Dating a man with a kid

We figured flashing lights and photo booths, prizes and pinball, loud noises and lots of other kids would be a good distraction from “Dad has a girlfriend,” which also means: “Mom and Dad are not getting back together.”David’s daughters are sweet and smart, loving and funny and generous and affectionate … I tried to relax, think of the stretch of time ahead of us, remind myself there’s no rush.

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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.

We went to Club 33 at Disneyland and he treated me to couples massages and pool time at the Four Seasons spa. I was starting to wonder what our relationship would look like when it became a story for four, instead of two.

We decided to wait six months before my first meeting with his girls: a trip to the arcade at Castle Park in Sherman Oaks. Like a puppy dog, I wanted to cuddle up to them and play, but I remembered her advice not to overwhelm them, so I pretended like this was all no big deal, and tried to find the feline inside.

Her sister, silent, looked at me, and tilted her head, as if to say, “Hmmm…

we’ll see about you.”We have tried to do all the “right” things: plenty of father-daughter time without me, consistent respect for their mom, a slow pace and patient approach.

“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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