Advice for dating a man with a child

The first time I attended a school play, David’s daughter came out after the show.

I wanted to run over and hug her, give her the flowers we brought, congratulate her on a good performance — until I saw her mom and realized that my desires were tertiary.

“I know it’s against your nature,” she said,”but when it comes to his kids, be a cat, not a dog.

You’re going to want to hug them and bond with them, but it’ll be better if you relax and hang back. I had already fallen in love with their father, so what would I do if they didn’t like me? David and I both grew up in Northridge, both completed graduate and undergraduate degrees at UCLA, had friends in common from college and recently discovered that my cousin was his childhood music teacher.

The girls come first, their parents second, and I’m a distant third. I took a physical step back and let their mom have the moment. Even now, out of respect for the girls’ privacy, I self-limit sharing stories.

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As we inched along the 405 Freeway, my anxiety increased.

But it’s still hard sometimes, and I think about Jennifer’s advice quite a bit. Instead, I find hundreds of articles about how to advance and evolve, take steps forward.

For me, however, progress has come only with a practice of restraint: Relax like a cat and take a step back.

As part of an entrepreneurial project, David’s elder was selling homemade lip gloss, and when I offered to buy some, her sister said, “Well, it’s kinda like you’re family, so you should get the family discount! I knew I’d fall for David from the moment we met, but I had no idea I’d fall in love like this: utterly openhearted to his two beautiful girls. I’m a little bit jealous, because mothers and fathers have a clear role.

Mine is special but unclear, constantly negotiated. I don’t want to be Mom, but maybe someday I’ll be more than “Dad’s girlfriend” to them.

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