I’m a single mom with a child who has special needs. What’s that you say; it’s time for me to date. Ha! Who says? I’m good. I don’t need anything, I’m the all mighty and powerful…I think you know how that goes. Dorothy soon pulls the curtain back on the OZ fraud.

I recently had a girlfriend pull back my curtain. Not a pretty sight. I discovered, like other single parents of children with Autism, Downs Syndrome, ID/DD or any other form of special needs, I needed to get a life.

It was easy to use my daughter and her challenges as an excuse not to be social. I closed myself off from the outside world because I’d been devastated by my divorce. First, my heart needed to be coaxed into beating again. Then, I had to grow emotionally. I didn’t want to enter into another relationship with the baggage I had packed during the last one. Pathways Core Training,  gave me the tools I needed to grow and mature. There are lots of different programs this is the one that I chose.

Even if I were to go out on a date what would I talk about? My daughter. She’s my world not someone else’s. So I began with small adventures, like becoming a level one sommelier, zip lining, taking a hot air balloon ride, skeet shooting. I built a new vocabulary, new things to discuss and in the process set a new standard for myself.

I discovered meet up groups,  an online community. It’s free to join and you get to meet a lot of interesting people who share similar interest like dancing, art, wine, theatre and so much more. Yes, I tried online dating but found it to be incompatible with me and not a good match.

I never wanted Dawn to feel like I was abandoning her, like she did when her dad moved on with his life. I didn’t want her to be confused by different men coming to our home and I certainly didn’t want her to get attached to anyone that may not be around long.

But, I underestimated her ability to see people and situations for who and what they are. I needed to include her in a way that was respectful. I have boundaries. She can express to me how she feels but no texting my friends when I’m not looking. I’ve learned to allow her grace in this process. Sometimes Dawn would give me the evil eye while I was on the phone. She told me she was upset about me giggling because it felt like I was “hiding” something. She didn’t have to meet the person. A photo helped and my friend was no longer a mystery to her.

Dawn has taught me a lot about dating in general. If someone doesn’t respond to her in a positive way she gets it, quick and lets it go. She doesn’t waste her time with anyone who isn’t in to her. She always speaks her mind and is honest about how she feels. She doesn’t hold a grudge because someone doesn’t like her or if they’re rude, she just moves on. And she is always true to herself, she’s the same sweet, happy and smiling young lady with everyone she meets.

So, I’ve learned that dating is just that. It means going on dates with different people, whether a dinner date with a gentleman or a group meet up. It means staying true to who I am so they meet the real me. It’s being okay if someone isn’t “in to me” and letting it go so I can move on and letting them know when I’m not in to them. I’m not looking for a parent for my child and I’m not looking for a life partner, yet. I’m looking to live my life and take care of me and that includes socializing. And now that we’ve talked about expectations and how we feel, I have Dawn’s approval.