Body of Work

Peter Ehrlich’s New Bedtime Fantasy

By Peter Ehrlich

I want to talk about my newest, ongoing, “driving me forward” sexual fantasy. This twisted new fantasy is the new fuel that has launched me to join yet another dating site and contact virtually every single woman between the ages of 42 and 52. I can go to any dating site now and know the bio of most Toronto women right down to their astrological sign. That’s how passionate I feel about doing whatever needs to be done to live out this perverted dream.

Are you curious to know what the fantasy is?

I thought so, so with no further ado, here it is: A good woman, lying beside me in bed, in flannel pajamas, toes touching, heads propped up - reading together in silence.

(Ah yes, to be comfortable in your silence together. There is no better barometer for your relationship. The wonderful, kind and insightful Michael Kaufman once told me that -

Nothing these days is turning me on more than that image. I don’t “take care of myself” to the vision of the image, rather, I may let out a sigh, exhaled under the cool abyss of my blankets. After the sigh, I turn on my side to embrace the only thing I can embrace - my pillow.

Sick eh? I’m a young baby-boomer. My sexual formative years happened during the golden age, a time before HIV, when every girl and they were just girls back then, was on the pill. Evolutionarily speaking, that time came and went in the blink of an eye. But I was in smack in the middle of it, acting out my fantasies like I was a young Caligula, but with a good heart. Back then, my penis made almost all of my life-decisions for me. I’m still playing catch-up.

What happened? I got older. I did. Two of The Beatles have long since passed and there’s no need for another notch on my bed.

A long time ago, I watched lonely, divorced, isolated detective Al Pacino pull up beside a hooker and ask her to get in. She then asked him what he had in mind. “I just want you to sleep with me”, and he handed her one hundred dollars. She was dumbfounded of course, but CUT TO: the hooker awake, spooning Al, who was fast asleep in a fetal position.

I remember what did Commodus told Lucilla in Gladiator when he was watching her son sleep; “He sleeps well, because he knows he is loved”. I never forgot that moment. And so, Al Pacino could finally sleep well. It mattered not that it was a hooker, all women, and I mean all women have a serious nurturing side that begs to be appreciated.

I’m in the mood to sleep well too now. I didn’t care back then. I do now.

My son Noah, nineteen, not only left the nest, but he’s trekking around in Chile and Costa Rica with his girlfriend. The bedroom I built for him stares back to me in mocking silence. His only presence is manifested by the maps of Chile on the wall so I can follow his wanderings from 5,000 miles away.

I never understood why the elderly fed pigeons. I do now.

I never understood the notion that as you got older, “companionship” becomes more important. I do now. It’s the stuff that we who have trod so many miles deserve and require to be happy.

I can go no further with this column without puffing out my chest to remind you, and myself, that when the primal calls for it, this Satyr is still enthusiastic about answering the siren call, to gallop on to fulfill said equestrian duty. But my “performance menu” for an evening’s festivities and frolicking must now include “comfortable in silence” moments and that’s new.

There was a time in my single fatherhood where I could revel in my celibacy. That era is over with now.

Now it’s time to revel and live out my new bedtime fantasy - lying in bed with a “partner”, in flannel pajamas, toes touching, heads propped up, reading a good book, comfortable in our silence.

I feel so human today.

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In Defense of John Edwards

By Peter Ehrlich

For many years I’ve had this fantasy - to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with my teenage son. Climbing this iconic African mountain with Noah would be symbolic in that I would be passing the torch to my son. He would start the climb as a child-man and summit as a man. And as we stood on the top overlooking the Serengeti Plains far away below, we would embrace in loving desperation, the culmination of every mile we ever walked together as father and son. My fantasy mirrored the immeasurable depth of love I have for my boy.

John Edwards lived my dream with his beloved first born son, sixteen year old Wade. They summited Kilimanjaro together. Actually, Wade got there first, while his dad John was vomiting not far behind. I imagine John Edwards was feeling much the way I want to feel when I get to the top with my son-euphoric, a love so strong it could tear his heart away. 

Soon after their climb, Wade Edwards died; on the way to the family beach home when a gust of wind swept his Jeep off the highway. His passenger was unscathed.

Edward’s extensive revelations about Wade during the 2004 presidential race came in his book, “Four Trials,” in which he described the loss as “the undercurrent of my life.” That’s an eloquent way to put it I suppose. Personally, this primitive would simply say, “my son was my whole life and now I don’t care about anything anymore, or whether I live or die now.”

On paper, through the lens of the camera or by the wearing of Wade’s Outward Bound pin, the public message attempted by Edwards after his son’s death was clear; the family will prevail, I will prevail and we will move forward along with America.

But was that too much to hope for? Yes, obviously it was.

I remember reading this 1991 story about a hunter who shot his son by accident. Gene Bulak, 41, and his son Michael, 18, were on the road, riding in their new pickup to a hilly stretch of land fifty miles south of their hometown of Taberg, N.Y. Michael was supposed to be waiting for the deer on the hilltop, but he left his post and his father killed him instantly by shooting him in the head.

Bulak kneeled over his dead son’s body crying, “Mikey, Mikey, my baby.” A moment later, father and son were lying side by side, their faces virtually obliterated by their wounds. Bulak had committed suicide. Loading his son’s shotgun with a spare shell from his jacket pocket, he had knelt down on one knee and placed the barrel under his chin. Bulak was a tractor-trailer driver. He hauled copper wire. And that’s how I suppose most truck drivers would respond if they too killed their first born son. They’d kill themselves.

But John Edwards wasn’t a truck driver. He was a politician, and politicians don’t carry the necessary salt of the earth DNA to be able to commit suicide. But, they can do something else to alleviate the pain they imagined they could conquer for the sake of career. They can commit political suicide. And that’s exactly what Edwards did.

If you’re a parent, on the rare but consistent occasion, you’ve allowed yourself to imagine what you would do if your child died. We delve into this twisted dark fantasy so we may see the light and count our blessings.

What is your image? This is mine. If my son died, I would burn my house down with everything in it. I would rid myself of every possession but the essentials. I would then beg, borrow and steal every cent I could, jump on a steamship and begin walking across the nearest desert, not caring if I lived or died. In order to go forward with my life, I know I would have to try giving up at least once and damn the consequences or whoever got in my way.

Like John Edwards, I wouldn’t have the guts to kill myself. But whether I was conscious of the fact or not, I have no doubt that I would invent my own version of what would be tantamount to creating my own personal scorched earth policy, and destroy something I had built while sharing my life with my son. It seems like the right thing to do, to give something up you once felt you deserved. In Edwards’ case it was his marriage and political career.

After your first born dies, is anything sacred anymore? Ask yourself, if your first born died at the age of sixteen, would you really give a shit about anything anymore? I wouldn’t.

Dear John, yes, what you did was wrong. But I understand. I really do.

