I don’t make a habit of thinking about my son’s future romantic relationships, but seeing as I want him to experience all the joys that life has to offer, I can admit that, yes, I do hope love and dating are most certainly part of the mix. It’s slightly disconcerting to look at my toddler and think that one day he will most likely be someone’s ex-boyfriend. [Insert crotchety, inappropriate, and untrue joke about how I will not let him date until he’s at least 30.] But it’s probably true, right? He's going to date someone, and probably do something unkind at some point, and break someone's heart, and someone will break his heart...it's weird. I feel like (I should take this moment to acknowledge that kids grow up so fast?) Anyway, we still have lots of joyous and wonderful milestones ahead of us like, saying his own name, throwing a ball directly to someone else, and putting on pants by yourself before we dip into things like dating, but like, we're going to get there at some point, and like everything else, I'm sure it'll come around more quickly than I expect.
That said, now that there is one extra male in my house, I find myself thinking about all the dude presence that has previously been in my life. And I’m not just talking about the Backstreet Boys posters that hung in my teen bedroom (KTBSPA) — I’m talking about the boys I actually have actually known in real life (and no, being arm’s length from Nick Carter during their 2011 NKOTBSB tour does not count, as much as I wish it did). And while my partner and I have been together for a whopping 11 years, I do have a few ghosts of relationships past that still linger. Here’s what typically goes through my mind when they visit:
Life Is Short And I’m (Mostly) Over It
Having a kid isn't the only life event that can make you realize how relatively little time we have to be alive, but it does the trick. I definitely don’t want to spend the hours I have in a day thinking about my exes, especially not when there is an awesome toddler who has recently discovered his belly button in the next room.
In Fact, I Appreciate Much Of What I Learned From My Exes, So, Um, Thanks?
Not to quote a Rascal Flatt’s song but…I mean, here’s a lyric from a Rascal Flatt’s song: God blessed the broken road, it led me straight to someone way better for me, whose genes are now in half of my son and I wouldn't want it any other way.
I Appreciate My Partner Because He's Not A CHEATER, AARON*
I like to think that I'd appreciate my partner anyway, but, nothing like being cheated on to really make you love not being cheated on.
*Name changed to protect the horrible
I've Learned That It’s Never Too Early To Teach My Son To Respect Women...
In fact, the sooner, the better right? There's really nothing like walking down ex-boyfriend memory lane to remind you that teaching future-men how to not be a**holes to women can't really start soon enough. Can you imagine how awesome (and adorable) it would be for him to be able to tell the other girls in preschool that he values their minds and wants their enthusiastic, informed consent before giving them a high five during kickball? BRB, time to go work on his enunciation.
...And To Be Careful When Feelings Are At Stake.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure a lot of the hurt I felt at the hands of teenage boys was accidental. Like, most of them weren’t openly ripping my heart out like that one guy in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. It was a lot of crossed wires, which is all the more reason to be gentle.
Learning How To Not Be Crappy In Relationships Is A Lifelong Process, And Most People Are Garbage At It Early On
In the same way that I’ve learned a ton about relationships since I dated all of my exes, I assume the same was happening on their end. Also, special thanks to the one guy* who didn’t judge me for my my awkward overzealousness.
*all of you
That Said, I Hope My Son Never Finds That Box Of Old Photos Of Me And My Exes
I mean, I'm all for thinking about my exes when it comes to having more compassion and perspective on raising my own someone's-future-ex-boyfriend, but...it's going to be real uncomfortable explaining some of those pictures. There's a limit to mixing these parts of my life.
And When He Finally Does Start Dating And Eventually Marry, If He Decides To, I Hope I Can Keep It Together Enough To Not Be A Weird, Overbearing Mother-In-Law Who, Like, Shows Up On Sunday Mornings Unannounced With Baskets Of Muffins
Obviously that's not going to be me (bagels are clearly the way to go).
So I'm Going To Enjoy These Early Years Before I Have To Share Him
No, you have something in your eye. Who's peeling onions?
But Finally, I Wish One Of My Exes Hadn’t Ruined '90s Seattle Rock For Me
DAMN IT, AARON*. If I can teach my boy one thing, please god, let it be to never ruin good music for someone he cares about.
*still not his real name