Toddler parenting
November 18, 2004 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Mysonhatesmefilter: Very often, My 2.5 year old son wants nothing to do with me. [more inside, if you please, Matt]
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I pride myself on being a great father. I give him tons of love and attention, as does my wife. He's a smart kid and usually very loving. He enjoys when I spend time with him and we have a lot of fun together. Sometimes though, usually before bed when he's tired, he just wants me to go away. If it's my night to give him a bath he screams the whole time that it's "mommy's turn give me bath." When it's time to read him good-night stories he refuses to let me read. Sometimes he doesn't even want me to sit on the couch with my wife and him. When it's time to go to bed he hugs my wife and says he doesn't want to give me hugs. We sing songs to him when he's in his crib and sometimes he tells me not to sing or to go away. Last night I just couldn't take it and I walked out, almost crying. I seriously wanted to tell a toddler to go fuck himself, I was that upset.

If my wife is out and I'm on kid duty he'll often cry for his mother for an hour before he goes to sleep.

Some nights he's fine, other nights Daddy Is Evil.

I know deep down he loves me and this is some sort of developmental phase that he'll eventually get over. I've given him no reason to resent me, as far as I know. He's probably just asserting himself in one of the only ways he knows how. It's been going on for at least nine months though and it's getting harder and harder to take. The last thing I want is for me to start resenting him.

It's natural that he trusts his mother more, she's a stay-at-home mom and I'm out of the house for 9 - 10 hours a day. I see him for about 1/2 hour in the morning before work and for maybe an hour when I get home before he goes to bed. I spend more time with him on the weekends, often taking him out for most of the day while my wife gets some time off. I understand that kids his age are probably going to bond with mom more, especially since she spends the day with him. Unfortunatly, spending more time with him is not really an option for me.

So, parents: Ever deal with this? How did you manage? Did you just ride it out or did you do something to change the behavior? Did it get worse or better? How can I get through this? Any psychologists know the real reasons behind this behavior? Help! This really sucks.
posted by mathowie at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2004

My father actually experienced this with me when I was a toddler. I'm adopted, and he was so excited about my arrival and within 24 hours it became clear I wanted nothing to do with him but was fine with my mom. Of course he was very hurt, even though like you rationally he understood it wasn't really a willful slight (in my case, he figured it had something to do with me being around only women when I was in an orphanage).

This might not seem that helpful, telling you how he overcame this, but I'll mention how anyway and try to explain why it might give some insight:
I arrived in May and was 20 months old. Late that summer my dad broke his foot and wore a gigantic cast and was laid up for a while. I became very interested in his cast and called him "Big Foot." He wasn't threatening just sitting in a chair for hours like that with a silly cast on his foot. So I would inch my way over and gradually get comfortable. It was all about initial interest and in a way being so distracted that I'd find myself in his company, find I liked it, and let my guard down kind of unwittingly.

Perhaps the only bit of transferable advice gleaned from that is that kids, as you say, don't really think in a way where you can take it personally--they're geared towards concrete "I like this moment or I don't" moods. It's like how when kids are little their friendships are based almost completely just on whether it's fun to play with toys with one kid or another and the ease with which such playing can occur (does a kid live nearby etc), not the kids' personalities per se. So if you create situations that the kid will be drawn to--admittedly, that often have nothing to do with yourself or your personality ("does he like me?) really--and do that repeatedly he may get more used to being around you until he's comfortable with you, and until he connects you to situations that make him happy.

And it's really difficult to say "don't visibly push the issue" but probably it's useful advice too. Not coming off at all as threatening is key.

Of course, this also is tricky, because it sounds like conditioning practically (Pavlovian even, ha) or a kind of sneaky bribery (kid gets access to concrete fun for the price of emotional closeness or something), and because of course there will be times you can't be "The Fun Guy" as a parent...but maybe it's something to think about.
posted by ifjuly at 9:15 AM on November 18, 2004

Wow, this is really interesting. Usually when my kids are distant from me it's when I'm gone a lot or have been grumpy and snapping at them, or am growing a beard and they don't want to be hugged because it's prickly. They can also sense when I'm pissed at their mom. They often call me mom by mistake, then catch themselves. I think that they only "like" me because my wife is the "strict parent" and I'm the spoiler. Don't know if that helps you any, of course.

