Dating as an adult is so complicated. As a teenager, you always end up dating people in your friend group. You get set up by a friend of a friend. Maybe you meet at school, camp, or a party — life is simple and everything is so low stakes. Then, you grow up. Now we're these adults (ish) trying to find someone to navigate us through this Rainbow Road in Mario Kart. We're all falling off the sides.
When I first got back into the dating scene, I was so lost that I had no idea where to even begin. Sum myself up in three sentences or less for a dating app? Choose five pictures of myself that look good? It was stressful. I felt like I had to always be "interesting" and "on." It also made me consider a lot about dating altogether.
When I started using apps, I realized that I was at that age where a lot of people were old enough to have had a big history. Like, I wasn't just at the age where guys had exes — I was at the age where guys had ex-wives. Some with a kid. Some with multiple kids.
I was scared that I wouldn't be good enough to enter into an existing family and that dating someone with a kid would be so profoundly difficult and hard. Then I met a guy on Hinge.
I always said I didn't want to get into a relationship with someone who already had kids. It was just one of those rules that you checked off when you began thinking about who you want to start going out with. It's not that I don't like kids — I love them — it's that I didn't want to be wrapped up in any potential drama that can come with coparenting. I was also terrified of becoming an "evil stepmother" figure in a kid's life. I was scared that I wouldn't be good enough to enter into an existing family and that dating someone with a kid would be so profoundly difficult and hard.
Then I met a guy on Hinge.
We matched with each other, and after talking on the app for a while, I gave him my number. He didn't have a picture with any kids on his profile, and he didn't mention having kids when we texted. But there was an instant connection between us whenever we talked. We would text a few times a week and then it became an everyday thing. We'd share jokes, stories about our day, and bond over our shared love of pop-punk and early-2000s skater trends. After a month, we decided to finally go out on a date.
I never bought into the whole "when you know, you know" kind of narrative, but when we went out, something clicked. Everything felt right. It felt like the energy in my life aligned and my aura changed. If I didn't believe in love at first sight, this was something that could turn me into a believer.
After we had dinner, we went for coffee and I noticed a tattoo on his arm. Jokingly I asked if that was another girl's name, and . . . it was. It turns out that he had a daughter. A red light went off in my head like a siren. I immediately thought, "Sh*t." All of these sparks, and now I found out he has a kid? A thousand questions were running through my mind and I wanted to ask every single one of them, but it was our first date. Was that going to push us too fast? What happens when he invites me back home? What about his ex? It was like my head was a merry-go-round and no one was hitting the stop button.
I'm not going to lie, I was hesitant. I always said I didn't want to date someone with kids. Kids can complicate things. There's another person in our relationship — it's never just us. There's always going to be a third party. Someone to always consider. Someone to always take into account. In a brand-new relationship, that scared me. I wasn't just dating him, I was dating him and his daughter.
While I had all of my reservations and a laundry list of questions, something in me told me to jump. So I did. Two years later, jumping was the best decision I ever made.
Dating someone with a kid has changed me and shaped me into a better person. It's opened my eyes to the fact that not everything is as it seems, that sometimes how you think things will be isn't always how they truly are. My boyfriend's daughter has brought so much love and light and wisdom into my life. This little ray of sunshine, in all of her 6-year-old glory, has made me a more patient, empathetic, and thoughtful person. She has shown me that I'm capable of being a positive role model and a great friend. That I can be flexible and understanding. And eventually, when we're ready, that I will be a fantastic mother to our own children, too.
The three of us have made our own world with our own inside jokes and laughs. We've taken new adventures and made memories. And the more I watch him love her, the more I fall in love with him. Seeing him as a father makes me realize what an incredible person he is, beyond just loving me.
Here I was, second-guessing and double-checking and resisting all of this, not knowing all of the joy and amazement it would bring into my world. It's true, I'm not just dating him, I'm dating his daughter, too. But, my god, I wouldn't have it any other way.