You’ve reached a major turning point in your relationship. He wants to introduce you to his kids. What a vote of confidence! Apart from unwise wardrobe choices, what could go wrong?
HOPE VS. REALITY
Ideally, his kids feel bad that their father is alone and they want him to find a companion. The reality? They’re not sure you’re right for the role.
Let me say up front that I think it’s inexcusable for adult children to rain on the parade of a divorced or widowed parent who is lucky enough to find a kindly, compatible someone. I say this because the motives of these dissenters are often selfish. On the other hand, some apprehension is normal, and you’ll be wise to approach this first meeting with patience and good will.
DISPEL THEIR FEARS – HOW?
Fear that you’re replacing their mother – When kids ask, “She won’t be replacing Mom, will she?” as they often do, he owes them the reassurance they need. For your part, it’s wise not to act proprietary. Keep your hands to yourself. “We’re just fond friends” is a good opening act.
Suspicion that you’re after their inheritance – This is no time to look like a struggling single. Dress for success. Wear some tasteful but enormously expensive jewelry. If you don’t own costly baubles, borrow them. You can accelerate the process even more by wearing also the patrician air of one who fears SHE may be the one to fear gold digging.
Feeling you’ll intrude on family fun – Warm weekend and holiday moments around the family dining table – how can such generational bonding survive an interloper? Stay demure at family gatherings until they get used to you. Eventually they’ll start thinking you belong there.
Resentment of him – They may not actually like him (!). As your relationship matures, you will win their gratitude by helping to shoulder the burden they thought he was. Alternatively, you can work to make family gatherings less wearisome for all by making them less frequent.
Concerns about your independence – They won’t want you to be clingy. Meanwhile, they’ll be evaluating your nursing potential — for when he’ll need care and attention they’ll be too busy to give him. Let them see your compassionate side, but keep them guessing about the limits of your capacity for self-sacrifice.
Embarrassment – Some kids react with disgust to the idea that their over-the-hill dad is having sex. Don’t unbalance them – no sexy glances, no grabbing, no innuendo. But don’t overdo the chastity bit. His sons will be looking to him to demolish their secret fear that sex may be over at 45.
Protecting the grandchildren – His kids’ claim that their children will suffer confusion is mostly a cover-up for their own fears. Young children are resilient and will almost always take a grandparent’s actions in stride – unless, of course, they’ve been primed with negative feelings. Never try to buy little kids with gifts and sweet talk. Smile at them nicely, stay away from annoying and meaningless questions (“How do you like school?”), and wait for them to acknowledge you (they will).
“She’s not in his class” – I have to assume you’ve behaved with dignity, gentle good humor, and generosity of spirit. If that’s the case, his kids’ whine that he’s too good for you is just another jab at your credibility. Here’s where your man needs to stand up for his rights — and yours. If he’s too intimidated or too uncommitted to do so, you may want to question the value of your relationship. Unless I’m mistaken, you didn’t sign up for a tabloids-style war with someone’s unyielding offspring.