I've been a parent for eight years and I don't know WTH I'm doing.
posted by mecran01 at 9:16 AM on November 18, 2004

matt i have 3 kids, the oldest being 6. i can say, with full confidence that children are completely operating on a different wavelength than us. and usually that wavelength seems insane, mean, impossible, or just unbelievable in general.

my 6 year old, as a 2 year old, used to wake up in the morning completely furious. he would scream to be gotten out of bed and would proceed to run around the house with a scowl trying to break and push things over. it was terrifying, bizarre, and senseless, and it completely magically disappeared one day.

my other son spent about 3 months wanting nothing to do with me. no rhyme, no reason. we're a healthy happy family with a comfortable income in a loving marriage. i'm self employed and spent lots of quality time at home. regardless, sometimes my kids hate my guts. then again, sometimes they won't let go of my leg.

so from very much experience, your kids are going to spend the better part of their lives testing their limits and relationships, probably trying to exert control over you, and their phases will be fast-changing and sometimes maddening as hell. but my very most important rule i ever established early on was "never, ever let a toddler hurt your feelings". because they'll do it many many times a day."

you're going to do a lot of riding things out in the coming years. don't let him hurt your feelings. if he wants you to go away then the only behaviour you need to be modifying is the way he presents this demand. if he's very hateful and disrespectful then address that. otherwise, consider it a blessing until the next phase, where he might not let you get anything done and screams and cries unless you're holding him. if it's getting you upset then he's probably interpreting it as a successful excercise in control. if he asks you to stop singing or to leave the room, then smile and say ok well i'm going to go sing in MY room for a while. Or whatever. Above all, really, don't let a 2 year old piss you off so easily, or you'll never make it through the teenage years.
posted by glenwood at 9:21 AM on November 18, 2004

You mention that your son behaves this way when he's winding down for the night. He's already tired and may just want what he finds most comforting as he's going to bed. At this stage, your son may be viewing Mommy as the most comforting part of his routine. Additionally, keep in mind that she's around more to provide comfort to him during other times that are not connected to bed time. She's there to make things better when he gets frustrated or hurt.

As for the singing thing, I can relate. Up until a few months ago, my son, now 3, would tell me to stop singing anytime I started. When he was a baby, he'd just scream at me if I sang. (My voice isn't that bad.) I'm not sure what changed. I kept singing and realized one day that he wasn't trying to stop me and even sings with me from time to time.

You might want to chat with other parents in a parenting-specific forum. I doubt your situation is all that unusual.

Be patient and good luck. It's not personal.
posted by onhazier at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2004

"he loves me and this is some sort of developmental phase that he'll eventually get over." I think you've hit the nail on the head here. It is developmental (remember Oedipus?) and it will pass. In fact, I'd bet money that if you give it another year or so you will be the cool parent and Mom will be a drag. Terrible twos are called that for a reason.

Remember that he isn't thinking the way an adult does: at this age he isn't resenting you, and in fact is pretty much incapable of resentment the way we adults think of it; he's not going to carry it over into the next day, let alone next week. Keep in mind that every morning for him is a whole new world. He lives in the moment and will for a while; cause and effect are still pretty blurry. My almost 13 year old is still having some issues with that concept! If you find that it's really upsetting you, and you're worried that you may say something you'll regret, walk away for a while. Time outs are tremendously helpful for parents of toddlers as well as for the toddlers themselves. And if he's tired, or hungry, hang it up and let it be. Kids that small only have room for one emotion at a time and it's tough for them to switch gears.

Credentials: Two kids, both turning out pretty cool, two semesters of undergrad child/adolescent psychology, a 2nd BA in art education and several years of teaching art to kids age 3 and up. See? I'm an expert!

If all else fails, remember that somebody has to support the generations of psychologists yet to come, and your offspring might as well have some lurid stories to tell. That's what I tell my kids when they complain. (this is almost serious - I've had a lot of luck with little kids by doing something totally unexpected when they freak out: quack and walk like a duck, burst into tears, hide in the closet, stand on your head.)
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:38 AM on November 18, 2004

I'd pretty much concur with all of the above and also note that this is pretty much SOP with boys in my experience. I had the same experience with my son, now 7, then - boys round that age are very mommy-centered, esp when Dad works long hours. You're the parent though, so you really have to stay as sane and consistent as possible while this runs its course.

