Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Don't Rush Family Introductions

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently turned 39. I really want to get married, and I'm looking to start dating again. I have some reservations because I have two young girls, and I think it may turn off some men if I talk about my girls on the first date.

When do you think it would be a good idea to introduce my girls to Mr. Right? -- Planning to Say I Do, Memphis, Tenn.

DEAR PLANNING TO SAY I DO: You are way ahead of yourself. It is good to think ahead, but it is also important to have perspective.

You said you want to start dating again. That means Mr. Right is likely a long way off. Take things one step at a time. Date people whose values you share and who like children.

I think you should tell a first date that you are a single mom, because it's a huge part of who you are. Casual dates should remain just that -- out of the purview of your children. When you feel serious about someone you like and definitely think he is interesting and devoted enough to be a consistent friend, you can introduce him to your girls. Start off introducing him to them as your friend. If you can establish that you respect this person because he is a dear friend, they will have the space to look upon him kindly without wondering or worrying about whether he is going to take away their mother.

Organize "play dates" so they can see if they enjoy one another's company. In the end, if you decide you want to be in a relationship with this man, you will want the whole family to be compatible.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got into a heated debate with the parent of one of my son's friends, and now I feel uncomfortable when I see this guy. We were talking politics, always a touchy subject, and we do not share the same views. Each of us expressed our opinions strongly, and we left in a huff. Now I see this guy at my son's school, and I'm not sure what to say. Can you help? -- Fiery, Bronx, N.Y.

DEAR FIERY: Why not let the past stay in the past? When you see this parent, say hello. Shake hands or do whatever you used to do when you saw each other. It is perfectly normal for two people to have differing political views. There's nothing wrong with that.

If you think you were disrespectful to this man, you could apologize for the conversation getting so heated. If, however, you just think views were expressed amid tension that could be expected given the subject matter, let it go.