A few months ago, I wrote a piece (one of a few, actually) for DivorcedMoms.com that was republished via a distribution partnership with The Huffington Post. "An Open Letter To The Dudes Dating My Mom" was based on conversations with my sons about what they'd want someone I'm dating to understand about me and them. The piece garnered some national attention and led to a follow-up on Muchness and Light, in which I defended the article and the role of step-parents.
At the time, I was entangled in the strings of relationships with flighty, emotionally-unavailable men. But my patterns were shifting, and it took months to recognize that I had a new outlook on the type of man I wanted to date.
I knew from the moment I met Rango that he was special, although I was shocked to realize how definitively he personified my Wish List of the man I'd like to love next. Yes, we see each other several times a week. Yes, he spends significant amounts of time with my sons, both of whom adore him.
Now three months into a serious relationship with Rango, we find ourselves enmeshing our lives. I was curious how he stood up to Max and Tricky's Wish List for Mom.
1. I'm their mom. The boys were adamant that any new guy respect me like he would his own mother. Mother relationships are always complicated, but there is no doubt that this man respects me, both in front of and away from my sons. He's kind and honest, even when he's upset with me or responding to my own upset. I am plainly held in his highest regard.
2. They're my kids. Rango understands fully that Max and Tricky have first priority. My job is not to raise children, it is to raise men, and there's still a considerable amount of time and effort that have to go into that process. Employee, student, friend, lover... all of those have to take a backseat to being a mother when the moment demands it—which is often when you're a single mom. When the boys need Mom Time, Rango is supportive and understanding, knowing that we will both be there for each other when the time is ours again.
3. The boys don't need another dad. While their father may be farther away than they would like, he is still their father. I'm thankful that Rango is a strong male presence for two young men, but he knows his role is unique. Sometimes he has to defer to me, and sometimes he has to defer to DH; that's how it goes when you're blending into a divorced family. He also recognizes that he has a unique opportunity to forge his own bonds with Max and Tricky—something that's just as influential on Rango as it is on the children.
4. He looks at me like I'm beautiful. I have struggled with self-image for most of my life. Ultimately it took the shining eyes of one of those unavailable men, one of the Fragile Cats, to reflect my beauty back to me in a way that I could see it. If I lament about my thighs, or if my hair is a mess on top of my head while I'm in yoga pants, Rango always tells me I am gorgeous. Sometimes it feels like he can't see the ugly in me at all, and it overwhelms me to tears when he shows me me in a way I can't see on my own.
5. I'm not perfect. I am, in fact, a tempestuous bitch. I yell and cry as easily as I laugh and kiss. But I do not hide that from him. If I am too harsh, too arrogant, too snarky, Rango will politely call me out on it and find out what's wrong. He either takes the brunt of the storm until it passes, or he finds a way to help me past it. And he never, ever holds any of it against me.
6. I am busy. Between work and school, plus the boys' activities, I am sometimes scheduled down to the minute. He doesn't demand any more of my time than I have to give. He always texts to let me know if he's running late, and he is here when he says he's going to be. When I'm so stressed by the workload that I can't think, he gets the boys out of my hair or handles some errand I can't seem to find the time to manage.
7. I am special. In fact, he says I'm a special snowflake. Sometimes that's good, sometimes not. I warned him when we met that I am not like other girls. When my boisterous batshit is about to derail us both, he rides that crazy train like fucking Casey Jones. He loves me not in spite of that crazy but because of it.
8. I deserve to be happy. Rango can never make me happy; happiness is something deep within me that's there whether or not anyone else is. But he does everything in his considerable power to support my happiness. He would rather slit his own wrists than ever make me sad, and he tries like to hell to prove that to me every single day.
9. The boys are watching him. Rango sees Max and Tricky regularly. He is randomly affectionate with me and with them. Sometimes they come to him for advice about girls or gaming or brothers. They see how he speaks to me and how he acts toward me, and it is a model of behavior for how I hope they will treat the women in their lives.
I am a grown-ass woman. I make my own choices, and I have decided that Rango is worth my time. He acknowledges it. He respects it. He treats me right—better than any other man I've ever been with.
He tells me every single day that I am amazing.
Mostly, I'm just amazed.