2 min

Meet the new lover

Telling a kid is like telling a roommate. Sort of

The question often arises for me about when to introduce a new lover to my daughter.

It’s a question that tends not to surface in the straight, nuclear, one-partner-per-household version of things. In that version, when there’s a new lover involved, you sure better hope your child doesn’t find out about it.

The first night is obviously not the right time. The first night might not be any more than that and there’s no point in confusing the poor girl (or the poor girl in my bed). Much as I’ve tried to set an upstanding example, my daughter has absorbed the ridiculous notion that if you have sex with someone you are in love with them.

I don’t try too hard to correct her. For now, it’s her way of simplifying things and, besides, if we were really going to have a conversation about it we’d have to get into all the real reasons people have sex. Her introductory book on the subject says it’s like “climbing up the ladder of a big slide and whooshing down.”

But if I keep finding myself sharing the sheets with the same woman, eventually my daughter has to be told. There might be a pair of underwear lying around that she knows isn’t mine.

But I need to ‘fess up for reasons other than keeping my life accountable. It’s like a fair warning, so the little ship of my daughter’s life doesn’t capsize when Ms New Interest hangs out with us. Sometimes it’s about wanting to spend more time with a lover and so dragging her along to an edifying astronomy lecture on a Sunday afternoon.

More importantly, it’s so my daughter hears the information from me, so she can continue to trust what I tell her and so she doesn’t get churned in the mill of rumour and gossip.

It’s also so she knows that active sexuality is part of a healthy adult life. I don’t want to follow the straight model where mommy and daddy always sleep in the same bed (and no one ever says why), sex is something dirty people do, and “getting lucky” means opening a Kinder egg and finding a toy you didn’t already have.

Other queers face the question about when a relationship is serious enough to tell friends. But a child isn’t going to give you the high five and then want to sit down with a beer and whistle over all the juicy details.

Telling a child isn’t like telling your parents either, because your kid will want to continue with the subject. It has tinges of telling a past lover because there’s the possibility that someone’s going to feel replaced. It has shades of telling your roommate because it’s like telling them it might not be you coming out of the bathroom in the morning.

But telling your child about a new lover is probably most like telling your therapist and thus requires careful consideration. Like therapists, most children are comfortable asking direct questions. They expect that what you answer is the truth. If you are evasive, they won’t hesitate to ask you to clarify. Afterwards, they remember things so well it’s as if they took notes.

So I can’t take it lightly, though I can’t leave it too long either because, in my case, my daughter’s likely to ask the question herself (of either me or the new fling – she’s not particular). And I can’t leave out significant parts of my life for too long. If I want her to trust me enough to tell me the latest in playground liaisons, then I’d better be prepared to let her know who’s playing in my sandbox.

So far, my daughter’s never too fazed by the news. I’m starting to wonder, though, what it might be like when she figures out what “whooshing down” is, and what exactly is involved in “climbing up the ladder.”