I voted on the “Yes” side of this debate, but I did so with reservations. If your relationship with the children’s mother has only reached the dating stage, with nothing more serious on the horizon, these children may be no more than passing acquaintances.
More importantly, they may already have lived through the heartbreak of having one or more important people disappear from their lives. They don’t need to have the experience repeated. When you are in their presence, be friendly, be pleasant, and let them see that you treat their mother with respect and kindness.
If they have been raised well, they will respond to you in like manner, being friendly and respectful as they would with any adult who is a family friend. Inexpensive gifts are fine at this stage: an ice cream cone for everyone on a hot day, a rented Disney movie to watch on a rainy afternoon, or a new pack of sharp pencils for the first day of school.
What Mom would be grateful for, and what the children most need, even if you are just a casual friend, is the gift of your time. Be available to go on outings, such as a family picnic, a trip to the local swimming pool, or to accompany Mom to a school concert or play.
You needn’t pay, and probably it’s better if you don’t. The young ones will understand that your relationship with their mother is casual at present, and that you may not become a permanent fixture in their lives.
If you are genuinely fond of children in general, you have an opportunity to enjoy their company and, at the same time, become better acquainted with the family you may be entering, if things progress favorably in the romance department.
Make no mistake: your lady friend comes as part of a package deal. If she is a responsible parent, her children will always be her first priority. That’s a fact you will have to accept.
You will have to make a choice: stick around and be a helpful participant in their upbringing, or move on. However, in order to make an informed decision, you need to spend time in their company..
Share some “guy” time with the boys: fix a broken bike, toss a basketball around, or work with them on assembling model kites or airplanes. Boys in single parent families need role models. Grandfathers, uncles, male teachers and trustworthy family friends fulfill these necessary roles in their everyday lives.
Girls are forming ideals of what to look for in a future husband. Let them see you treating their mother with respect and kindness. Mention the volunteer work you do in the community. Tell them about your job and how you go to work every day even though you don’t always feel like it. Help with homework if you can do it in a patient manner.Teach them to ride two-wheeled bikes or to perform other skills they need to keep pace with her peers.
After several months of dating a single mom and interacting with her children, you’ll have an idea of whether or not you want to become a permanent part of their lives. If your decision is negative, you can bow out gracefully, knowing that the children’s lives have been enriched by the time you spent with them.
If you decide you want to become part of the family, congratulations. There are sure to be ups and downs, as there are in the lives of every family, but your own life will be enriched beyond measure through your commitment. The sacrifices and irritations you will be called upon to endure in helping raise children to whom are not biologically related, will be repaid a hundredfold.
When you hear your Christian name being replaced by “Dad”, and in a few years, “Grandpa”, you’ll know beyond a doubt that dating a single mom, and later deciding to make the arrangement permanent, was the best move you ever made. At that time, there will no longer be a limit on the presents you can buy for the kids.