I spent much of this past weekend with Paul, and will spend much of this coming week with him as well. But for a change, I don't want to talk about him. I'd rather talk about his mother.
If you go back in my archives to September and October of 2006, you'll find a number of posts detailing the process of falling in love with Tabbatha, and how Paul worked his way into my heart. (You'll also discover the subject matter around here used to be a lot more wide-ranging, and I used obscenities much more often.) But in all I wrote about her, about them, I never quite articulated the valuable lesson she taught me.
I never considered myself good with children. Nieces, nephews, whatever, I'd get along with them okay, but there was always a distance, a discomfort on my part. My ex-wife and I chose not to have kids, and though I had dated single moms before, I tended to view the children involved as incidental, as bridges that would have to be crossed someday if the relationships ever turned serious, which of course they never did.
When Tabbatha and I started dating, I knew of his existence, of course, but it took awhile before I met him. It was still possible in those early stages to think of her without him, a separate entity, my girlfriend first and foremost. This kid of hers existed outside of the relationship, at least in those early stages.
The first time I actually met Paul was at his birthday party, and we got along okay, considering how much activity swirled around us. The night before that, I accompanied Tabbatha on a shopping trip for all the things she wanted to have for his party, napkins and snacks and a Superman pinata. She weighed the option of whether a Justice League card would be cooler than a solo Superman card, and as she did so, it started to occur to me, this kid of hers, this kid I hadn't met but whose tastes seemed so similar to my own at that age, must be pretty awesome. And lucky, to have a mom who loved him so much, who gave such thought to what he wanted.
The next day at the party, and every time after that when the three of us would get together, I realized one of the things I loved most about Tabbatha was that she was a mother. It somehow took the woman I already had such feelings for and deepened them, revealing aspects of her personality I hadn't known and would come to love more and more each day. What a joy it was to watch her and this amazing kid constantly squabble and hug and wisecrack. She made being a mom seem like the coolest thing in the world.
If nothing else, the time I spent with Tabbatha made me more appreciative of something I really should have known all along.