6 Challenges Daters With Teens Face

Who understands the dating struggles of a single parent better than another solo mom or dad? But as your kids get older, they present a totally new set of challenges. If you've both got teenagers, read on…

By Theo Pauline Nestor

few months ago, my teenage daughter and I were sitting in a park a few feet away from a couple who were clearly on a date with two young kids from other relationships in tow. As the mom and dad chatted under the shade of a tree, the boy and the girl gleefully played tag, occasionally calling out comments to each other about "your mom" or "your dad." After watching them for a few minutes, my teen smiled, shook her head, and said: "Those kids have absolutely no idea what's going on!"

"I know," I sighed. "Blessed were the days."

And while it would be foolish to negate the challenges of dating when one still has young kids, I couldn't help but be nostalgic for the "simpler times" back when my own kids were little (and
There will be times when neither of you will have access to a car.
didn't, say, provide an in-depth analysis of my psyche to my boyfriend or text me approximately 1,000 times during the course of a dinner date). While much has been said — and rightly so — about how parents who are dating again can be sensitive to their children, many of us who have teenagers ourselves have been single for awhile now and are (hopefully) well-versed on the basic rules of single parent dating. These rules include: don't introduce anyone to each other too soon; be careful not to sacrifice time with your child at the start of a relationship, and so on. At this point, we're simply wondering if it's possible to carve out a half hour for a quiet coffee without an urgent text that someone needs a ride to the movies right now, mom!

I should mention that between the two of us, my boyfriend and I have five kids between the ages of 13 and 20 — and from my own fairly nutty experience, I feel amply qualified to provide this list of the dating challenges daters face when you both have teens:

Challenge #1: Our kids have our car(s), so how can we go anywhere?
One of the first times I hung out with my boyfriend alone, we went for a walk around the lake. Afterwards, we were sitting in his car talking (and having a pretty good time, I thought) when he suddenly got a text, looked up and said a bit sheepishly: "I gotta go." That was a little abrupt, I thought, considering it was still pretty early on a summer Friday night. But then he explained, "I promised my son I'd have the car back by nine." And so it began…

When you both have teenagers, there will be times when neither of you will have access to a car. Because if you two are together, that means your teens are off doing something somewhere else — and very often, that something involves driving your car. The good news is that you're usually exhausted, so you're often quite happy to just stay in and watch a few episodes of Mad Men and share a bowl of popcorn with your partner.

Challenge #2: You get so busy texting your kids during dates that you forget to have fun
Last night my boyfriend and I were out on another walk (Single Parent Survival Rule #1: Always try to do two things at once, such as: dating/exercising, dating/grocery shopping, dating/having your tires rotated). It was an idyllic, cloudless night with a balmy breeze, and we were walking through a wooded grove near the lapping shore of a lake. All of this probably sounds very romantic — except that, for a good stretch of our walk, both of our heads were craned over our respective cell phones as we read out incoming dispatches from our teens circling the
Expect massive bouts of eye-rolling, strained silences, and verbal attacks.
city. Texting is to teenagers what a babysitter is to younger kids; it's what makes us feel like they're OK when we're not with them. It's also completely delusional. After all, your kids could be in the dark bowels of a downtown nightclub tapping out the message: "Just got to the library!" and you wouldn't know the difference. But we can't help but cling to the supposed good news that they've made it to the library safely and will soon be deeply engrossed in a textual analysis of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Challenge #3: Hiding anything from your teens is nearly impossible (and no, they don't believe your date is just your "friend")
Unlike little kids who are sometimes fooled by such timeless phrases as "mommy's new friend," a teen will look right through you like a Law & Order detective the first time you half-smile at an email you're reading and ask coolly, "So who is this person?" Teens are up to all the same stuff you're up to, but unlike you, they are not middle-aged, far-sighted and overworked, so they have the physical ability and mental acuity to read a text over your shoulder and figure out in no time flat that "mom/dad likes somebody!"

Challenge #4: Your teen acts sassy in front of your date (or is rude to your date)
The first time this kind of thing happens, you will 1) die of embarrassment and 2) think your date sees you as a total cliché of an out-of-control single parent whose daughter would be played by Lindsey Lohan in the made-for-TV movie about your chaotic life. However, your date has teens too, remember? And in the words of the sage philosopher Justin Timberlake, "What comes around, goes around." Your date's teen will also be sassy — probably very soon!

Challenge #5: Bringing his-and-hers teens together isn't easy — it's awkward
You can't just order a pizza, cue up The Parent Trap and think it's going to be a fun-filled night à la The Brady Bunch. This "blending" process takes the precision of safecrackers and the patience of snake charmers. Expect massive bouts of eye-rolling, strained silences, and verbal attacks upon you and your date to serve as attention-diverting icebreakers (see #4) along the way. Mini-golf might work; a nine-hour inescapable car ride could, too. Keep those initial evenings together short, though.

Challenge #6: Saving some energy to enjoy an occasional weekend getaway together is a must to keep the relationship going
After dropping one teen off at a friend's, picking up another at the pool, making dinner for an impromptu crowd of 10 and doing a few loads of laundry, you may wonder if you really want to do anything with anyone — let alone go on a "date." Some lucky parents have shared parenting schedules that align perfectly and have childless weekends at their disposal. If this should happen to you, please do not use your time organizing the explosion of shoes surrounding the front door. Just go — bolt for that weekend getaway and don't look back!

Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of How to Sleep Alone in King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over and a regular contributor to Happen magazine.
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