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Time For John Edwards To Be Single Dad

By Peter Ehrlich

There is a way back for John Edwards but it’s going to take courage and commitment.

Mr. Edwards needs to step up to a microphone and announce to the world, in a clear and unequivocal voice, that he is determined to take on the role and responsibilities associated with being the single father he truly seems to be.

According to press reports, a secret DNA test proved he was the father of the baby he fathered with Ms. Rielle Hunter. And if you look at the baby’s face, it’s obvious - Frances’ father is John Edwards.

I remember looking at a photograph of John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth renewing their vows and I thought, what a joke, because John Edwards is exchanging vows with the wrong girl.

Instead he should making a vow to Frances that, in consensus with her single mom, Ms. Rielle Hunter, he will take care of her as her father for the rest of her days.

Edwards is committing the ultimate sin at this moment. He is abandoning his child, and as I wrote previously for Single Dad Life, there is no excuse not to be involved. No man who abandons his child has the right to hold public office.

He has chosen to put his daughter into that great abyss of a black hole that is the final and unavoidable destination of all children who do not know where their father is.

Edwards has the resources and resolve to take care of his new daughter. He merely needs to call upon both to do the right thing.

As for his wife Elizabeth, according to her book she “begged” for fidelity. Well, it’s time for her to take responsibility for this relationship. If you have to “beg” for fidelity going into a marriage, let’s face it, he’s just not that into you.

And the fact that he cheats on his wife, while she has cancer is further proof that John Edwards doesn’t really want to stay married to her. His renewal of vows was a photo-op and that’s all it was.

I would have a lot more respect for Mrs. Edwards if she put forward the proposition that every child and I mean “every child” needs to know who their father is and have consistent contact with that father.

As a mother herself, she should understand that she needs to give John permission to do whatever it takes to see that that happens. For example, “why not invite Frances over to stay the weekend with us?”

Their marriage was likely finished years ago. They stayed married for his political career and their children.

But we wise single dads know, you don’t stay married for the children. In the end that only hurts the children, because children are uber-perceptive and all they witness and learn is how to conduct a loveless relationship.

Mr. Edwards, it’s time for you to step up to the plate, declare yourself the single father you are and undertake the responsibilities that come with the most wonderful job in the world - being a dad.

Do that and you have a chance at having a political career again, because you will have shown Americans that you’re not a deadbeat dad, you’re someone who took responsibility.

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Teens and the 'home haven' hypocrisy

Are teens truly welcome to use our homes as safe havens?

By Peter Ehrlich

Most parents offer the same adage to their teenage children, that “their” home is their unconditional safe haven, the one and only place in the whole big wide world where they’re always welcome.

But if that time-worn homage was turned into a legal document for a parent and child to sign off on, I would suggest the child read the fine print first.

Why? Because too many teenagers are paying the price for their parent’s often own unsafe, peculiar, unrealistic or irrelevant set of values.

It’s these so-called values, the very kind that have resulted in Toronto’s own unfortunate lazy branding – “Toronto the Good” that make up the fine print that is resulting in disenfranchised teens.

Too often, too many teenagers are told not to actually bother coming home if they’re:

· Late

· Stoned

· Drunk

· Plan to bring their girlfriend or boyfriend home with them

· Plan to bring a platonic friend home with them who is compromised as well – e.g. late, drunk or stoned

In other words, don’t bother coming to the “unconditional” safety of your own home if you’re practicing the fine art of being a normal teenager; of attempting to find your way in the world, however clumsily.

Don’t bother coming home if you’re exploring and pushing your teenage boundaries or trying to do something to accommodate a testosterone or estrogen level that’s thirty-times higher than it was one or two years previous.”

What is the societal price we are paying for putting conditions on a teen’s ability to come back home?

Too many Toronto teens are:

· staying stoned at school as a way of dealing with their parent’s unrealistic teenage social contract – much the way a drunk needs to drink to ward off their own demons.

· ending up in the local police station at night because they weren’t allowed to come home and instead were caught doing something their own parents could have prevented from happening by taking away conditions for their safety.

· ending up “bunking” at their friend’s house on the floor on a school night because they were locked out of their own home.

· having sex in laneways and other grotty, filthy places, getting pregnant together because condoms aren’t at easy reach, but their relentless sex-drive is.

Wouldn’t it be better to allow sexually active teens to practice their own sexual truth in the safety of their private space in their home? They’re going to find a way with or without your permission. Why not give it, with conditions, and provide the safe haven they’re entitled to?

Tragically, there are the extreme examples of how some Ontario kids have paid the ultimate price for their parent’s self-focused home- haven conditions.

I don’t want to write up the specific stories of children who have died in some field or shapeless dark location, because it’s not worth the potential price of reminding someone who was part of the nightmare of the horror. For all intents and purposes, these parents died alongside their child.

If you believe that the one place your children should always find a safe haven is the sanctity and safety of your family dwelling, do your child a favour - forget the fine print, because there should be zero tolerance for your child’s safety.

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Respecting your child’s sexual awakening

By Peter Ehrlich

If you have a teenage son you may relate to my story. I happen to have an eighteen-year-old boy.

When he was fourteen, I began to find girl’s hair clips around the house. I didn’t give it much thought other than “isn’t that cute?”

At fifteen, on occasion I found a girl’s pink or light green sock lying around in the house. The homemaker dad in me simply attributed that to the notion that one of my son’s friends, a girl, got her sock wet, took it off and forgot it at our house.

He had no steady girlfriend and there certainly weren’t any sleepovers, so what else could it be?

Looking back, the hair clip and socks were the first sign that there was something in the air.

What was in the air? It’s called testosterone. And there was thirty times the level of testosterone in the air than when he was twelve! That’s a fact.

This morning I was sorting through the laundry, and — lo and behold — I found two girl's socks and a kind of ballet-dancing top.

Socks are one thing. I’ve had lots of women take their socks off for me in my time. Since I didn’t have a foot fetish, it was never a big deal.

I can’t imagine that my son has a foot fetish. I’ve seen his girlfriends and I can tell you, and I say this with all due respect, there’s no need to think about feet yet.

A top however is a whole other ballgame. A top like the one I found just doesn’t come off — it gets taken off. There’s a difference.

Recently, we had to move. My son said this to me; “Dad, I don’t care where we live, but your bedroom has to be far away from mine.” Because I listen to anything my son asks or says with uncompromised respect, I didn’t burst out laughing.

Then, when I was alone a few minutes later, the full implication of his request came home to roost.

What he was really saying was thus: "Dad, I plan to have sex both with myself and my friends who are girls, and I’d like to have the freedom to do so without wondering whether you can hear me."

Fair enough. Repressed sex is bad sex. And if you can’t let loose, it’s repressed sex.

Imagine if my son was your son and his message to you was reversed? How would you feel about this; “Dad, I don’t care where we live, but I’m a eighteen-year-old teenager and I want my bedroom to be as close you yours as possible.”

