I'll admit it, dear reader: I have a very sordid dating history. I'm closing in on 30 and while I have never been married, I have been in enough serious relationships to know exactly what I don't want in a partner. Example: I don't want to date anyone whose parents still pay all his bills, someone who lives a double life as a secret stoner, someone who is intolerant of religion, or someone who rarely showers or trims his facial hair (the lumberjack/rocker thing is sexy until weird smells start permeating the vicinity).
But with the bad comes the good, and my past exes did teach me a few things about what I do want in a relationship: a partner with a sense of humor, and someone who's more than willing to eat cold pizza and marathon watch/geek out over Twin Peaks with me (trust me, not many folks are willing to put up with this).
And then I met Lunar, a friend-of-a-friend. He was funny, had a grown-up 9-5 job (I immediately made note of his Netflix-marathoning potential), and had ridiculous comic book tattoos. I was all over it, but there was one thing I wasn't sure about: he had two kids.
I'd never dated anyone with kids before — what was I supposed to do? Be their friend, tuck them in, tell them to shut up and eat their vegetables? Despite the fact that I work with children every day in an education environment, I'm pretty clueless when it comes to family life, bedtimes, and the art of things called Skylanders.
Over time, though, the fears have washed away and I'm learning how to be a girlfriend to a dad. These days, it's pretty common to have diverse families made up of siblings, step-siblings, step-parents, etc. (excuse me while I go all Mrs. Doubtfire for a second here), and while I may never want kids of my own, I'm pretty stoked to find my own little place in Lunar's family.
As it turns out, there are actually a lot of perks to dating someone with kids. Here's what I love about it. (Besides the kids themselves, obviously.)
1. You get to be the cool one who gives them candy.
This one is a little selfish on my part: I can't eat candy anymore (I had weight loss surgery nearly eight years ago and sugar is definitely not my friend), but every now and then, I just really want to buy a bag of Skittles. It works out, because the kids get special candy, I don't have to eat it, and I'm the hero.
2. You (usually) don't have to discipline them.
The kids already have a mom, a grandma, a dad, and a stepdad — they don't need another one. One of the things that works best about my unique place in the family is that I'm not another adult voice telling the kids what to do, and I'm okay with that. I already have to yell at my dog when she barks at the mailman (and the neighbors, and innocent pedestrians) — and that's enough.
3. You have a reasonable excuse to go on kiddie rides.
I never wanted to be the creepy old lady that rides the "little kid" rides at amusement parks, but let's face it; those can be the best ones. They're usually extra-colorful and whimsical and probably aren't going to make you barf. Having two kids around that you can "steal" so you can ride the Tea Cups with furious abandon is pretty much one of the best things in the world. Same when it comes to carousels and the Dumbo rides.
4. Two words: kid movies.
Because I will never, ever get tired of watching Pixar movies or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And being able to impress a six-year-old with your knowledge of Adventure Time characters? Priceless.
5. Being the homework hero is rad.
While 4th grade English might not be the toughest nut to crack, I still feel like a genius when I get to show a kid how to cite sources on a piece of paper (never mind that it's wide ruled paper and it's a paper about photosynthesis). To a 10 year-old, I am a genius, and that feels great.
6. I get plenty of alone time — without the guilt.
One of the huge things about dating someone with kids is that they're going to need their family-alone time — and so do I. I have a lot of weekends where all I'd like to do is drink a glass of wine and watch Bridesmaids in my underwear, with my little dog sitting next to me on my cheap IKEA sofa.
In relationships where there are no kids involved, sometimes it's easy to get upset when the other person needs some "down time," but when you're both busy adults with other stuff going on (and birthday parties at Chuck-E-Cheese, boy scout meetings, etc.), it's natural and healthy to do your own thing. The natural space the situation affords is great for the relationship.
7. Seeing the guy you're dating being a dad is kind of hot.
I've dated some pretty swell fellas in the past that have done impressive things, but this one is successfully raising two humans into respectful little dudes. He's responsible in a way that a lot of men aren't, and I get to see what kind of person he is by the way he interacts with his kids. It's a great indicator of his character ... and it's hot.