January 4, 2007
Give me a happy ending
My father has been with his girlfriend, Joan, for 3 1/2 years; my mother has been with her boyfriend, Paul, for 1 1/2 years. And as is often the case with children of divorced parents, I wonder how Mom and Dad ever lived together in the first place. They divorced when I was in the second grade, so they've been apart for three-quarters of my life.
I watched a lot of movies growing up and would always seek comparisons to those fun, fictionalized versions of life to whatever was going on in my reality. Despite having watched and memorized "The Parent Trap" (original version, remake, parts II, III and "III: Hawaiian Honeymoon"), I never had any illusions of getting them back together.
I now live 1,700 miles from my parents, and I'm more used to seeing them separately than together, so it is now very odd when they are in the same place at the same time.
My father remarried when I was 13, which gave me the chance to live out my Cinderella/Snow White fantasy (while my stepmother fulfilled her part, I never got my shot at the princess role). Before then, I had seen my dad date all sorts of women: lazy, dreary, stupid, crazy, frosty and nasty. After my father and stepmother split, he luckily never completed the virtual "Seven Dwarfs of Bad Dates."
I think of how my parents met their current significant others, and it reminds me of the expression: "Like something out of a movie."
Dad met Joan online, the same site where I met my fiancé. It turns out Dad and Joan had such similar backgrounds that it's a wonder they hadn't met before (very "You've Got Mail"). Her ex-husband's in-laws are good friends of my father's sister's husband's parents (take that "Spaceballs!"). She even grew up a few blocks down the same street from my mom.
My mother ended up more on the "Love Affair" route, except both she and Paul were lucky enough to both be single at the time. Mom was flying from Chicago to Vegas; he had missed a flight in Europe and was connecting through the Windy City to get home to Sin City. Paul flies so frequently that he's always in first class, and Mom's upgrade came through -- so they were seated together for the several-hour flight. Did I mention they met on my birthday?
I get updates from both parents about what's going on with them: romantic anniversary dinners, who gave what for Chanukah, upcoming vacations and trips around the world to visit their partners' kids.
But something just seems inherently odd when you are listening to stories about your parents' love lives.
The problem is that parental dating is not something usually covered in relationship handbooks or in the pages of Cosmo (and believe me, I've read plenty over the years). Perhaps I missed the a chapter on "Be Home by 11: What to Do When Mom/Dad Dates."
There are tons of stepparents out there, so I know I'm not the only one to encounter parental dating, but often when you see anything about the topic, it is from the perspective of everyone but the kids: What the psychologist thinks, what the love doctor says, the mailman adds in his two cents, advice from a barista.
The only guides I've found that come close to helping children of daters could be very helpful -- if I were still 7. It advises that I can rest assured that: Both my parents still love me, and they can also have room in their hearts for a boyfriend/girlfriend.
The other options are those bleak "adult children of divorced parent" books. Yawn! An Amazon review of one states: "The book is more for a parent looking for reassurance that they're not screwing up their kid's life." Just lovely.
How about something that's actually helpful? The books never cover what to do when your parent calls and says, "So and so did this. What do you think that means?"
Dear Mom and Dad, I don't know what it means any more than you did when I asked you that question. Love, Shana.
The two parents and two significant others met for the first time last Thanksgiving in Chicago. I'd just gotten engaged, so my new fiancé and I had dinner with Mom, Paul and my bubbe and zayde, then they dropped us off at Joan's house. Dad came out, hugged Mom, and the two of them exchanged mazel tovs over the engagement.
Then Mom's boyfriend got out of the car and shook Dad's hand. Then Joan joined them outside and met Mom. The whole thing had a sci-fi aura to it: "Today, adults will come together for the greater good. A little reminder from the parenting section of 'The Twilight Zone.'"
The four will meet up again in October at our wedding -- and although my parents will be walking me down the aisle together, they can dance the first dance with whomever they choose.
And despite my past, my life still ended up as a fairy tale -- albeit slightly fractured.
My parents are now living happily ever after ... and what more should a kid want than that?