I don’t know about you, but if he said that to me, I would immediately be on the phone to a child psychotherapist. “Doc, you gotta help me. My son won’t leave my side. I think he may be asexual”.

Yes, it’s a scary when the first signs that your child is interested in or having sex emerge, but at the end of the day that’s exactly what we want for our children as they become healthy adults.

One could argue that — as long as our children are practising safe sex — we should meet their sexual awakenings with sighs of relief. We must respect and honour this, their greatest transition.

Not only respect it, but encourage it, and that takes courage.

The kind of courage it takes to go out a find a house where your new bedroom is “far away” from your teenage son’s.

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Encouraging creativity in kids

By Peter Ehrlich

Oh sure, you and I might say we would love if our child turned out to be the next Paul McCartney or Alanis Morissette. But do we really mean it? If we did, we wouldn’t be saying things like this to our children, “Honey, I’m glad you love playing music, but you should focus on something that will get you a job.”

Sir Ken Robinson is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources, and was invited by the Outward Bound Canada to talk about how today’s “educational system is killing creativity.”

As a parent, I wanted to hear Sir Ken talk about the importance of the arts in education because I feel guilty, likely in the same way you do. As I watch my child’s journey through high school, I’ll admit to thinking, “Please be a university professor, doctor, dentist, lawyer or successful businessman.”

What’s so wrong about that is that my son is an amazing drummer. His drumming teacher told me that he has the potential to “go all the way.” Why can’t I easily wrap my head around the notion that it’s my duty to encourage his musical talent?

If ever there was a time in human history to encourage and develop your child’s artistic talent, it’s now. According to Robinson “UNESCO released a report that says more young people will be graduating with degrees in the next thirty years than ever before in history.”

“What does a BA mean anymore?” asks Robinson. “Not much. The MA has replaced the BA and the PhD will soon replace the MA.” He calls it “academic inflation,” and the result is that more and more people with degrees are “returning home to play video games.”

Robinson makes it clear that “Today’s educational system is based on academic ability — specific abilities that were required to meet the needs of the 19th century industrial revolution. Our children are having it drummed into their heads that if they don’t choose subjects that are most useful for work, they’re wasting their time.

“How many times did we hear, ‘There’s no point in trying to be a musician, painter or actor, doing what you like to do because you’ll never get a job?’”

The challenge, according to Robinson, is that “artistic creativity is buried deep.” It takes real commitment by both parents and educators to uncover it. So we parents really need to listen closely to the creative heartbeat of our children.

And if you’re thinking that maybe your child doesn’t have artistic talent, Robinson kills that excuse with this quote. “Picasso once said this: ‘All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.’”

Robinson believes this passionately; that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it or rather that we get educated out of it.”

As an example Robinson tells this wonderful story about Julian Lynn. She’s a choreographer who did Cats and Phantom of the Opera.

She was hopeless at school. As a matter of fact, the school wrote her parents and said, ‘We think Julian has a learning disorder.’ (Now they’d say she had ADHD.) She went to see a specialist with her mother. And she sat on her hands for twenty minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems she was having at school.

The doctor then went and sat next to Julian and said “wait here we’ll be back.” As they went out of the room, he turned on the radio and he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her.”

The minute they left the room, she was on her feet moving to the music. The doctor turned to her mother and said, “You know, Mrs. Lynn, Julian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”

Her mother did just that and Julian reveled in the joy she discovered hanging out with people who were just like her — people who could only be happy if they moved.

She eventually danced for the Royal Ballet School and became a soloist. She founded her own dance company. She has given pleasure to millions and is a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.

And listening to Sir Ken, I now unequivocally encourage my son, the drummer, to march to his own beat.

To learn more, go to or

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The importance of family meals

By Peter Ehrlich

On occasion, when I was growing up, a teenage buddy or I would dead-stop our ball hockey game or hang session by announcing, “I have to go home for dinner.”

First there was silence, then the reactions.

Reaction to this moment of teen blasphemy was divided into two camps; those of who came from “normal, caring families” and those who came from scattered, less caring families.

For those of us guys who came from families where our parents or parent made it their business to let us know that we mattered, we shrugged off the news as no big deal.

We accepted that family mealtime was a necessary, sacred tradition, like having to put up with crazy Uncle Danny at least four times a year.

For the boys who came from families where there was no such thing as the family meal, the reaction was a violent slam of hockey stick on pavement and mutterings underneath breath that soon turned into name-calling. The condemnation was usually, “What a wussie.”

We “wussies” never refuted the accusation. Maybe those tough guys were right. Maybe, deep down, we were a tad envious of those “ruffians” who had cast off every single responsibility to the family. Because, when they stop meeting with their families at the table, that’s exactly what children are doing: abandoning the family ship for the first time.

Looking back, I suppose we just felt lucky to have the family meal. We may have been called “wussies”, but we knew we had parents who loved us enough to provide us with boundaries.

And that essentially is what the family meal is. It’s the super glue that binds a family together. It’s “check in time.”

Once when I was driving in my car with my girlfriend, she said something that’s stuck with me: “You know what you do really well?” she asked. “You check in. Never does a lot of time pass without you asking me how I’m doing.”)

Well, isn’t that what love is? It’s about checking in, never getting so lost in your own world that you forget who you’re sharing the world with.

When I speak of the shared family meal, I am not referring to a special holiday broo-haa-haas like Christmas, Chanukah or Thanksgiving.

I’m talking about average week-day meals. Maybe, on any given Wednesday evening, it’s chicken with the skin on, green beans and a Pepsi.

It’s here, when the family effortlessly gives in to the moment of shared ideas, disagreements or howls of laugher or even silence that the reconnection is made.

At the dinner table, no “member” needs to worry about what they’re saying or how to say it. Family members seldom have to bring the proverbial destructive emotions of shame or guilt, feelings that often play too big part in everyday life away from the table.

This is why social scientists call the family meal a kind of “vaccine,” protecting children from the societal trench of darkness and pain that can so easily entrap them.

Experts in adolescent development say that it’s our teenagers who most benefit from the investment of family meal.

Studies show:
*that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide,
*that the more they eat together, the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use.
*the older the kids are, the more they need this protected time together, but the less likely they are to get it. (Maybe we parents think we’ve done our job. Or maybe it’s the damn technology, the cell phones, computers, iPods that is replacing the shared meal?)
*ethnic parents, often less educated, are more prone to insist on the family meal. It’s as if they want to fix what went wrong in their own lives. But you know what then happens? These kids are 40% more likely to get mainly A’s and B’s.

Breaking bread as a family is about civilizing our children, and teaching them their first life lessons regarding politeness and democracy. It’s not about food.

About five thousand years ago, an ancient Chinese King once said, “a society that does not know where it comes from, cannot know where it is going.”

Do you want to know where your family is going, because in essence, family is exactly that – a mini society.

Break bread together consistently and you’ll be that much likely not to become a family scattered to the wind.

