I am a single parent of an 11-year-old boy with Downs. His father is not very involved and has been pretty much a huge disappointment in my son’s life for years. He does not pay child support and has never really had a job. I am seriously intent on making the move with my new boyfriend to New Jersey in about 10 months. We plan on getting married before we move and will be buying a home there prior to moving.
My dilemma is this: I see my boyfriend being a wonderful father to his children and worry that he will not be able to fill that same role for my son. I have tried to talk about it, and I get reassurance; however, I just don’t see it happening as quickly as I would like it to. I know it is natural to want to move mountains for your own child but for one that is not your blood?? I am just not sure. We have discussed seeking pre-marital counseling and have that lined up. Could you offer any advice or activities to help subside these fears of mine? — Mama Bear
I wonder if part of your anxiety stems from the fact that you’ve only known this man a handful of months, and what you do know about him — that he has two daughters with two different mothers — indicates that he doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to commitment and stability. Not only that, but it sounds like his life is on the east coast and, with you all the way on the other side of the country, have you even met his family? In the few months that you’ve known him, have you had a chance to see him interact with his kids very much, if at all? How much interaction has he had with your son? Have all your kids had the opportunity to get to know each other? Have you researched job opportunities for yourself, as well as schools and their special ed programs, in the area where you plan to move with your boyfriend?
If, in the handful of months that you’ve known your boyfriend, there hasn’t been sufficient time for these things to happen, I’m sure that the anxiety you’re feeling about your boyfriend’s role in your son’s life is probably a manifestation of the anxiety you feel about your future with this man in general. Honestly, if you want to see what kind of father this man might be to your son, my advice is to SLOW DOWN. This isn’t about just you and your boyfriend. There are three children involved here, one of whom has special needs. If it seems like I have stressed the short amount of time you’ve known each other a lot already, it’s because it’s particularly significant when each of you come to the relationship with your own set of challenges (three kids, two baby mamas, a delinquent baby daddy, a kid with Down’s Syndrome, and a potential move thousands of miles away; it’s a lot).
Yes, go to pre-marital counseling. More importantly, go to counseling on your own and discuss how the lack of involvement — not to mention the lack of child support — from your son’s father is affecting your desire to speed up the process of your boyfriend becoming your son’s new dad. You met just a few months ago. It’s natural that your boyfriend wouldn’t be a father figure to your son just yet. A lot of single parents don’t even introduce their children to significant others this quickly. That’s not a judgment on you for moving a little faster, but it is a reality check. You’re moving fast already. To try to speed things up even more seems impetuous. If your boyfriend is set to move in ten months, consider moving with him only as an engaged couple into a rental home before making such big commitments like marriage and home ownership together. Give this relationship a chance to brew at a pace that gives room for the dynamics of a family of five to settle into place, and for your boyfriend to SHOW you how he’ll be your son’s father, rather than just telling you.