Saturday, January 19, 2013

Single Parents Dating

Yesterday, I found a horrible clog in my vacuum cleaner that had practically stopped the suction completely. As I vacuumed, I convinced myself it was all in my head. I mean, it WAS sucking my hand in when I covered the tube, but just didn't seem to pick much of anything up. I had already washed out the canister and filter, and had cleaned out the part of the hose I could easily see and get to. I just couldn't imagine there would be anymore clogs in the hose, so I kept convincing myself it was all in my head. Finally, I undid the hose and found the problem. As I was cleaning it out, I thought, "So THAT'S why the house is so dusty even though I've been vacuuming regularly." I couldn't figure out why dust was everywhere, which is unusual. (Thanks to our guinea pig that throws hay out everywhere, the vacuum is more prone to clogging. Lesson noted.)

I also thought about how funny it was that the vacuum was barely sucking, but I tried to convince myself that it wasn't that bad. Once I got it working, I realized the HUGE difference and wondered how in the world I didn't realize it was so bad. And then it hit me.

Incremental changes go unnoticed. The clog didn't just appear all of a sudden. It slowly got worse and worse, going unnoticed, until it practically didn't work at all.

I relate this to another lesson I learned recently. I just ended a long term relationship. It lasted close to two years, starting when my son was 9. I did not notice along the way, incremental changes in my son. He did not verbalize anything, did not complain, did not dislike my boyfriend, and I figured his change in behavior was puberty. Maybe it was, but he is still in puberty, and he has changed completely...for the better. And as soon as I ended the relationship, my son was back. It wasn't a gradual change, it was immediate. And so it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was able to look back and pinpoint the incremental changes. But while in the thick of it, did not notice that my dating affected my son. Of course, my daughter verbalized every thought she ever had, so I knew exactly how she felt. My son was quieter, but even when asked, couldn't verbalize why he was angry/emotional/upset. I realized that if *just* dating can affect children this way, how horrible it must be for children who watch their parents in abusive relationships!

I no longer feel single parents should date. Not in front of their kids. Kids need their parents, not some other dude. That is ironic because the first thing parents tend to do after divorce is replace the ex. Men look for a mother figure for their kids, and women look for household income for their kids. (Generally... check out stepparenting forums if you don't believe me!) I just like the companionship, but didn't realize how it would affect my kids. It is not their fault that their parents' marriage did not work out, and dealing with divorce is probably enough trauma for their childhood. I only have about 8 more years left being their Mommy and that time will zoom by in a flash. I want to make the most of it.

So. Incremental changes go unnoticed. Check out your own kids and see if there have been changes that you have been too busy (or selfish?) to notice. We think kids will tell us everything, and sometimes what they tell us isn't verbal. Make sure you are "listening!"

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