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Big(ish) adventure travel means big father-son bonding

By Peter Ehrlich

“Noah, I’m going to put my foot on that rock and push myself up over the ledge. The rock is directly in front of you, so if it gave way, it would roll right into you. Can you please move over to the right?”

I looked directly into my son’s eyes and saw that he understood the clarity and importance of my message, our souls locked together in a tight, spiritual embrace. The message said “I love you”, it said “I see everything, every rock, every danger in front of you”. It said, “I am your father.”

My seventeen year old did as I asked, and when I saw he was out of harm’s way, I planted my right foot, took a breath and dug in, lifting myself over the final crop of rock before the reaching the top of the mountain.

This father-son scene recently took place on a mountain in the stunningly magnificent Emigrant Wilderness, just north of Yosemite Park, California on Highway 4, a couple of miles just west of the Sonora Pass.

My son and I were not on a dangerous climb per se, just a challenging and exhausting one where the natural elevation is approximately 11,000 feet. Though the mountain was only approximately 3,000 (fairly steep) feet high, we were 14,000 up in the air and I can tell you, each step was an effort.

But with each step taken, without anything being said, the bond between us deepened in a requited way. It wasn’t just dad choking and welling up inside again while my child wondered why.

Here, on this mountain, I sensed that he too was reveling in the sanctity, spirituality and pureness of the challenge; Father and son, stripped.

This wasn’t just another stroll outside of yet another Holiday Inn, rather, we were taking the “road seldom traveled”. We chose to test ourselves physically as father and son, as family.

Family means trust, and here we were, miles away from anyone who could help us, up in the clouds, in an environment that is better suited to creatures with four legs, not two.

(When we reached the summit, I acted like one of those gazelles you see in a National Geographic special while sharing a watering hole with the lions. In this case, it was dad’s noggin, nervously glancing around, making sure that a bear wasn’t interested in joining our expedition.)

Since we only had each other to depend on, our climb gave vital life and meaning to the word “trust.” We felt alive.

Experiencing family trust around the kitchen table is one thing, on the side of a big mountain, up in the sky, another.

The climb also defined, in a real and beautiful way, the passing of the torch and the further realization of my own mortality. It was a paradigm shift.

Until recently, the domain of “who took care of who” on a family outing was crystal clear. My job until our day on our mountain was for me to take care of my child.

Now it was my son who waited for me to catch up, lent his bigger paw to pull me up, who shouted encouraging words to a struggling and out of breath father.

Taking your child on an adventure that challenges is a delicate balance.

As a parent it is our sworn duty never to put our children in harm’s way. And the desire to protect is so powerful that it’s almost as though becoming a parent means giving up the right to die.

But there is something to be said for taking the sort of adventurous journey that tests the family physically and mentally in some way. The shared challenge with your child deepens your relationship, gives added meaning and weight to it.

In the desert of Nevada, we took a walk in 110 degree temperature, just so we could know what its like to feel a searing heat together.

In 2000, when I snorkeled with my son off the waters of Cat Island in the Bahamas, we developed a few simple hand signals so if one of us had to leave the water, or was in danger, the other would know immediately.

And when under water, again exploring a territory that wasn’t natural for us – because our feet aren’t webbed – nor do we have gills, the simple and silent hand signals entrenched a family love and affection more than words ever could.

My dream is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Noah, the last big adventure we take together, the ultimate symbol of father releasing child into the world. The climb is fairly safe, but it’s extremely difficult and often a painful journey.

But the reward of experiencing a family adventure “without logos,” is something all parents and their children should experience at least once in a lifetime.

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Single Dad: Get a plan, not a court date, with your ex

By Peter Ehrlich

Gloria Steinem once said, "The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off."

I know I've just pissed off some single dads who on more than one occasion have written me to tell me that it's "the feminists" who are responsible for their custody woes.

I never know what that means. You might as well say, "my mom bakes the best apple pie, but her elephant's muffler is about to go."

How does sexual equality have anything to do with the family court system? One notion that cannot be dismissed outright is the belief that courts and judges are gender-biased; that the system too often sides with single moms.

Are judges gender-biased? I decided to pose this question to two of them, both men.

Justice Harvey Brownstone of the Ontario Court of Justice sits at North York family court. He's been a family court judge for 13 years.

"We're not in the vengeance business," he told me "We are in the justice business and all we're concerned about is the best interests of the child. All judges have to take that approach. Parents have no rights; children have rights. Parents have obligations."

The problem with the family court system, according to Brownstone, is not that it's gender-biased, but that the system is ill-equipped to handle the complex psychological nuances associated with single-parent issues.

"Judges are not psychologists," he says. "People need counselling, need to learn how to communicate in a child-focused way. You've got to love your child more than you dislike your ex-partner. Your children need peace more than you need to be right."

And the criminal court system?

Harvey Salem has been a judge in that system for 17 years. "There is no gender bias," he states. " If a man calls the police and reports that he's been assaulted by his ex-wife, she will be arrested. Politicians have taken away discretion from police and crown attorneys."

He adds, "I only ever convicted 10 per cent of my cases."

Salem didn't look to convict the men who make up 98 per cent of all domestic assault cases. Rather, what he wanted was to "hear the accused apologize, and agree to go in for treatment."

If the perpetrator said those words to Salem, the charges were often dropped and he (or she) had no criminal record.

Here again, the implication is that the best interest of the child is paramount and having a father in jail is not in the child's best interest. If there is a bias, it is towards the rehabilitation of the accused.

Not all judges take that approach. There are kooks in every stratum of society, including the judicial community and that's another reason single parents need a good lawyer. They know who the kooks are.

Both Brownstone and Salem said the same thing: gender bias does not rule the court system; the best interest of the child does.

In the years I spent negotiating with my son's mother over access to our son at the Jarvis St. court house, (the late) Justice Lynn King never rejected any reasonable request I put forward.

I can understand if this column has pissed you off, but maybe it will set you free to do what you should be doing: reinventing your relationship with your ex while putting together a workable plan without using the court system.

It's in your children's interest to have a dad who is focused on their happiness, rather than (on the perception) that you got screwed.

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Give fathers more access in summer

By Peter Ehrlich

Summer holidays are fast approaching and for many single parents, the long hot days of July and August cannot be anticipated without a certain amount of angst.

Access agreements often list April or May as the time when single parents must present each other with their "summer intentions" in term of access to their child.

I wish I could just say "summer plans," but that would imply unconditional mutual acceptance, and that seldom happens.

Why are summer holidays often a time when lines are drawn in the sand? For many single fathers, summer is one time of year when restricted access makes no sense. If a loving, competent father wants to spend a meaningful block of time with his children once in July and once in August, neither his ex nor the courts should interfere.

By competent, I'm talking about fathers who:

  • Want to be with their children, capital W.
  • Plan to create an intimate space of time with their children, without cellphones, BlackBerrys or computers.
  • Are willing to spend less time with their girlfriend if she doesn't already have an established relationship with the children.
  • Are willing to make creative vacation plans, even if finances rule out exotic destinations.

