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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 03:29 pm

When hurry met Sally

I planned a cross-country trip to introduce my girlfriend of five months to my family. She just sprang on me that she wants my family to meet “all of” her, which includes her 9-year-old daughter. My family knows she has a child, and I really enjoy her daughter, but I’m really not ready to introduce both of them. It would suggest that I’m taking on the role of a father, that she’s important to me, that I’m ready to care for her, and that they should accept her as part of my life. I’m okay with their meeting the daughter later if our relationship progresses, but it’s still so new that we haven’t even had our first big argument yet. Is it okay for me to first want to love the woman and decide whether she’s the one? Is it a warning sign that there are already issues regarding her child? –Dating A Package

It would be clear you were in the wrong place if you’d spent the first date brimming with child-loathing: “Kids require a total commitment for 18 years – or maybe 13, if you can get them to run away as teenagers.”

But it’s perfectly reasonable to want to be called baby for a while before you commit to having one, and especially one at the soon-to-be-sullen age of 9 who already calls some other guy daddy. Ironically, it’s you, the single, childless guy who’s taking the more responsible, parental approach: waiting to see whether the relationship has legs before you start acting like you’re all a family, which could end badly. Kids need stability. Ideally, “Who’s your stepdaddy?” isn’t a question a little girl should have to answer while standing by the revolving door outside the men’s department.

Your girlfriend’s apparent attempt to leverage your affection for her into a Very Brady Vacation could be a straight-out power play or a fear-driven test to see whether you’re up to quasi-daddyhood. Think hard about the day-to-day details of being with a woman with a kid, like how her daughter will ultimately come first and how her presence will change the relationship dynamics. (You can’t just tie a kid to a parking meter and make it up to her by taking her to pee in somebody’s bushes after lunch.)

If, for the right woman, the tradeoffs wouldn’t be too much for you, reassure your girlfriend of that, and then lay out the path to a relationship that works for you (more of a get-to-know-you stroll than a get-to-know-you freeway chase). If that timetable doesn’t work for her, well, there’s got to be a door there somewhere. But the fact that you have self-knowledge and the integrity to be unwilling to rush things suggests that she’d be prudent to see whether there’s something between you – that is, besides an anonymous call to Child Services by someone making serious accusations: adults around her wearing Crocs with socks and not letting her wear makeup like all the other fourth-grade girls.

2013, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon
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