It can be heartbreaking, but it really isn't personal, hard as it may be to believe. Hang in and it's all the sweeter when it gets better. Inmy son's case there was a brief period where he preferred me and it was at least somewhat amusing to see my wife going through what I had been long used to.
posted by jmignault at 9:43 AM on November 18, 2004

Yeah it sucks when the kids make their preference known. Right now, for whatever reason, I am my little boy's (20 months) hero - he squeals when I come home, and can't get enough of me. It sounds like you (anonymous) and I are in similar circumstances (me at work, wife at home), and the situation is reversed with our little boy - at the moment. A child's will is capricious.

Believe it or not, there's even an applicable Simpson's quote (paraphrasing) - Marge: "Homer, right now you are not allowed to have hurt feelings - there's a little girl upstairs who needs her Father very much." It may seem a little trite, but it rings true for me - If my feelings are hurt by a sense of rejection or a painful remark from my children, it's inconsequential. It's my job to be there for them regardless.

Imagine what it'll be like when they're older, when they actually do know what they say can be hurtful. Better to learn how to roll with it now.
posted by kokogiak at 9:46 AM on November 18, 2004 [1 favorite]

Keep repeating: This is normal, this has absolutely nothing to do with me, this will pass. You obviously are a great dad, that is why it hurts more than it should. Just roll with it--"You want to be with Mommy? OK? See you in the morning!" Don't reinforce by making it a big deal. But do try and make every moment you spend with him special and fun--as I'll bet you do.
posted by LarryC at 9:48 AM on November 18, 2004

The same thing happened to my husband when our kids were little, and he felt really depressed and resentful about it. Neither one of our kids wanted a whole hell of a lot to do with him when they were small - Mom was the nurturer AND the fun one. He was just a piece of furniture that talked. Believe it or not, it changes, and gets better. Buck up and hang in there, Dad. Your little guy loves you.

Last week, both of my kids told my husband that they liked him better...heh. So now it's my turn to be depressed!
posted by iconomy at 9:54 AM on November 18, 2004

Definitely--my now-five-year-old went through a similar phase around the same age, and my three-year-old is just getting over a phase where he would look at me, beam, and sing "I don't love you any more. Soorr-rry!!" over and over.

Granted, he was basically joking, but I do think it's all part of the larger complex of issues people have talked about. For a two-and-a-half year-old, giving out or withholding affection is one of the very few forms of control they have, and it's very clearly got huge currency.

Both my boys have also gone through phases where, when they were upset with us or frustrated, would say things like "I don't love you any more!", or "You don't deserve a little boy!" The best way we've found to weather it is to matter-of-factly say, "Well, I still love you very much", and let it go. The behavior tends to go away pretty quickly (for a while, at least) after that.
posted by LairBob at 10:05 AM on November 18, 2004

My son (6.5) and I are very close, and always have been. However, when he was younger, it was very obvious which of the adults in the house was his favorite. We called it "Flavor of the Month" (Ving Rhames, Mission Impossible), and just tried to enjoy both sides of the coin. It will hurt your feelings, but it will pass.
posted by Irontom at 10:21 AM on November 18, 2004

Apparently when I was a toddler I smugly informed my father that, not only did *I* not like him, *nobody* liked him. All the advice here is good -- the kid'll get over it, and there's not really anything you can do to change the behavior, hard as that is to deal with.
posted by JanetLand at 10:26 AM on November 18, 2004

All the advice is excellent. I'll just add that what *you* feel is also really natural. Kids can make you feel things intensely and strangely in ways you never thought you could, and they aren't always good feelings. Do not beat yourself up for feeling really hurt by this.

just keep your composure until he's asleep, m'kay?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:26 AM on November 18, 2004

My son pulled this act when he was about the same age. I knew it was a developmental thing and had nothing to do with anything, so my wife and I decided to have fun with it.

As in your case, bedtime was when this behaviour would show up. "I want MOMMY to put me to bed. Go away!" My and I normally take turns putting the young kids to bed, and we wanted to continue that, so I started acting like I was this really evil guy and my desire to put him to bed was really so I could EAT HIM!