Dads know that there is no legitimate excuse for restricted access during the summer, no good reason they should be limited to one weeknight or every second weekend for a day and a sleepover.

From September to June many fathers accept the fact that it's probably wise that children shouldn't be shuffled back and forth on a 50/50 basis just for the sake of being able to say they have their children exactly half the time.

I accepted it. No matter how much I wanted the formula to be 50/50 from day one, when I was able to separate myself from my ego, I knew the best thing for my son was for him to spend 60 to 70 per cent of the time with his mother during the school year.

But summer offers fathers (and mothers) the opportunity to spend meaningful blocks of time with their children.

"Blocks of time." Sigh. Many single mothers don't quite understand how precious those words are to fathers who ache deeply for more access.

Too often, personal resentment gets in the way of allowing moms to truly understand a man's yearning (and natural right) to have meaningful access to his children in summer.

Please allow me to make it easier for you to plan your summer holidays. Single dads should have no less than:

  • Seven consecutive days and nights, once in July and once in August if the children are between the ages of 3 and 6.
  • Eight to 10 consecutive days and nights if the children are between the ages of 7 and 9.
  • Ten to 14 consecutive days if the children are between 10 and 13.
  • Children over the age of 13 should be allowed three weeks plus per month if they want that.

Children under the age of 3 may have a difficult time being separated from their mom for an uninterrupted week. In such a case, only both parents know what's right.

That said, a caring dad should have little problem taking care of a young child by himself for at least five consecutive days and nights.

Kids love summer. Summer means freedom. Don't spoil it for them by thinking you own them.

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Single parent genie gives you three wishes

By Peter Ehrlich

Have you brought home two or three love interests to seriously meet and hang out with your child?

If "yes," read on, because your child's developmental well-being will likely start to be compromised after they meet your next.

A study out of Johns Hopkins University has shown "that a child who had experienced more than three transitions had more behavioural problems than those who had no transitions."

The research, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, was published in the April 2007 issue of American Sociological Review and was peer-reviewed. In it, 2,097 children ages 5 to 14 had been studied since birth until 2000.

Behavioural problems mean delinquent behaviour, including skipping school, vandalism and crime.

The authors also observed that "children who experienced multiple transitions in family structure have lower average scores on tests of mathematics and reading skills."

That's a heavy price for children to pay for their parent's libido.

Think of the transitions our children have gone through just to get to today. First, your children (hopefully) got to experience the "happy family period." Then they perceived that their parents were falling out of love. That hurt.

Then they couldn't understand why their parents were less patient with them. Finally, "why is Daddy (or Mommy) moving away?"

Many times I have encouraged you (and myself) to go out and meet someone. But life's passion-swords are double-edged; its orgasms, sexual or not, carry a price.

The price of multiple transitions is heavy – a dysfunctional child who will become a dysfunctional adult, marooned on an island surrounded by stable people.

Most single parents know it's unhealthy for children to have unnecessary transitions, but not all.

There are still stories of parents bringing their kids on first dates. Unforgiveable. That's extreme, but over the course of a dozen years, it's easy to meet three people who will affect your children.

Life is fragile.

It doesn't take much to upset the balance – a wrong word, moment of infidelity or violence. We can easily create a situation that will result in a "forever haunting."

When we choose to bring a new person into the lives of our children, we risk the tipping of that delicate balance our children desperately need – defined by consistency and peace.

Why do children hide behind your legs when strangers approach? It's because they're children and strangers are strange by definition.

To go from hiding behind your leg, to meeting your new friend, to feeling comfortable, revelling in the company of, to never seeing again is an arduous journey and children rely on us to take them there with discretion.

When "we" break up with someone, "they" break up with someone. That combined with the back and forth, the lugging of their "stuff" is a helluva lot to ask.

The single parent genie grants us three (transitional) wishes. After that, we bite the bullet and revel in our celibacy until our children can create their own transitions.

Then we're free to make all the mistakes we still need to make on our karmic wheel.

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Empty nest hits single parents extra hard

By Peter Ehrlich

I find no sight more poignant these days than the remains of an abandoned bird's nest. It puts my life into perspective better than any other image, with the exception of my mirror. ("Did I rent my face out or what? Who the hell are you"?).

In a matter of weeks, birds build their nest, teach their children to fly, push them out, and from what I can gather, don't even bother saying goodbye.

My son is 17 years old. He's still my baby right? Wrong.

I know that if I were to throw him the keys to his own apartment he wouldn't hesitate to take them with a "thanks for everything, Dad. We had a lot of fun. I love you. Gotta go."

Once we've decided to give our children wings, we must give them the wings of an eagle, not a sparrow, so they can fly as far away as they want to.

When you're a couple and your child leaves, you still have your partner to talk, explore and make love with.

As a single parent, with no child to care for, no friend to crawl into bed with, we may think we are starting our life all over, but that's not true. Too much time has passed, too many lessons learned, for us to think living alone now will be as easy as it was when we were single in our 20s.

Back then we could afford psychologically to live alone and take the time to watch a spider struggle to make its way up the wall. Now that moment would hurt – a lot.

To thrive in the "emptiest nest years," we should force ourselves to be more daring. We need to consider a leap before we look, a proactive approach because we don't want to be a (single parent) boomer with too many regrets.

Here are a few suggestions how we can better survive the emptiest of nests:

Plan ahead. Don't avoid thinking about it because you don't want to face the fact that an empty nest is looming. How does that make you feel? What are you going to do when the time has come?

Forget making a long list of the places you still want to see. Choose one place and start there. Stone circles in Dartmoor with a friend? Just do it.

For years you encouraged your children to keep practising so they would become proficient at that something. Now it's your turn. J.K. Rowling said she contemplated suicide while a poor single parent as she suffered from depression. Then she wrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Why not you?

If you're aching for intimacy, find someone worthy, because you're officially out of excuses. And you can now have sex without worrying about your child popping in.

This may sound horrific, but would it be such a bad thing to move in with another single parent in a similar situation? (Great sitcom potential!)

At the end of the day, single parent empty-nesters should recall Edith Piaf's courageous code of living: Non, je ne regrette rien.

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Good men step in to become dads

By Peter Ehrlich

My single mother collected bottles on Miami Beach for money. I know because she told me.

I was on Google Earth recently to learn more about that "beach-bottle" time. I had a frayed document with the Miami address. After I punched it in, I was beamed down to float right above our Miami apartment.

I hovered over the laneway that my mother had to have walked down to find her bottles. I stared at a great swath of sand at the end of the laneway, sharing the pain, shame and poverty that my mother must have felt.

We eventually fled back to Montreal, where we first lived in one room with my grandparents on the Esplanade and then finally to our own flat in Outremont, where I played in the mud and gravel behind the building.

