Dear Uncle Mat,
My life has more drama than a late-night novella. I thought I’d throw a question that’s been bugging me lately. Anyone who can answer this should be given a trophy or a puppy or something.
I’m a single mom to a 6-year-old and I admit that I’m overprotective. I finally have gotten on a higher path in my life and am going back to school to make us a future and I even have found a good man who has been with me for almost seven months.
The problem is that I am extremely guarded about him meeting my daughter for fear that some unseen flaw will come out after she gets attached to him and then I get to explain to her why he would suddenly disappear from her life. After a years-long string of horrid relationships with guys who sucked at life (think: abusive, gay and in denial, addicted to substances, etc.), I think a level of distance is warranted from me. He tries to understand this, but he comes from a completely different background than I do relationship-wise and I can see that my keeping him from the most important facet of my life hurts him.
How much longer can I delay the inevitable meeting? Am I a total weirdo for protecting my daughter like this? And most importantly, how do I prepare her (and myself) for whatever happens when they meet?
— Mother Hen
Dear Mother Hen,
You may send my trophy to Uncle Mat, c/o the San Antonio Current. No puppies!
You’re not a weirdo, improving your life is difficult. Even more so when you have a kid. You are afraid your daughter judges you as an unfit tramp with wretched taste in men. She doesn’t. You might, but don’t project. The beauty of having a child is that for at least the first decade or so, you are a goddess, loved and revered, flawed or not. Your boyfriend seems to be patient and loving (or diabolically evil in ways I can scarcely fathom). If he has some unseen horrible flaw and you have no idea, please stop dating after this. Period. Just start saving for her college fund.
For now, let’s try Plan A. Let them meet. Today, tomorrow, ASAP! Introduce them as you would a new friend. There should be no pressure when your daughter meets your beau. It is unfair to just bring home “Daddy Number 6.” This is why you should have done it a long time ago. They need to let their relationship develop as naturally as yours and his did. First they can be friends and then as you and he become closer, she and he can start to form a more interpersonal familial relationship. Now, you’ll have to fake it a little. Ease them into this. She needs time to trust him, just like you have had. Don’t let him rush it or she’ll be confused and possibly resentful. She needs to make her own decision about him.
Now if he is a secret maniac or fool, you’ll have to dump him. This is actually harder on you than it is on her. She will be disappointed, but if you let the relationship develop slowly, she will also see the flaw reveal itself. With reassurance by you, she will gain confidence in her ability to know and understand other individuals, especially adults. You, of course, will be ending an established relationship and hating yourself and never trusting another man. Lighten up a little. Try not to teach your daughter all men suck, just the ones you’ve been dating lately.
Finally, offer your daughter some plausible, stable, non-father figure, adult male role models and relationships. Children do not need a mommy and a daddy to be OK. Uncles (the obvious best choice), grandfathers, and nice, happy, well-adjusted men who are just your friends are all great guys to have around your daughter. Don’t have or know any? Start looking! Maybe another dad from her school? Or a husband or father from your circle of friends? Someone you like and trust. If she has quality relationships with these men, she’ll need less and get more from any man you bring home.
Congratulations on your new path in life and good luck! Give the tyke a pat on the head from me.
Much love and understanding,
Your Uncle Mat •
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