DEAR HARRIETTE: I’ve been dating this guy for four months. He finally told me he wants to get exclusive, which means introducing me to the most important person in his life: his daughter. This is the first I am hearing of a daughter. He never mentioned her when I met him. It’s a complete surprise, and I don’t know what to do now. She is still young, and having me in her life is huge because I know the type of influence people can have on kids at that age. I just don’t know if I’m ready for that.
I don’t date much, and he is the first guy I’ve seen this consistently. I feel like this information can be the end of us -- but I don’t want that. A kid is a huge factor, and I respect that. How can I make this work and bring myself to be ready for dating a guy with a child? -- Potential Stepmother
DEAR POTENTIAL STEPMOTHER: Just because your boyfriend is ready for you to meet his daughter doesn’t mean you are. And that’s fine. It’s time for you two to get serious. I’m sure he has been thinking long and hard about whether it is safe to introduce anyone to his young child. From that perspective, you can put on the brakes. Explain that this is your first time learning of her. Ask him why he chose not to tell you. Learn more about the situation, including his relationship with the child’s mother, her living arrangements, etc. Get a sense of his intentions. Let him know your concerns, especially since it is early in your relationship -- and too early to make a family commitment.
If you like him enough to be exclusive, say that. Tell him that you want to take it slow and be sure that you are ready for the big step of caring for a child before you meet her. Take your time.