Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Don't Blame Him. I Think She's Great too.

My regular readers will know that I have always been an extremely involved dad.  And, like many dads these days, since day one I have done my best to share the parenting responsibilities equally along with Mrs. LIAYF.  I have accepted this responsibility with enthusiasm and have been rewarded 1000 fold with the unconditional love of my little guy.

A benefit of this involvement has thus far been that, save for his breastfeeding days, Lukas has not shown a partiality to either Mrs. LIAYF or I.  He has always seemed equally comforted, and comfortable with either of us.

But recently there has been an ever so slight, but noticeable change in his attitude.  As I suspect happens with many little boys, Lukas is starting to show a preference to his mother when it comes to being comforted, both emotionally and physically.  I'm not sure if this is due to some change in the way I have approached dealing with him.  I honestly don't think that is the case.  As far as I am concerned I show the same kind of love and affection towards him that I always have.

But recently he has began to notice that daddy isn't as soft and cuddly as his mother is.  And neither am I as good at giving snuggles as Mrs. LIAYF is.  He even recently said that he didn't want to hug me because he 'didn't like my whiskers'.  And more than once he has said that he only wanted mommy around, without really giving a reason. 

All I can really say to this is that, well, he has a good point.  Mrs. LIAYF is very good at these things.  And my whiskers, even when freshly shaved, can be a bit rough.  With those things, I can't really compete.  And I don't want to either.  It's altogether natural for a boy to be more affectionate towards his mother than his father, especially as he gets older.

But the truth is, this still makes me slightly sad.  I know that this is a natural cycle in a lot of children's lives, and that given time the pendulum that is his parental preference will most likely shift back in my direction once again.  Sad, but just a teensy bit really.  I suppose that's human nature.
Anyway, even though I know with certainty that he still loves me as much as ever and that I am still his second favorite person in all the world, the whole motherly preference notion was reinforced on the way to preschool Monday morning.  Lukas had mentioned over the weekend that he needed a family picture to have at school so Sunday night we had packed one into his backpack.  I pulled it out and showed it to him on the way to school.  His response was to start kissing the picture.

"You know what I am kissing?" he asked.  "Mommy?" I guessed.  "Yes, because I love Mommy" he replied.  "What about daddy? Do you love daddy too?"  "No, I just love mommy."  Ouch. Even though I knew he didn't mean it hearing those words will never be palatable.
But then, after I dropped him off and as I said goodbye to him from across the room and prepared to step out of the preschool classroom, he sprinted towards me with a worried expression on his face, and jumped into my arms.  Every now and again he will not see anyone familiar first thing in the morning and get a bit shy and clingy. I thought maybe this was one of those instances.

However, his primary caregiver was there and after my son had clung tightly to me for at least 30 seconds, she came over and looked him in the eye.  Lukas and my cheeks were still pressed tightly against each other so I couldn't see his face.  At the same time, from the corner of my mouth and in a goofy muffled voice I asked "Whaaaaaat's gooooing on oooooover theeeeere?"

And with that a smile broke over the teachers face.  "That's a million dollar smile" she laughed.  I then swung Lukas high into the air prompting a big giggle to burst forth.  In the same motion I set him down and he was off and running.  Heading over to the play area like a wind up car hitting being released onto a tile floor.

On the way, he looked over his shoulder with a huge smile and said "Bye daddy!"


Alan said...

Thanks for sharing this. Jack is not quite two, but I've seen this pendulum of preference already. Sometimes he likes Dada. Sometimes Mama. Sometimes both.

I'll take my Dada phase when I can get it and figure I'll probably feel much the same as you do when it passes.

Henry Elliss said...

I completely get what you mean, though I think you're worrying too much. Don't forget that, if he's at school, he'll be getting influenced by his friends and how they act with their parents. It's just natural - the fact that he still comes to you when he's scared show that, deep down, he still loves you just as much.

My two-year-old had the following exchange with me the other day:

Me: I love you Robert
Robert: I love you Mummy
Me: I'm Daddy!
Robert: I know - I love Mummy.


Semper Fi Momma said...

This is a great post. My son, 3 1/2, is a complete Daddy's boy. I'm a SAHMommy, so I do the majority of the caring, disciplining, guiding, cuddling, and yet there's no one like Daddy.

Just the other night he came to me and said 'Mommy I don't love you anymore today'. Daddy, wanting to protect my feeling and knowing that I'm slightly jealous over their strong bond, started to interject and correct the situation. But I stopped him before he could. I know that a 3yo doesn't quite get the magnitude of the emotion, love. In that moment what I suspected was really going on is that he was upset he didn't get as much attention as he would have liked that day, as my twin 10mo girls were being a little more needy than usual. He was upset with me, and that was how he expressed it. It stung, but I understood and wanted him to feel comfortable being able to express his feelings. My response was, 'that's ok sweety. Tomorrow will be a better day and maybe you will love Mommy again, then.' He says 'Mommy I love you today, just not right now'. LOL
But, like I said I am a bit jealous of the Daddy/Son bond, and at the same time so proud that they have this bond together.
{sorry for the lengthy comment post}

Anonymous said...

