I’ve never introduced the boys to anyone I’ve dated throughout the last five years because I was so deeply committed to protecting their hearts and not parading men through this house who wouldn’t be around for next Sunday’s dinner.

(Not that I dated with this kind of weekly frequency, and not that I routinely fix dinner on Sunday. It’s a hyperbolic metaphor. Stay with me.)

When you’re a single mom in the dating world, it’s a complicated thing of timing, readiness and dynamics. There has been so much to consider in this recipe of introductions and first impressions, of relationships and precedents, and it all required so much conversation and patience.

I have one boy in particular who had pretty well settled into the idea of the three of us carrying this torch all alone into forever. He was just fine with this man who would like to hang around with us now and then, he loved the attention and conversation, and he couldn’t deny this brand new energy in his mom.

But at the end of the day, he would privately say to me, “Mom, just remember that I don’t want a new dad.”

Well, the truth is, there are things you get to decide in life, and there are things you don’t. There’s a reason why the little people are born to the big ones, and there are some decisions too big for a little man to carry. Sometimes you have to take the little hand in your big one, remind him that his hand is safe in yours, and show him how this is going to go. It’s called Parenting.Sneakers From Above.

I sat down with my boy, just him and me. No brothers or boyfriends around.

“Buddy, I’ve been thinking a lot about you and your heart. If I could peek inside your mind, I think I would see words like Excited and Thankful and Scared and Worried and Afraid and Nervous.”

He nodded.

“I want you to know, those are all good questions and fair feelings. All of them. I am so happy to talk with you about every single thing you think and feel as this happens in our lives.”

(Important pause to let those facts sink in.)

(And now intense eye contact so he knows the following facts are also truer than true.)

Then I said, “I need you to also know that I am Peter’s girlfriend now, and someday, I will become his wife unless God changes our plan. So while you are truly allowed to feel however you feel, it’s also important for you to know that emotions don’t change outcomes. We will talk through all of your thoughts and feelings, but they’re not going to change my mind and the direction of my future with Peter.”

There was silence.

And then he said, “Mom, I just have one question.”

“Anything.”

“Where will we stay when you’re on your honeymoon?”

Well. Peter and I aren’t really in a honeymoon planning stage, but if this is his question, then “Probably with Grandma and Poppa.”

“Okay. Can I go ride my bike?”

“Definitely.”

And the crazy thing? He never again told me he wasn’t on board. Turns out, the parenting experts speak truth: sometimes a child just needs—and really actually wants—to know the boundary.

Given the boundary, sometimes the wondering child will actually surprise you and say, “Okay, Mom. I can live quite nicely in that space.”

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