Soon my wife and I would act out these little set pieces at bedtime, where I would pretend to be vying with her for the right to put him to bed (he always cheers for her, of course). Every other night, I "win." It's mostly very broad, exaggerated competitions that ends up with me "winning" every other night, meaning that my wife makes a side deal with my son to let me put him to bed just that one night. We've even gone as far as me pretending to tie her up in the dining room, and then grabbing my son and heading for the stairs, and then she breaks out of her "ropes" and overtakes us and captures him back (if it's her night).

It's great fun for him to be "fought over," and when I win I usually have to continue the battle in getting his clothes off him, but he usually calms down as we get into jammies and start picking out books.

Soon he was looking forward to these nightly dramas so much that when I get home from work at dinner time, his first words to me were some taunt about how Mommy is putting him to bed that night, and there's nothing I can do about it. Then I growl and we're off to the races.

We've been doing this routine now for about two and a half years, he turns five this month. I'm thinking he likes this because it kind of plays into and acknowledges all the freudian confusion he's feeling, competing with me for his mom's love and all that. Yet in the end, pretty much every single night, he gets confirmation that we love him no matter what his feelings.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:45 AM on November 18, 2004 [2 favorites]

Another father of three saying: What they said.

Also: Remember that toddlers have zero comprehension of what "hurting someone's feelings" means. That's learned as they grow. So is a sense of conscience (not to be confused with automatically saying "sorry" when they make a mistake.)

Toddlers (in my observation) love power, some more than others. And one of the most accessible ways to exert their newfound power is in choices -- books they want you to read, food they are willing to consume, the stuffed animal they want to take to bed.

But even more satisfyingly, the person who will snuggle them on the couch, or pick them up and put them to bed.

Mmmmm, just wait until your child does understand what hurting someone's feelings mean ... and they say the worst things they can think of, to hurl at you when they're upset.

(cue the wailing seven-year-old girl, having been told to put down the Harry Potter tome and get ready for bed: "Everyone in this house wishes I would die. I'm running away from home to find someone who loves me.")
posted by sacre_bleu at 10:47 AM on November 18, 2004

Oy, long answer ahead, sorry...

I'm a parent (my girls are both teenagers now) and a psychologist, although I think the psychologist part doesn't necessarily add all that much in terms of expertise here.

The absolute best book to learn about the world of toddlers is The Magic Years, by Selma Fraiberg. Selma used to live here in San Francisco, and she had an incredible gift for capturing and explaining the world of the 2 year old. It's in libraries, used book stores everywhere, and it's funny, informative, charming, etc.

In terms of child developmental theories, toddlers live in an emotional world that is black and white - good and evil. The world of fairy tales captures a fundamental part of the human experience at that age. According to these theories, we are not very skilled at understanding that people and things can be both good and bad, or that we can like and dislike aspects of the same person. So, yeah, if you're the bad person at a given moment, that's all you are. It takes a huge amount of cognitive and emotional complexity to be able to be mad at someone but still like them.

Kids this age also have very limited capacity for empathy, like understanding the needs that their parents have for emotional reassurance. At that age, we don't really understand that other people's feelings may get hurt as a result of what we do. Parents don't get to have needs, as far as they're concerned. Being with little kids can feel like being on a never ending date with the most narcissistic person you've ever met.

Add in all the issues about control that they are struggling with, and you've got why people talk about "terrible twos."

This is really difficult for new parents to take. I think it brings us back to dealing with our old issues when we were growing up, expecially if our own parents were less concerned about our needs as kids than we are trying to be with our kids. I remember feeling fits of rage when my kids were little and *I* needed some emotional support - "what about *my* needs?" I'd imagine raging to my little 2 year old who wouldn't give me a hug at the moment I happened to need one.

It *will* get better by itself, but there are also things you can do to help. Some of them you can get from Selma's book. But I have to say that while quality time is important, so is quantity time. I know that it's hard to want to spend time with a kid who hates your guts. Much more satisfying to be at work sometimes. But...

Also, it can help to structure the time with the little one be doing things that you both enjoy. If possible, try to structure the time so that he/she feels that they have control (like structured choices - would you like to do this or that, with both choices being things that *you'd* like to do also). And realize that even though they are pushing you away, they desparately need you to hang in there.
posted by jasper411 at 10:58 AM on November 18, 2004

Gotta Second what StupidSexyFlanders suggests - take repeating bad situations and figure out a way to make them silly and/or fun. It's a great way to take charge and not make it an Epic Conflict.

