He said it matter-of-factly. The Not Boyfriend looked at me through my computer screen on Skype and said in his serious voice that he would like to make a plan to meet my parents, to meet Lil E.
This was a few weeks ago but it's something we've discussed before in a "one magical day, far far away" kind of way, but with the complexity of reason and responsibility.
"When that happens, it will be a commitment to be present," he said once many months ago. I was struck by that. I agreed and I was used to be the only one to think on that trajectory.
Still, the distant future-ness of the message was there. I knew the time would come. I wanted it to be organic, not forced. I wanted it to be right, not questioned.
So when the real planning started taking place, you'd think I'd be prepared. Maybe you'd assume that I was really ready. Oh, no. Instead, I started to get scared. Later, I cried and went to see my therapist. But first, I got scared.
Well actually, very first, I pictured it, Lil E and the Not Boyfriend meeting and high-fiving or collapsing into some kind of boy-wrestle sesh or speaking Star Wars in some gutteral 6-year-old testosterone language I can never quite get the right accent in. I wondered what they would say about each other. I grimaced to think of myself singing and tap dancing to a Black Eyed Peas song in some desperate attempt to entertain in the center of them. I played these scenes in my head.
Then I got scared. Not because of Lil E -- I knew he was ready, I knew I could handle it with him. Not because of the Not Boyfriend -- I know him well enough to know he'd be sage and calm and kind. The fear was the change in time, the change in our ways of being. The shift in the way Lil E and I are. How would we feel on the other side? Who would we be?
The fear turned to panic. In a rare moment just after my divorce was finally finalized two years ago, I made a handshake agreement with The Ex that we would inform each other before we introduced Lil E to a significant other. That agreement, requested after deep breaths and made with serenity, was devised out of panic much earlier on when Lil E revealed in his then-three-year old way that he'd already met the woman his dad was involved with. I didn't want him to be caught in the middle of those situations. I thought we owed to each other as parents to share who we are bringing into our son's life. I wanted to speak to him in person about this and some other issues that I felt needed to be in person.
But once the decision was set, The Ex couldn't meet me. Then he wouldn't return my attempts to find a time that would work. The fear was rumbly and I couldn't hear my other thoughts about why I felt this was right and good. The pain was old. The M.O. was familiar.
I contemplated cancelling it all. I came close. I held off talking to Lil E, hadn't asked my parents if they'd like to meet the man I'd been dating for a year.I worried. A lot.
What to do? What to do?
Then I got mad. This was old shit. I am used to being ignored and can deal with it when it is about something I need. But when it impacts Lil E, I'm so NOT good with that. I also felt myself pushing back, wanting so much for my life to move on from this pattern, this old stuff, this dynamic.
I want to move on, I thought. But I'm afraid and it's complicated and maybe...it's not time.
With that thought, I breathed deeper. Some kind of relief, maybe. The leap did not have to be lept. It could wait. It would wait.
I made the decision in my head, closed the door. Then, somehow a window creaked open. Just enough.
My mother called, knowing the Not Boyfriend would be in town.
"Will your friend be here this weekend?" she asked anyway.I laughed at your friend. She took it as a cue to continue on with the questioning. "Will you introduce him to Lil E?"
I was afraid they were more afraid than I was, that they might be protective, closed off to the idea.
I could only give her a maybe.
"Well, this is your relationship and you will make the right decision." It was a comfort."All of that is up to you and only you know what's the best thing to do."
Later that day, I told Lil E a sitter was coming for a couple of hours while I picked up a friend from the airport. He asked who it was and I mentioned the person I'd mentioned a few times before, my friend known as the Chef Soldier. He recognized him from letters I got when the Not Boyfriend was in Basic Training for the National Guard and rolls of cookie dough and caramel sauce he sent over Christmas.
"Ahhh," he said nonchalantly. "Will I get to meet him?"
It was all so no-big-deal, I was almost knocked over.
"Would you like to?" I tried to be as relaxed.
"Sure," he said, moving past me to a pile of Legos on the living room floor. "It's kind of like he's your best friend."
"Yeah," I smiled. Then back to to no-biggie. "I'll think about you meeting him."
The window seemed to be open wider.
The next day, still not etching in any plans, I thought and thought and thought some more. Well, first, I dreamed like crazy about all of it, then I woke up and drank a gallon of coffee to wash all that away and focus on the (more) real (ish) waking thoughts. The thoughts and feelings were caffeinated and churning.Finally, I inhaled and put my fingers to my keyboard and just wrote.
I wrote and wrote and wrote an email to The Ex. I listed all the issues I had to address with him. Inside it all, were a few short sentences that fulfilled my agreement. Nothing more.
In all that fear and dreaming and typing, I finally saw clearly that I'd moved on long ago. And the only person keeping me from moving forward was me.
That is OK. If I wanted to opt out, it would be fine. But if I wanted this all to happen, if I was ready for these introductions, all the signs were there and were telling me that it would be fine, too.
So I decided to trust myself and the moment. I hit send. I called my parents and asked them if they'd like to meet the Not Boyfriend for lunch or something casual and simple. I let the words I would say later that day to Lil E pour into my thoughts.
"Do you remember when you told me you thought it would be nice for me to have a boyfriend?" the words went in my head and that evening as I pulled him to the couch next to me. "Well, I think I'd like the Chef Soldier to be my boyfriend."
His whole face lit up with surprise.
"WHAT THE --?!" He shouted it but was smiling. He leaped from the couch, shaking all of his 39 pounds. "MOMMY AND THE CHEF SOLDIER SITTING IN THE TREE...K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"
He fell over laughing at his own cleverness, of jumping on his own cue.
I told him the Chef Soldier-Not Boyfriend's real name, spurring more of that rhyme and more giggles.
"What do you think of that?" I stopped it all and it was too soon for his liking.
"GOOD!" he said in the way that is more the beginning of GUD JUL than the goooood I let slide out of my own mouth. Quick, sure. "I think it's good for you to have someone to hang around with."
It was months later, but the words were so much the same.
"And would you like to meet him?" I added this time.
"Yeah! Sure! Good!" More quickfire assuredness.
With that, I grabbed him up for a forced hug and we settled in deep into the couch cushions to read MONSTER BUGS!, the book he'd checked out from the kindergarten class library.
It was settled then. It was happening. I was still a little afraid, sitting there on the ledge, looking out on all that was ahead in the next few days. I saw my parents and my boy and the Not Boyfriend, all telling me to trust myself and they were fine and good with it all.What was out there looked foggy but good and happy. Sure, that could change, but those were worries for another time. For now, I felt OK. Still and supported and ready. Or at least, still and supported and ready enough.
Up next: The meeting