Mr. Right—for Both of Us—by Jamie Levine

The other night, as I was cuddling with Jayda in her bed, she turned to me and exclaimed, “Mommy…I feel like when you’re happy, the whole world is happy!” and she kissed my forehead. I giggled as I kissed her back, and told her, “I’m always happy when I’m with you, Jayda.” Boy, do I love my kid—and thankfully, she knows it.

Lately, I’ve become friendly with a couple of single fathers who have tween- and teen-age daughters. They lament the fact that their girls no longer have any time for them, or in one man’s case, won’t hug, kiss, or cuddle with him any more. I try to think about that now when Jayda begs for “just one more hug” before I leave her at school in the morning, or when she races over to me when I’m watching her on the ice skating rink and smacks a kiss on my lips before she skates off again. And my heart burst with love this past Friday evening, when, as I left our house to meet someone for a drink, she stood at the door watching me walk to my car and yelled out, “Drive safe, Mommy!” There was no doubt that I would; Jayda adores me—and she counts on me—and that’s something I will never take for granted.

I recently met a brusque, self-centered man who was trying to dazzle me with his wealth; I was not impressed. While I’d love to marry a rich man (who wouldn’t?), what I want more is someone who respects and appreciates me—and who is good with my daughter: Someone who will love her as much as he loves me (and whom Jayda will love madly). We’re a package deal. And while I’ve always felt this way to some extent, I’ve been aware of it much more, lately—and have been evaluating potential suitors in terms of the ways in which they engage with Jayda. I never tell Jayda when I’m dating a man—or even thinking about dating him—but in the past few months, I’ve introduced Jayda to a number of new “friends”—at the gym, or the skating rink, or other public venues—and have observed their interaction. The only men I even consider taking seriously are the ones that dote on Jayda and make her smile.

Jayda is an easy kid to love: She’s incredibly smart, beautiful, funny, and affectionate. Plenty of men tell me how amazing she is—but it’s the ones who show her that they think she’s amazing that impress me the most: The ones who pay as much attention to her as they do to me. Jayda doesn’t “need” a father—she has enough people in her life who love her and a mother who takes great care of her, and consequently, she’s one of the happiest kids I know. Similarly, I don’t “need” a husband; I have a lucrative new career ahead of me, the best friends and family a woman could ask for, and the ability to take care of myself. But it can’t hurt for both of us to keep our eyes open, because while Jayda says, “our family is the best family ever,” I know there’s always room for improvement—as long as both of our lives are improved.