I waited five months before introducing my boyfriend, Andy, to my 3-year-old son. All the books and advice givers, including my therapist, suggested we meet at a public place; I chose the Children's Museum of Manhattan and invited my mother to come along as a buffer.
Up to that point, Andy and had I spent every weekend exploring each other's bodies and temperaments, talking endlessly into the night as you do when you're first dating. Conversations never seemed to falter; our want for each other was constant. After a difficult divorce, the attention made me feel alive again and I cherished it.
Logically, as Andy I got closer, I wanted him to meet Jake. He was a wonderful man, a teacher by profession, a great listener, and made me laugh. But would my son like him? This was the big question.
Andy made his first move at the Dora the Explorer exhibit by tossing Jake a few soft shapes to play with. Jake looked up, batted his big brown eyes and pocketed the toys.
"Say 'thank you' to Andy," I said to Jake. But Jake played it coy. He shook his head, got loose from my hold and tackled a wall of blue blocks.
Andy laughed and told me not to worry, but I analyzed the situation. Would Andy think Jake was as perfect as I did? Jake had just turned three. He was a sweet kid, affectionate and kind—but perfect manners? Who was I kidding? My mother reminded me that my goal for the day—for Jake to make eye contact and indicate some sort of recognition of Andy—had been accomplished.
Our next date was at the American Museum of Natural History. It had been raining all morning and Jake was full of energy. He wanted to climb the Brachiosaurus in the main lobby, was determined to torture the creatures in the lizard exhibit and demanded a bag of goldfish right now, right now, right now.
Andy was unflappable. He stood in line to buy tickets, lifted a thrilled Jake on his shoulders, diverted him from wrecking the Stegosaurus skeleton, and hailed a cab in the downpour so that we didn't have to walk to the parking garage.
I looked over at Andy's strained face as he stood in the rain. He winced each time a cab passed him and as his clothes continued to get soaked. I wondered if we'd make it to the third date.