Of course, as soon as I’d told the kids that their Dad had met someone else (and had in fact had met several someone elses over the years), the room was gradually flooded with questions and observations from all four of them.
Initially there was hurt, confusion and more silence as they tried to articulate their feelings and work out what their questions were, but gradually, through the tears, the confusion and the hurt, something surprising emerged – laughter.
Darkly thrilled at the idea of a Wicked Stepmother, they spent some time speculating about what P was like. I must admit, I’m not sure I helped here, I had just one picture of her – from her LinkedIn profile – which I now shared with them. Whilst I don’t wish to be unkind (well, I do a bit), she did look sort of look like a Dominatrix in this picture and, as a result, the kids were slightly alarmed at, and grimly fascinated by, the prospect of their Dad’s latest girlfriend.
They asked me if they’d have to meet her. I said that that was entirely up to them. I told them that I didn’t know how serious the relationship was, but, if it continued and if they wanted to meet her, then they were more than welcome to. Obviously, if they didn’t want to meet her, they didn’t have to. Youngest Daughter’s eyes flashed dangerously as she swore she hated them both, and the first thing she’d do if E ever introduced her to P would be to ask her if she knew about all of E’s previous girlfriends and tell her how much she’d hurt his children. Oldest Daughter said nothing, but, it was clear that she had no intention of meeting P.
Some time was also spent discussing if E and P would have children, and if, as a group of siblings, they would welcome or ignore the resulting progeny. Their conclusion was that they’d welcome any child, because it’s not the baby’s fault and a baby would be a brother/sister after all, but they’d still not be terribly friendly to E or P – there was a principle at stake here after all. I pointed out that E and P had only been ‘together’ for a couple of years and that E’s past history, as well as her age, suggested she probably wouldn’t last, but this didn’t deter the speculation re a baby, what it would be called, and, vitally, if it would have ginger hair like their Dad.
From the scary LinkedIn picture, they’d also realised that P was quite a bit younger than their Dad and they shared their mutual incredulity regarding what on earth she saw in him. It was clear what he saw in her (although, personally I was speculating about what their Safe Word was), she was young, pretty (albeit in a slightly frightening way) and attractive. He, on the other hand, was, well, none of those things. In fact, as Youngest Son (who, in the light of all the speculation going on around him, was quickly recovering his comedic skills) pointed out – his Dad was “old, fat, ginger and going a bit bald.” Oldest Daughter observed, with a wry smile, and a Mrs Merton-esque raise of her eyebrows, that she thought she knew exactly what P saw in her well salaried father.
They also pondered over whether E and P would get married and how they’d feel (and how involved they’d be) if they did. Oldest and Youngest Daughter swore they wouldn’t go. Oldest son shrugged and said he reckoned it would be rude not to go, so he probably would. Youngest Son wondered what food there would be at a wedding, specifically if there would be sausages (if there weren’t sausages, he might not go). Which reminded everyone that they were hungry, so, as a treat, I ordered us pizza, which was a bit of a result as far as the kids were concerned.
All in all, I think it went pretty well. Obviously, there would be more questions as the weeks went on, but I think they all felt happy that they could talk to me whenever they wanted and that we, as a group, had each other no matter what happened.
After the pizza arrived, they all disappeared off to their rooms, I drank (lots) more wine and, apart from the fact that we all knew our lives would never be the same again, it became a normal Friday Night. Our new normal.
Later that night, I lay in bed trying to sleep, wondering what tomorrow would be like (E was moving his stuff out). As I lay sleepless, Youngest Son climbed in with me, and, warming his ice-cold feet on my legs, sleepily said “I’m sorry Dad’s such a Dickhead.”