How I Stayed Present With My Child Even When He Didn’t Want Me There
Mark Steizner is our guest blogger this week. He is an apprentice at the Fathers’ Forum Programs and co-leads our Thursday evening “Men’s Group for Fathers of Young Children.” For more of Mark’s terrific writing on becoming a dad visit his blog “Dad in the Here and Now.”
One of the hardest things for a father is when your child seemingly doesn’t want to be with you. About a month ago my twenty month old son wanted to be with his mommy all the time. Then my in-laws would come over and he’d want to be with them. He’s a toddler and it’s really nothing personal but it was breaking my heart. You can’t help but love your child deeply, and want to be around them.
As a father, from day one, I’ve learned that the best way to stay present with my child is to love him, love him, love him. He would cry and I thought I was doing something wrong. I loved him. He would want to be with my wife rather than me. I loved him. I couldn’t console him. I loved him. This doesn’t mean It didn’t hurt when he wanted to be with someone else, or that he cried sometimes when I held him. It meant that it wasn’t about me. I couldn’t make it about me. He’s crying. I’m going to do everything I can to soothe him. If nothing works then I’m going to allow him a safe, loving place to let it out. If he wants to be with mommy then right now he needs to be with mommy. If he wants to be with his Bepa and Nana then how incredibly grateful am I that he has such incredible, loving grandparents. This was work. This was painful work.
I would think to myself how much I wasn’t cut out for this, how much I sucked at this. I can’t console him. He’s crying sometimes when I hold him. Maybe he’s scared of me or doesn’t trust me. I would think “I guess he just doesn’t love me as much as Mommy or Bepa or Nana.
This was crazy making. It was so much about me and thank god for an inner source of wisdom. I realized. It’s not about me, and even when it is, my task is to love him and do the best I can. When I’m worried about whether I’m safe enough, loving enough, or worthy I’m less present with Sam. I began to trust in the universe, surrender, and embrace humility. These were my allies and this was my clarity. Believe me, as I am writing about this present experience, it’s hard, and it’s a constant battle but it’s my love and my presence that Sam needs. Not my inner critic. This week Sammy wants to be around me all the time. It shifts. He has different needs in different moments.
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