I was sitting in the living room, warmed by the fire, with my boyfriend Abel to my left, and my son Remy to my right. I was trying to think of what to write about, then saw a perfect opportunity to find out what my son thought about his dad, a widower, newly dating again.
My husband, for those who do not know, died a little over two years ago. He and I had only been a couple for 18 months when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. My kids learned to love and accept him, then soon learned that they would also have to say goodbye to him. It was nothing I ever expected to go through with a new relationship, and nothing I ever expected my kids to experience while they were still young. But here we are, two years later, many bereavement groups later. Many changes, and many nights of grieving through tears, laughter, and stories.
A couple of months ago I met someone. We began to date, well, we began to have a relationship from the beginning. It didn't feel so much like dating, as we were relating to each other daily, talking, sharing, and growing close, quickly. I introduced him to my kids, well, teenagers, and we went from there.
Here is a brief discussion that occurred while I sat here. It began with a simple question to my 13 year old son.
What's it been like having your dad dating someone new?
Remy: Well, at first I felt like Abel was taking away my dad's love for Mike. And I thought, well, like you guys have already done stuff together, and I feel very different now. At first it felt like it was going too fast, it was coming on too strong, because I thought you didn't give up Mike yet, and I thought that he was taking away that love of Mike. But then later on I realized that he was a person you really love, but I thought you still loved Mike, and Abel was really new, and I didn't know Abel like a father. It felt like with Abel you were ready to move on, and I wasn't ready for it. Now I understand that you are ready, and that you want love again.
Abel: I would never try to replace what Mike had with you guys.
Remy: I told my dad that this is confusing for me, and now I feel like maybe you aren't the same father as Mike, but I know that you care about my dad, and you care about all of us. I hope that my dad does care about you.
Abel: I do love your dad, and you and Arianne. You all have a special place in my heart Remy.
Remy: (turns to me to say) I feel like you guys are going to be together for a long time. I feel like if you are dating Abel, and if it's been going on for a long time, it's already like he's a dad to me. I know Abel would do anything for us as a family. I know Mike would be happy for you dad. I know that he would be happy for Abel to have a great guy like you. I think Mike would be very happy, and he'd be happy mostly that you moved on, and found love again.
I then asked Remy if there is anything else that he worries about.
Remy: I might worry that me calling Abel dad, that Mike might not like that, but that's just how I think. I'm still worried about what if Abel is not going to stay, then I think about negative stuff, like what stuff could happen.
Remy said he worries about possibly losing Abel, then was unable to continue to talk. I spoke to Remy about how all parents who begin dating again worry about their kids getting attached to someone when dating, then having to let go if the relationship doesn't work out. I told Remy that with a widowed parent that becomes an even deeper concern. I reminded him of how he and the other kids learned to love Mike, and how they came to accept him as their second dad, only then to lose him.
Remy just told me it was okay to say that at this point he cried.
Do I worry about this? Yes. Does Abel worry about this? Yes. I suppose these are the conversations we should be having. These are the things that go through the mind of our children. Do they want us to be happy again? Yes, but it is so much more complicated, isn't it? There are so many feelings that our new relationships bring up for them. There are so many insecurities that get tapped into. I have always known this, but I think I need to remind myself of this more often.
Happiness is not an easy matter. But it is something worth striving for.