When you first got divorced or lost your spouse, your kids were sympathetic and tried to cheer you up, right? They called you all the time and asked, “How are you doing?” in that voice of concern they develop for dealing with aging, lonely parents. You’d say you were okay or getting there, and that you were always available to babysit the grandchildren.
Now that you’re dating, you have to ask them to speak up because you’re at a happy hour or a Doobie Brothers concert. “You’re out again?” they say, with just a touch of jealousy.
Even though your kids may be grown-ups, they’ll still react when you start behaving like a teenager again. Here’s some of what you can expect:
They get protective.
Your kids don’t want you to get hurt, so they want to make sure you’re only getting involved with someone who will love the crap out of you forever. They hate hearing when a burgeoning romance suddenly ends, and it makes them worry about you.
To spare them going through the ups and downs of your dating life, it’s often better to develop some kind of vague answer when they ask you if there’s someone special. One line I like to use is, “There are a couple of guys I’m seeing, but nothing serious.”
They also want to make sure you’re safe from scammers and other bad people. My own daughter was appalled when she called once and I was on my way to a man’s house for dinner. “Mom, you gotta drop a pin!” I had no idea what that meant, but apparently it has something to do with apps and maps and other people being able to find you.
Some of these worries are valid, however—safety issues are especially important for women. I always make sure a friend or someone I trust knows where I am and I text them when I’m home safely. And I never go to a man’s house (or have him to mine) until I’m as sure as I can be that he’s a good guy.
This usually involves Googling, Facebooking, and checking him out on LinkedIn, meeting a few of his friends, and going on a couple of dates.
As far as other types of scammers, never ever give money to someone you met online. The latest scam is one where, instead of asking for a loan, the scammer “offers” to invest money for you. (For more information, you can download this free romance scams guide.)
They’re weary of new love interests.
Don’t be surprised if your kids don’t want to meet your new friend, or if they have a less than enthusiastic response when they do meet him or her. This doesn’t always mean they don’t approve; sometimes they worry about being replaced, or losing attention from you. (Yes, just like when they were little!)
If you get a negative response, try to find out what your adult child is feeling. Sometimes, they just don’t want to meet anyone until you’re pretty darned sure they’re the one. Other times, you may need to carve out special time for your family relationships, so they don’t feel abandoned.
They still don’t want to think that their parent might be having sex.
Kids have always gotten queasy at the idea of their parents having a sex life, which may be much more pronounced now that you’re single and older and may be doing it with someone they don’t know.
But be prepared for weird looks when you imply in any way that you spent the night with someone, are going away together, or that you might be feeling anything even vaguely resembling passion.
When I got divorced, my daughter couldn’t imagine romance, much less sex, at my age. She tried to convince me, with something like desperation in her eyes, that all I was looking for was companionship.
Probably best not to take your kids’ calls when you’re in your new love’s bed and downplay the romance a little when you’re talking to your kids about your new relationship. They want you to be happy, but not that happy.
They give you the third degree.
Who are you seeing?
What’s his/her name?
Where do they live?
What do they do?
Do they have kids?
How long have you been seeing him/her?
Are you exclusive?
Sound at all like your parents when you were a teenager? If your kid(s) are like this, you have to create your own boundaries for how much and how soon you’re ready to talk about your dating life.
And here’s a secret: even though they may roll their eyes or give you the third degree, they’re usually proud that you’re out there and having fun. I may not be available to babysit my granddaughter as much as I used to be, but my daughter and son-in-law tell me they think I’m a rock star role model for older people.
Ultimately, your kids want you to be happy. It may be they just need a little time to get used to the idea of what it really means for their parent to be dating.
Karen Haddigan is the author (in collaboration with Debi Helm) of the soon-to-be published book Secrets of Dating After Fifty: An Insider’s Guide to Finding Love Again. www.datingafterfifty.com