You will get him back and then some once he hits adolescence. Living with 3 boys is hard when the teen and preteen are hard at work gender-identifying with the grownup one, and Mom's ideas and opinions get the eyeroll (and you can just see them thinking "it must be a crazy idea, because it came from a girl," or even, "ugh, women.") If they *have* to gender-identify at all, when do they get to the part where they feel protective and chivalrous toward me? I should at least get the good with the bad, right? Say hi to Anne for me, I think we might be coming to Seattle/Portland for vacation this summer!! I will email her when we know for sure. Missy

Didactic Pirate said...

I agree with what the other commenters are already saying: the pendulum swings back and forth, and it's just a development thing. I remember the first time my daughter started wanting her mom around more than me.... I questioned everything about my dad skills. But then a few months later, she daddy's girl again, and my wife was looking at us, bewildered, going "Whaa??"

Kids are weird.

Anonymous said...

This happens to us quite a bit. The Mini-Kamp will love on Mommy and then with a little breeze will all of a sudden be in love with me.

Douglas said...

Totally know where you're coming from! Mini-Me, our 4.5-year-old, has brought the popular preschool argument-ender home ("Well, then I'm not your friend any more!") and is using it on us, but we (mainly me) get "I don't like you! I've never liked you! I don't love you anymore either!" All because I said it was time to stop playing Lego Batman on the Wii. Mom doesn't get that as much because she's so much nicer to cuddle with.

SciFi Dad said...

While the preference has never been equal, I've been experiencing the same thing with my two year old son. He'll actually send me out of his room after waking up crying and being told my wife isn't coming, preferring to have no one around to comfort him than me. (We suspect it's because he believes as long as I'm doing the parenting/comforting my wife won't come in. Still doesn't make it suck any less.)

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Alan - Yeah, it's natural but it doesn't mean that it doesn't make you wistful for the time when you were 2nd to no one.

@Henry - Thanks for the comment. I am not worried about it, just realizing that as time goes on he will most likely want to physically interact with me less and less. It's a part of growing up.

@Semperfi - Parents are human too and what is so great about the early years is the unconditional love you get. As they get older they get moody and can withhold that for various reasons at times.

@Missy - Thanks for the comment. I am sure it will be interesting to deal with as he grows into a teen.

@Didactic - This is the first this has happened so it is a new thing. I am surprised it hasn't happened before.

@DC - I expect more of this as he gets older.

@Douglas - Yes, we are just beginning to get the 'you are not my friend' comments now. Not often mind you. But on occasion. He is in a big preschool class so that has to have an effect.

@Scifi - Yeah, that would really suck.

Anonymous said...

I know this all to well. When my oldest son was born he didn't want anything to do with me. He only wanted his mom and that was how it was for the first two years of his life. Once his younger sister came along he was done with mom and was and has been mine ever since. However there have been times he's gone back to her and wanted her over me and that hurt.
Our youngest boy prefers mom over me many times and even though he tells me he's my boy, he wants to be with her.
Thanks for sharing that was another great story and you did a great job of telling it.
Your son is incredibly lucky to have you involved in his life. Wish more dads were like that.

Ordinary Dad said...

When I read this I was holding my son in my arms and it made me sad to think that one day our relationship will change and he will be closer to his mom. But I know that he will still love me, and that all the effort I put into our relationship will pay off, we'll be close even when he has grown up and become a man. Good post.

LindsayDianne said...

As a kid, I never got this kind of stuff from my dad after the age of nine. Prior to that age it was scarce.
This was so precious to read.
Don't worry. He will stray and come back. All that matters is that you're always always there to come back to.

Diplo_Daddy said...

Nice story. Depending on the situation, our son will favour his mother over me. I don't mind. Just like you, I expect our little boy to swing towards his mother, and less to me. I believe it's a cycle they go through.

Anonymous said...

LIttle man will be three in almost three months and we've begun to notice the same thing as well. When he was nursing he was all about mama. Then when he was a little older and with me being home with him all the time he'd split time between us pretty equally. Now he wants mama to do everything for him. The other night it hurt a little bit when he wouldn't say goodnight to me, just mama. I know he doesn't really mean it, but it didn't mean it didn't hurt a little.

Rachael said...

My 4 year old sometimes seems to prefer me over his Dad. Sometimes he says he doesn't love Daddy because he gives him time outs. Which is totally ridiculous because so do I. I feel bad because I know it's a phase and he doesn't mean it, but it still stings - it certainly will one day when I'm on the other side of it

Jack said...

Just to add to the parade of previous commenters, he will come back. There are things that he'll notice that mommy can't do and he'll look to you then.

It is a great ride, this parenting thing.

Papa K said...

This is why you need to try and have a little girl. Then she'll be DADDY'S LITTLE GIRL. My wife has the same issues you have seeing that she's got the mother/daughter relationship instead of the daddy/son relationship.

Scott said...

That is beautiful!

And not to worry--as he enters his teenage years he will need you more than ever!

This is exactly why a child must have a mother and a father, if at all possible. The mother provides most of the nurtering the child needs; while the father provides most of the guidance the child needs.