When I was 5 years old, I told my mother, "I want a daddy" and a year later I was sitting on Gunther Ehrlich's lap.

She asked, "How would you like Gunther to be your father?" Without hesitation, I said, "Yes." When I found out we shared the same birthday, Dec. 6, the deal was spiritually sealed.

Until meeting him I had never fished, seen stars in the sky, walked in the woods or visited a zoo.

Gunther Ehrlich took me everywhere and introduced me to a new and beautiful world that I explored with unbridled joy.

He provided us with a real home, a life defined by cottages, lakes, hiking and fishing.

When we were not at the cottage, he took us on road trips to Vermont, Maine or the Adirondacks.

He taught me that travel is a great form of education and that the road less travelled is the best one, the place where one finds the greatest treasures.

For the first time I saw that men, too, can love and nurture and I was at last in the company of a man who "wanted" to be my father.

When my father said, "Here are the car keys," he gave me wings, allowing me to experience the joy of independence.

My mother died at 49 when I was 17 years old. I still needed him and he was always there for me. Without him I would have fallen through the cracks of society.

I now know the degree of love and commitment it took for this "magic-man" to walk into my life and take on the mantle of father.

Who is a man who "wants" to father someone else's children? He's someone who:
  • Sees past the notion that the only children worth loving are those created by his sperm and that anything else is less sacred.
  • Finds joy in giving to children because the torch he wants to pass on isn't defined by his last name, but rather the quality of love he feels a natural desire to impart.
  • Understands that love is an activity, that there's a reason children dance even when standing still. Children need to be active, have their heads stuck in everything good and beautiful. He makes this happen.
  • Sees life as a process and wouldn't deem a failed marriage a mistake. He gives a single Mom every opportunity to start anew and revels in the glow she radiates as she sheds the parched skin of a painful past.
He's a man who saves lives. He's also my father.

Thank you, Dad. I'll pass it on to your grandson.

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Boundaries needed between single parents and their kids

By Peter Ehrlich

Recently I was in the living room watching my 17-year-old son and his friends smoke, drink, giggle and flirt with a bunch of stunning 17-year-old girls. I know they're stunning because my own ageless 17-year-old heart, trapped in this adult body, tells me so.

When I talk to these young women I look straight into their eyes while thinking of something like, "Wow, cherries are only $2.99 at Loblaws."

My son's friends like me because we share some of the same passions; we all love '70s music.

It is not unusual for the bunch of us to jam and sing songs from the Stones' Exile on Main Street – teenage boys and single dad singing; "Gimme little drink, from your loving cup." Even though I know it has nothing to do with a cup.

Recently, for the first time ever, one of them called out to me, "Hey Peter, want to have a smoke with us?" (There is no chance anyone would call me Mr. Ehrlich.)

My 17-year-old heart snapped to attention but my single dad brain slapped it back down. "What the hell are you thinking?" I asked my heart.

My heart replied, "But you're all such good friends, why not?"

"Because, I am not truly their friend; I am my son's father and his friends' father figure." My heart sat back down in quiet resignation.

The fact is, this single dad is "single dad seeking" at the exact same time my son is "single son seeking" and that causes a blurring of the lines, even if I am seeking something romantic and lifelong.

It's so easy to blur the relationship line between single parent and child when your kids become preteen or teen. Easier because we hang out with our kids much more often than we with do our ex.

I asked Dr. David Wolfe about the importance of "boundaries" in the single parent-child relationship. He is the RBC Chair in Children's Mental Health at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

"There is nothing wrong with saying you're friends with your child," Wolfe says, "but as an adult, not on the same level as peer friends. Boundaries are required.

"Children want us to be parents. Parents need to stick to their generation so their teenage children can have theirs – their clothing, hairstyle and music."

"Moms shouldn't be making an effort to run out and try to look like their daughters, getting a navel piercing or whatever, and men 50-plus shouldn't be hanging out in muscle shirts.

"Social drinking is fine, but that means sharing one drink at home."

I'll be wearing sleeves more often this summer and, after talking to Wolfe, I was reminded of the importance of lines in the sand, being a friend to my son while staying the course as the father figure he needs me to be.

I have no plans to stop singing "Loving Cup" with my son and his friends, but now I'm going to leave the room shortly after the song ends.

Our character is defined by our will. My heart may be 17, but my old soul is not. If single dad is lonely, he needs to find his friends elsewhere.

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White Teeth and School

By Peter Ehrlich

Even in war, there are rules of civilized engagement. Men in suits gave these rules a great brand – the Geneva Conventions. They represent the bottom line on how people should behave in war.

No matter where you and your ex are at this moment, there are non-negotiable child-related issues that you must immediately come to terms with, regardless of your relationship, politics or court agreement.

It is necessary to reduce the cacophony to the essentials, aside from the most important, being loved; I'm talking about straight teeth and school work.

We all want our children to do well in life. Maybe we single parents want it just a tad more because we often feel so guilty about what we have "chosen" to put our kids through.

I say "chosen" because I am a big proponent of taking ultimate responsibility for the relationship choices we have made in life.

Like it or not, we have chosen every moment with our ex. George Costanza put it another way: "It's not you, it's me." And if Bill Clinton were a single parent, the sign on his wall would be, "It's not the court, stupid, it's me."

Our children need straight teeth and a successful school experience to have a decent a shot at having a good life, and not one nanosecond of single-parent garbage should get in the way of that.

Teeth are an ultimate physical bottom line. You can be the Hunchback of Notre Dame and still find a great job or launch your own business empire if you have a great set of white, straight teeth.

Whatever we have to do to ensure that our child could star in a Crest commercial if they wanted to, we have to do it.

If the access agreement states it's single Mom who has the responsibility to pay the dental bills, but she can't afford to, single Dad doesn't spend one moment fuming, swearing or cancelling any dental appointments.

Rather, you calmly foot the bill with no hesitation. If you can't, sell something, anything.

Quid pro quo. If single Dad can't pay, then single Mom pays in silence.

Unconditional teamwork is also essential in your child's school work.

Single parents must climb out of their respective trenches and find a way to meet in no man's land to be on top of their child's school progress.

For children to do the best they can in school, they should know that both parents are equally supporting their time and work there.

Against all odds, we single parents need to sit down with our kids together, present a unified front and calmly discuss how school is going and what we can do to help.

We need to meet with their teacher with our ex, listen, respond, and then meet with our children to pay the necessary compliments and offer constructive suggestions on how to improve their life in school.

White, straight teeth and a successful school life – our children can't leave home without them. It's our responsibility, no matter what.

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The Joy of Single Parent Sex - really

By Peter Ehrlich

Talk about an oxymoron and a book title not yet found on any shelf: The Joy of Single Parent Sex.

Surely it's more relevant to single moms and dads to discuss the angst, court system, and the struggle to find a common ground with our Ex for the sake of our children.

