The Child Test
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Passion to the Third Degree .
I am very grateful for these past few weeks. It’s been an amazing submersion into long-overdue romance and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it with a man who has been emotionally available, intelligent, great conversation, hopelessly romantic, and fun. I suspect, however, that I did not pass the child test.
I met his kids—adorable and exuberant—after he met mine. He’s only the second man that my kids have given an approving nod, the Treat being the first. Somewhere in between, I’ve mentioned other men the girls haven’t met and have heard Aislinn’s scorn: “What makes you think we’d let you date X?” Fortunately, the girls’ approval criteria run similar to my own. Also fortunately, I will take my kids’ opinions into consideration but I recognize that they’ll be grown and gone soon and I have to make my own decisions about my potential relationships, just as they may or may not take my opinions into consideration about their own romantic relationships.
Just last Friday night, sitting with my feet dangling in the hot tub, a glass of wine in one hand and a sexy man by my side, I recounted a story about the “child test” that I haven’t thought of in a long while. There’s a man I have known all my life. He’s been divorced for 30 years and had custody of his small child since Day 1. He was an indulgent father who always, always put his child first. He was also a very good looking guy back in his 30’s and 40’s when his child was small and he had women clamoring for him. There were at least three different romantic interests I met or knew of over the years who were much more than just girlfriends. They were serious love relationships and I believe, based on our conversations back then, that he would have married any one of them, started a second family, and been very happy. He didn’t.
He didn’t because in at least those three cases—and in countless minor relationships that never got off the ground—his child sabotaged the relationships or told the man outright that the woman was disapproved of as a potential step-mother. I know at least once or twice, he asked his child’s blessing before discussing marriage—and got quite the opposite. The last time, the child was only about a year from high school graduation. The man let those women go from his life and has, to date, not remarried.
Whenever I see him now at events in my hometown, he’s a little bitter and has reconciled that he’ll never have another long-term relationship. His child? The kid grew up, moved far away, and seldom sees or has anything to do with the dad who indulged and centered his life on his child.
I realize how soon my girls will leave home and I make good decisions about who to introduce into their lives, but I look to the lessons that have come before me and won’t let their opinions be the deciding factor. I really doubt they’d like for my opinions to be the deciding factor on whom to spend their lives with.