I will get straight to the point of this letter: I feel like the lowest form of life on earth right now. I am recently divorced, and have been doing my best to remain active in my young children’s lives now that I no longer see them every day. As a part of this effort, I have been volunteering to assist with the construction of a “haunted house” fundraiser organized by the PTA. It has given me the opportunity to be involved with my children’s after-school project, as well as to get to know some of the parents of their school-friends.
My divorce was very difficult, so I am enjoying meeting many new people who do not know me through my ex-wife as well as the bonding time that I am getting with my children. Another benefit to my volunteer position is the opportunity to meet other single parents; people who understand what I am going through, and who can offer me advice and encouragement for what comes next on my path.
In spite of my best intentions not to seek romantic involvement, there is one woman that I have fallen for – hard. “Sophie” is everything I have ever wanted in a woman: she is bright, funny, compassionate, educated, and professional without being stuffy. Her smile lights up the entire room, and I find myself wanting to be a better man because of her. Recently, we both stayed late to finish up some last minute details before the haunted house grand opening – I because I needed to work off some steam (my ex-wife had picked up the kids and berated about money); she because she did not want me to be stuck there all alone in my agitated state. We went out for dinner and drinks afterward and one thing led to another, if you know what I mean, Tazi-Kat.
I don’t regret what happened between me and Sophie, and I would like to continue to see her because I think we could work well together; but the problem is that she is my daughter’s first-grade teacher. Nobody knows what has happened between us, and for the sake of her job, we can’t say anything. We both realize it was an incredible breach of professional ethics, and she has told me that she cannot continue to see me until after the end of the school year. That isn’t until June, Tazi-Kat, and this is October!
A part of me understands that I must wait to pursue this relationship, but a larger part of me is afraid that Sophie will meet someone else in the meantime. I am ashamed to admit that the larger part won out and I suggested that I would casually say something to her Principal if she refused to continue to meet with me, if only on a platonic basis. Obviously, she did not react well to this and has been avoiding me like the plague. I have tried to apologize to her, but she still refuses to speak to me unless it is regarding my children. Even though I behaved like an absolute meathead, she is still the consummate professional.
I would never, ever do anything to cost Sophie her job or her reputation; and a part of me wishes she would call my bluff so she could see that. Tazi-Kat, do you have any advice to offer me on how to right this very wrong situation I have created?
Dear Bad Dad:
You sound to me like a very good Dad who made two rather huge mistakes – the first in being intimate with your daughter’s teacher, the second threatening to report her for her lapse in judgment. The question at hand is not whether or not you are good Dad, but whether or not you are a good man. Only you can figure out the answer to that question.
As to how you can right this very wrong situation, that might be the tougher of the two questions to answer, but I will give it a try. The fact that Sophie was willing to wait until the end of the school year to see if there was anything between you besides alcohol-induced attraction tells me that at one point she may have been interested in you; which also means there may be the slightest glimmer of hope for you, in spite of your horrible threat, if you don’t continue on your current course of bad mistakes. (I know this sounds crazy, but I am told that the heart wants what the heart wants!).
My advice to you is to write Sophie a sincere letter of apology (you can include a copy of your letter to me with it, if you think that will break the ice) and then give her the space she so obviously wants. That means, once the letter is delivered you do not approach her or try to talk to her about anything except for how it relates to your children; you do not ask about how she is doing, or pump mutual friends for information about her personal life. In other words, you leave her alone and let her decide if this is a relationship she would like to pursue, and you graciously accept whatever decision she makes. For the sake of your children, I hope this situation can be amicably resolved.