Neither "single parent hedonism" nor "single parent sex" is found on Google. But "grandparents and sex" is. Up popped "grandparents caught in compromising position on the beach".

I take great delight in finding something positive in an unexpected place, such as when I was 13 and found a Playboy magazine tucked into Uncle Moe's bookshelf.

Years later, the unexpected place is the single parent home and the subject is sex.

Here is why I think there is joy in single parent sex:

When you're out on a date and the person opposite you looks as perfect as a hot cup of coffee on a Sunday morning before the kids are awake, you can both talk about how you love your kids and actually get turned on a little more because knowing your date or lover, like you, loves their children, is wonderful common ground.

There is little chance either of you is a swinger because a great single parent can't possibly have the time. And both of you will likely greatly appreciate the sex, as in "Thank you, Lord."

Because the interval between sexual encounters is likely to be months or (gulp), years, each time is, well, like the first time. There is no way any single parent is going to approach sex with the words: "Oh yawn, I have to have sex again."

And so, each roll in the hay, assuming the affection is mutual as it should be, is engaged in with great enthusiasm. You and your mate can bring your cellphones to the night table, both of you understanding it's perfectly fine if your sex is interrupted by a phone call from either the babysitter or your teenager who is drunk and needs you to pick her up.

Not only would such an interruption not be a reason to get angry with the partner who must put their clothes back on after finally locating their underwear buried in the bedclothes, but in no time – say, the next day – it would also be an anecdote to share a laugh about.

You can tell anyone – the most cynical people you know, even your parents – that you had sex and they'll be happy for you.

There are many reasons to be grateful for and inspired by your single parenthood. It can be a rewarding lifestyle, regardless of the fact that "woe is me" is too often attached to our current lot in life. (We'll visit those reasons in subsequent columns.)

But for now, it's summer, it's hot, you're hot, and every magazine out there talks about the joy of sex or how to have great sex.

I wanted to pay homage to the sex life of the world's fastest growing family configuration, single parents.

We know all about sex. None of us is a virgin.

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Shared activities essential for love

But single parents, short of time, often rush headlong into doomed relationships

By Peter Ehrlich

Last year my New Year's Eve was spent with a wonderful woman whom I had known for only two weeks. We drank cold Californian white wine, sideways as a matter of fact, and ate oysters. It was a glorious evening with angels perched on each post of the headboard. I even asked one to "please pass me the water."

We also exchanged the words all of us spend our entire lives wanting to say and hear – "I love you." Single dad was deliriously happy on Dec. 31, 2006.

I wasn't so happy when we broke up four months later.

What happened?

Single dad (and the woman in this story, who is still a wonderful woman) fell for the "love is a feeling" myth, as Scott Peck described it in his landmark book, The Road Less Traveled. His position is that real love is found in shared activities.

This single dad had his own set of activities. "Wonderful single woman" had hers, and never the twain did meet.

Is it enough to be attracted by someone physically and have unlimited respect for their brain? Can you build a relationship just on those attributes?

No we can't, because they are passive.

Our activities define our values. Without similar values, single parent couples are doomed, both as singles and as single parents. Singles need to share values, single parents more so because children ultimately become involved in activities.

Single parents are prone to getting trapped by the "love is a feeling" myth because we are sometimes a tad more desperate than regular singles as a result of our time restraints.

(Young men who stalk yummy mummies know this.)

Often we rush things along as if our mating dance was in constant fast-forward.

How important is it to undertake "doing things" together to find out the truth about your relationship?

One couple I talked to, Scott and Julia said "We realized we were in love after we took a 30-day trip to a Third World country. We experienced hardship after hardship, threw up together and shared the Maalox bottle instead of fine wine. When we were still in love at the end of our journey through hell, we knew it was real."

Single dads and moms often sacrifice the "activity" as part of their courtship or search for common values for the sake of not wanting to compromise quality time with their children. This is a mistake.

Single parent guilt has turned too many of us into "single parent wussies," not having the guts to hand off our resilient kids in order to experience meaningful activity with another adult.

If you're serious about finding out the truth about your relationship with someone, drop your children off, sans guilt, and join a range of activities that define your values. You'll soon discover if you're a match.

If there's someone you're considering as a marriage partner, book a ticket to a faraway destination that will challenge you on the most basic levels. Better yet if you need to take malaria pills. When you arrive back at Terminal 1, you will know the truth.

If you don't care about the truth, that's fine.

Here's what I did on Dec. 31, 2007; I was alone, rented bad movies and ate marshmallows.

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Children bridge divorce's war zone

By Peter Ehrlich

Lust. Love. Betrayal. War. Redemption. Peace. Sounds like an ad for your typical television fictional mini-series. It’s not. It’s my life-changing non-fictional journey as a single dad.

My ex and I separated and the subsequent result was her and I engaging in a fierce custody battle. A few couples can separate amicably. We could not.

When a mother and father fight over their child, the stakes always feel exponentially extreme.

Watch any nature program starring a mother bear and her cubs (children). Then picture yourself walking into the frame with the intention of approaching her babies. You’re not walking out unscathed. That’s motherhood.

Unlike male bears, evolved men are programmed to care for and defend their children as well. That’s fatherhood.

In a custody battle, it’s not about Venus and Mars. It’s about Venus and Venus - colliding.

And so, like lots of you, my ex and I fought - a lot. The hostility was always there. Whether on the phone or during the “handoff” we were like the two guards facing each other at the DMZ between North and South Korea.

Even apart, the silence of our war was deafening.

To steal a line from Apocalypse Now, my ex and I looked upon each other “with extreme prejudice”.

Then life threw me a magical curve. Here goes.

As per our Access Schedule, I went to my son’s school to pick him up. (My ex was the registrar.)

When I walked in, the entire staff crowded around me; “Suzanne didn’t come in today for work. And she never called in sick”. There was a look of deep concern in their faces.

With their words my body caved in. I knew my ex was in serious trouble. Suzanne was too disciplined to not call in. It was impossible. Something was very wrong.

I was stricken. There was nothing cerebral about my reaction. It was all from the gut. As Woody Allen says, “nothing worth knowing can be understood by the mind”.

I grabbed my son, jumped into the car, racing to her house.

I knocked. No answer. The door was unlocked, the house empty. I got on the phone and called her best friend, now nearly hysterical, “Ingrid, Suzanne is missing”.

She suggested I call the police and ask if an ambulance was sent to the address.

I did, and yes, Suzanne was picked up by an ambulance and taken to Mt. Sinai.

Speeding there, I parked the car in the first illegal spot I saw and we ran to her room.

There she was, her eyes lighting up at the sight of our son. She had a gall bladder attack. I slumped in a chair, put my face in my hands and cried.

A nurse came in and said to Suzanne, “see how your husband loves you”.

We heard the words but could not possibly acknowledge the great irony to each other. Suzanne saw my tears and silently absorbed them. The emotional benefit for me would be manifested another day.

