I am Isabel’s Boyfriend, David. We started dating just before all of this began. Sometimes the person you’re dating will lose a loved one. Sometimes the person you’re dating will become a parent(/guardian) and have their priorities change. Sometimes the person you’re dating will get a new, demanding job. Sometimes, all three happen within a few months.
Isabel, Charlotte, Jasper and Poppy are all awesome. All of their lives changed drastically at the same time, and because it happened to all of them, there was no pillar of normalcy within the family to lean on. Most people need that, but they powered through without it.
Readers of this blog will know all of this, but I want to reiterate, because I watched all of this from a (mostly) outside perspective. It’s been impressive and heartwarming to watch.
After only a few months of dating, Isabel’s life changed completely. Her priorities had to shift, her schedule changed, and her ability to spend time with me became entirely dependent on outside forces. These aren’t bad things, but they all took some getting used to. If you asked me a couple of years ago if I wanted to hang out with my girlfriend’s brother and sister and 15 of their high school friends at the beach for their birthday, I almost certainly would’ve passed. ‘Think of all the cool things someone in my twenties could be doing instead,’ I would have said, when I almost certainly would’ve just been home watching college football on the couch… But now, that’s something that I do, and enjoy doing.
When Isabel told me that she was going to take guardianship of the twins, my brain quickly asked all sorts of questions. ‘Will she ever have time for me?’ ‘Will I have to be some sort of responsible figure in their lives?’ ‘Should I just bolt?’ I’m ashamed of that last one. Thankfully it was only a brief and fleeting thought. Of course I stuck around. Isabel is still the same person and I love her. And holy cow, those were some selfish questions my brain came up with.
While scheduling time together has become more difficult, it’s mostly because of her awesome (and very busy) job. Time spent with Jasper and Poppy is fun, so that’s not a scheduling concern. Sure, we can’t decide on a whim to stay at my place if there’s nobody at home, but that’s an easy fix. The two of us do carve out quality alone time, but we also find ways to spend time together that involves the rest of the family. While I probably should be a more impressive role model around them, Isabel and Charlotte have that covered and they don’t ask that of me.
I am an expert in one area, though, where Charlotte and Isabel are sorely lacking experience. I’m the only one of us that was a teenage boy. They’ve asked me questions about Jasper and I’ve tried to talk about my experiences. I think I’m able to be helpful in that way, but you’d have to ask them. I try not to offer unsolicited advice (especially because I have zero parenting experience), but I’ll gladly give some if asked. I understand that I have no place in their family discussions or arguments. I certainly wouldn’t want someone adding in their two cents on my family dynamics in that situation. I just try to be supportive and helpful however I can. You know, like you’d do for the person you’re dating.
Thank you to David Gerhardt for sharing your experience and yes- you are very very helpful.