Woman to Women
Prince Charming Has an Heir
Dating a man with children has foibles but there’s hope for a happy ending
Everyone loves a good fairy-tale romance. We all want the happy ending, but we also know a story isn’t authentic without some twists and turns along the way.
Here’s my Mother Goose whopper: Enter Prince Charming (my boyfriend) who finds his princess (me). One catch: he has a young son. We’ll call him Little Prince. This makes me – in sort of a twisted Cinderella way – both a princess AND a stepmother.
His royal toddler highness calls me by my first name, and we’re close playmates. We put together puzzles! We play with blocks! We sing the alphabet song! Given all this, I’m desperately in need of a cooler title, but nothing seems appropriate.
Little Prince is indeed little – approaching his second birthday – so he’s still too young to understand my role. He simply thinks I’m another person who cares for him. As he gets older, I hope he’ll know I love him as much as any princess/stepmother can. But right now, what’s toughest is that you can’t fake motherhood. It’s an instinctual, encompassing love for a child that gives you the ability to do magic, like make pain go away. Most people assume I’m his mother, and it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have. At the playground, I move stealthily from swings to slide to jungle bars so I can’t be peppered with maternal questions I’m not equipped to answer. Meanwhile, Prince Charming and Little Prince enjoy a beautiful, open relationship that’s easily defined to the world: father and son.
In the movie Stepmom, Julia Roberts’ character, Isabel, causes mayhem as she fumbles in caring for her boyfriend’s two children. The ex-wife remarks on her bungling ways: “Slugs have a faster learning curve. Trees! Clams!” Like Isabel, I have two left feet when it comes to motherhood. For example, when Little Prince drops his toy car for the eighth time at a restaurant. Do I take the car away or give it back, ensuring a continued toy-dropping charade for the next hour? I glance at Prince Charming – he’s looking down at the menu, which means I have permission to make the choice. I take the pulse of the restaurant. Can its patrons handle a short, all-hell-breaks-lose tantrum? I do a mental check: Is there another toy in the bag to replace the car? Crayons? Mind you, this all happens in a nanosecond. This is motherhood, and it moves pretty damn fast. Despite the fact that I did not give this child life, I have to keep up.
I know I have a lot to learn, but I also know my skills will improve over time. Perhaps I’ll feel better when I have my own children. Or maybe this experience will better prepare me for “natural-born motherhood” – like a practice run most mothers don’t get. Either way, I feel lucky to have two princes in my life – that’s more than most princesses can claim. And I’m looking forward to each and every chapter.