s the parent and who’s the child? Such are the joys of dating when you have an older teen/young adult under the same roof, watching as you come and go, watching (or at least wondering) with whom you go out and with whom you might come back. It’s an almost standard conversation between parent and child about dating. “I’m going out, I’m running late, don’t bother me. I want my privacy. Why do you continue to annoy me with these questions?”
Many of us — the dating divorced — find ourselves experiencing a very interesting role reversal as we head out the door on a weekend evening. Our children are becoming our parents — or trying to. They are, in their own ways, watching over us, asking (at times aggressively) the very same questions we asked them, the very same questions our parents asked us many years ago.
Some of us find it amusing. Some of us find it annoying. And many of us don’t like what feels like an uncomfortable invasion of our privacy. Those questions we felt obligated to ask as good, responsible parents are coming back to haunt us.
How many women find themselves at the receiving end of their daughter’s clipped comment, “You’re wearing that on a date?”And yet, I also have friends, particularly lady friends with older daughters, who say dating offers a new kind of “mommy and me” bonding experience — the mommy-daughter dish moment — and it appears the best dishing comes from the worst dates.
My own experience may be unusual, but when I moved into a new apartment following the end of a long marriage, my college-age son gave me an interesting housewarming gift: a box of condoms! This was not a male bonding ritual. Rather, it was his way of telling me that dating — and more importantly sexual attitudes and risks — had changed significantly since I was last “out there” in the late 1980s.
Culver City psychotherapist Janis Rosenberg cautions the divorced to “go slow” when they begin dating and says it’s hard, especially for teens, to see their parents as sexually active people.
“While many children might wish their parents would get a social life, it’s important to be sensitive and monitor their reaction to your dating activities and your dates,” Rosenberg says. “Queries like, Where are you going?’ and ‘Why are you wearing that?’ may reflect a child’s angry response to a parent they perceive as acting more like a roommate than a parent.”
Google allows us — and our children — to do a quick search on our dates and our companions. With online dating sites, there’s the risk we might see our children’s profiles — or they might see ours! Kiss your privacy good-bye. Internet-savvy children can wander through our web activities the same way they once searched in the closets for Christmas presents.
It really is a brave new world out there. My own response to friends who have asked about my new single life has been to say that it reminds me of dating in high school, but there are important distinctions: No one worries about school nights, we all have smart phones and no one’s a virgin.
And yet, with our children tracking our every move, many of us now find ourselves with the one thing we didn’t expect: a new “parent” watching as we walk out the door — wondering when (at what time and perhaps with whom) we’ll return.
Copyright © Casey Green / 2015 Singular Communications, LLC.
Casey Green, a divorced father of two, works as a consultant to colleges and technology firms. His college-age daughter, an English and economics major, describes him as “the bestest daddy.”
The “Kids” Weigh In
Dominick, age 21: “When my parents divorced 10 years ago, it was really difficult. They had been married for 28 years. My mother dates frequently. I don’t take it too seriously — until she wants me to meet the guy. My dad remarried two years ago. Marrying was a big transition, since his new wife has kids and we spend holidays together. It’s strange for me, but I just have to accept this transition. But mostly, I just want them both to be happy.”
Carrie, age 17: “My sister and I had a pretty hard time with it at first. Dad waited about a year before he started dating and when he did, he tried the online thing. Mother took longer to get her single act going. She has been dating a guy for about a year now – they are pretty much exclusive. It is nice to see the light back in her eyes. But it’s still kind of weird to see her being affectionate with someone other than Dad, even after all this time.”
Brian, age 16: “My parents were married for almost 30 years and they just broke up about 15 months ago. I still can’t believe it and I’m still pretty angry. My mother is out there, dating her heart out. She’s dressing in sort of a sexy way, which I find kind of embarrassing. My dad is still licking his wounds. I think he’s the one who would really benefit by starting to date. It’s hard to watch him mope around.”
Anthony, age 33: “I’d be very happy to see my dad dating! I was raised by my single father — my mother left when I was 5. When I was growing up, my dad had several girlfriends, sometimes long-term relationships. Now he is older and has some health and finance issues, which are a distraction, and he doesn’t do anything to find dates. So I would be happy if he was dating and had someone in his life.”
Alex, age 19: “I feel that single parents need to find someone that makes them happy just as much as anyone else. Just because they made the wrong choice once shouldn’t mean being alone for the rest of their life. I wouldn’t say that I’m happy to meet my parents’ new dates very often, but it definitely doesn’t make me angry. I just understand and accept the situation for what it is.”
Sabrina, age 23: “My parents separated when I was 3. My father remarried but died in 2000. My mother would like to date and is open to it — she always says to me, ‘I would love to find someone and be in love like you are! I want a boyfriend!’ But she doesn’t really do anything about it. I do talk about it with her, try to encourage her. But it isn’t that easy.”