The magic? I discovered a love for my ex. I loved Suzanne because she loved our son. Nothing else mattered. I discovered the ultimate bottom line, and by doing so, was freed from the shackles of “extreme prejudice”.

Since that day we have been civil towards each other, something our son loves.

It’s the end of the year. Maybe it’s a good time to look deep within ourselves to discover the part of our soul that understands, once you willingly have a baby with someone, there is always love - somewhere.

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Female Qualities Single Dads Should Look For

By Peter Ehrlich

OK it’s “Houston-we-have-liftoff” time; a new era is about to begin. You’ve lined up two dates: One is a woman from your favorite online dating site who calls herself "LUVS2KISS," and the other is a coworker who reminds you of an adult Pippi Longstocking.

You’re a single dad now and the days where you could order the wrong dish from love‘s menu without much worry for indigestion are gone.

You understand you need to be much more discerning now. As we discussed before, anyone you invite into your life as a from now on impacts your child in some way.

Discerning in this case means carefully considering the qualities to look for in the woman who may one day be part of your child’s life. To put it another way, it’s about shared values and qualities. That being said, here are some of the questions a proud single father needs to ask himself when evaluating the qualities of a potential mate.

Is she fun?

After Steve Irwin -- the Crocodile Hunter -- died, his wife Terri was interviewed on TV. She was crying a lot. The interviewer asked her, “What was it that made Steve the special person he was?” And I was struck by the simplicity of her response: “Steve was so much fun. He was so much fun to be with.” Then she broke down again.

There it is: The great priority and ultimate in life is having fun. It’s what keeps a relationship together. Did you forget what fun is? After all, with the breakup and the dividing of things, “fun” may be a distant memory. If so, try asking your kids; they definitely know what fun is. That’s why, whenever you ask them what they’re doing, their one-word reply is always “playing.”

That being said, when you’re meeting potential new partners, it is crucial you ask yourself, “Is this woman a fun person to be with?” Because if you’re just interested in a woman because she’s the sexy, stern librarian-type, but she has no idea what fun is, she may not be the one for you or your children.

Are her friends child-friendly?

So let’s say you’re on date No. 2 with Sue. Sure, you didn’t laugh much on the or find much in common with her, but you don't care: Sue has great breasts. Sue suggests that “it’s time you met my friends,” so she arranges for the both of you to visit them this coming Saturday.

Sue also suggests that she pick you up so you don’t have to worry about driving. She pulls up in her rusty 1978 Ford Pinto, a car you would never dare to place your child in.

You climb in and after 20 minutes of agonizing silence, it begins to dawn on you that not having anything to talk about is really bad.

More qualities single dads need in a woman

Eventually, you pull up to Don’s Trailer Park. Sue is excited, you not so much. After the pothole, you drive up to “Trailer No. 17,” where -- seated on frayed lawn chairs and dressed in sweatpants -- are her friends.

Her friends can’t rise to greet you because they’re too drunk. What makes that even more off-putting is that it’s 11 in the morning. Cheryl is Sue’s best friend, she can stand, but accidentally hits you in the face with her cigarette butt when she goes to shake your hand. Your goatee is on fire and, for obvious reasons, you start thinking that her friends may not be right for your children.

Is she patient?

You’re sitting together having a wonderful, conversation, sipping on a latte, completely oblivious of the world around you. And then it starts: The child three tables away from you two lovebirds starts talking loudly and everything comes to a stop. Sure, the child having an animated conversation with herself is not a problem for you -- just like you know you can’t change anyone, you can’t stop a child from being a child. But quickly now, you look over at your date and get a sense of her reaction to the interruption. What? There’s a frown on her face? Not good. She’ll frown at your kids for the same reason when they dare to take time away from her.

Is she childlike?

So, it’s date No. 2 with Margaret. You know, the date that followed your first get-together during which a chemical explosion took place on your shirt when the waiter placed the chow mein in front of you.

Margaret suggests going to the Maple Sugar Festival that is taking place at Kane Conservation Park. “Wow,” you say to yourself, because that’s where you regularly take your daughter. So you go and have a childlike blast together.

And you know what the best part was? The moment your date spilled her maple syrup all over the front of her shirt and laughed her head off -- just like your daughter did all those years ago. Except, this time it’s sexy. This time it’s a turn-on.

We all have an inner-child in us, lots of us have forgotten that, but the right woman for you hasn’t.

Is her body a temple?

One thing being a single dad does is remind you of your mortality. It’s that “passing-of-the-torch” thing, I suppose. So, in the end, you’re careful about what you eat. You read the ingredients on the side of the box and drink lots of water. You’re not only doing this for you, you’re doing this for your children because you want to be strong and healthy for them.

So if your body is your temple, but your date keeps suggesting a restaurant that specializes in bright red chairs, sharp tables and waitresses that keep their pens behind their ears, it’s not a good sign. After all, if you decide to test the family thing by breaking bread together with her and your children, you won’t want to cringe when you do.

Affection is a quality single dads should find in a woman

Being outwardly caring is one of many qualities single dads should find in a woman

Is she flexible?

Why did you think “Romanian gymnast” when you read that heading? Well, probably the same reason I did when I wrote it. But let’s get our mind out of the gutter, you understand how flexible you’ve had to be as a single dad: Plans have often had to be changed on a moment’s notice, a couple of times you had to pick your child up from the expected sleepover because she changed her mind just before bedtime and twice now you had to run her to the emergency room for stitches.

If you had been dating during those child-centric days, the only plans you probably had to cancel consisted of FHM or downloaded videos produced by Ron Jeremy

Since you know that being a single dad will always mean that the unexpected will be the expected regardless of your child’s age, you need to ask yourself, "Is the woman I’m dating a flexible kind of person?" Because if she’s not, she’s not going to understand when you have to cancel intimate bed and breakfast plans to take care of your daughter who decided it was a good weekend to start throwing up.

Is she affectionate?

You or hug your children whenever you can (or did) because they’re the ultimate symbols of love and affection. With this in mind, does the woman you’re dating feel the same way about affection as you do? If you’re the kind of single dad who considers kissing and hugging to be important, you’re not going to resonate with someone who doesn’t.

Why bother thinking about introducing her to your offspring if kissing and hugging isn’t a language she speaks. Your children won’t “get her” because they speak that language, the one you taught them so well. And besides that, they’ll always feel sorry for you when they watch the two of you “not kiss.”

is love an activity or a feeling?

The question above comes right out of the popular book, The Road Less Traveled. What makes any relationship work is the commonality of the things the partners do together. You can talk about the feeling of love until you’re blue in the face, but what do you do to manifest that feeling?

Remember single dad, when you want to show your children that you love them, you do things together. So I ask you, do you and the woman you’re seeing like to do the same things? I’m only asking because if you get in deep with her you will be doing things together with your children. If she doesn’t enjoy doing what you all enjoy doing, you won’t be doing much together in the future. Hence, the road will be much less traveled.

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