Case in point - my daughter refused to brush her teeth, screaming, yelling, fussing, etc. Usually triggered by our saying "Okay it's time to brush your teeth". One day I just switched it slightly - "Okay, time to brush your knees", and she stopped mid-yell to say calmly "What did you say?" and we had a good laugh about the absurdity of it all, still giggling while scrubbing those little teeth. To this day, we head off to brush anything but her teeth. Last night it was the cat.
posted by kokogiak at 11:06 AM on November 18, 2004

It's a phase, it's a phase, it's a phase. I would really encourage you to find a child psychologist who is willing to meet with you a couple of times (for his/her usual fee, of course) and discuss this, though. He/she might have some useful strategies about getting through it.

And I know that jasper411 wasn't suggesting this at all, but as someone who spent lots and lots of her childhood meeting her parents' emotional needs--that's not a kid's job. If you need someone to talk about your hurt feelings with, I would really encourage you to find an adult psychologist who is willing to meet with you...
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:07 AM on November 18, 2004

Short answer: don't take it personally, and just wait it out.

Long answer: My son is the same age as yours. My wife and I both work at home, and our son only started spending a couple of days a week out of the house a couple of months ago. In short, lots of mom and dad time for the first couple years of his life.

For most of the first two years he was all about mom. Sure, he would tolerate being with me and maybe even have a good time, but the transitions were always terrible. He would scream bloody murder, as if my wife were handing him off to Nurse Ratchet. Through finesse and outright trickery we eventually got him out of that habit, and transitions became more smooth.

Then he decided he wanted only me and turned against his mom. That lasted a little while, and now he's back on a pretty even keel.

Just remember that this is the age where they're mostly into testing out free will. Just because they say they like or don't like something, doesn't make it so. It means they're looking for a reaction and to see how much power they have to make things happen. The trick is not to let him pull you into his mood. If he sees that you're having a good time doing something that he usually likes doing, even while he's screaming for mom, he'll lose interest in the scream and come play with you.

Wish this weren't anonymous, so we could hear how things turn out.....
posted by Framer at 11:08 AM on November 18, 2004

And now I want kokogiak to adopt me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:08 AM on November 18, 2004

Damn, I knew there was a good reason I wanted to keep my boy at 4 1/2 months forever. He's a joy right now, he lights up when I talk with him and get him giggling.

I know that he'll go through a phase or two when he doesn't like me and I'm really not looking forward to it because he is my most favorite person in the whole world.

Good luck, I'm sure your boy will get back to loving you soon. Just be patient and remember that he's still learning how to be a human.
posted by fenriq at 11:10 AM on November 18, 2004

Keep repeating: This is normal, this has absolutely nothing to do with me, this will pass.

Without a doubt. My son has a knack for turning adults against each other, and being rather nasty depending on the circumastances. This is very normal. It's part of him testing his limits and discovering boundaries.
posted by adampsyche at 11:23 AM on November 18, 2004

This is very interesting to hear people's experiences with child rearing. Much wiser and knowledgeable than I have spoken, but I'll take a whack at it anyway.

I am a self-employed, stay-at-home father for a 5 month old girl. I spend the entire day with her, feed her, clean her up and entertain her all day. Yet at the end of the day, she is most excited about her mother and squeals with delight and starts laughing when her mother walks in the door. The joke in the house is that she only happy when she is being held by her mother and being held by me is akin to being left in "the crib".

I've written it off as being some sort of truism that kids prefer their mothers for the first part of their life. A few other stay-at-home dads concurred with me. Maybe because you are working and your wife is staying at hime, it exacerbates an already existing tendency for this part of your son's development? I dunno - but I'm sure this will pass. At some point, you will be the big tough guy who can give your kid airplane rides and I believe that counts for a lot.

Good luck!
posted by rks404 at 11:31 AM on November 18, 2004

Matt, we know the kid was tired.

Do you know that you were tired too? I have no children (but had stepchildren for a number of years.) Even though he's yours, your patience wears out too.

Your wife on the other hand is living with this little ID 24/7. She sees more of that emotion/motivation than you do.

Don't sweat it. He'll hate you in his teens and like you again in his 20's. just like you did.
posted by filmgeek at 11:46 AM on November 18, 2004

Regarding this whole idea..

I wonder if the same is true for the reverse: mothers and their daughters.. Is that so?
posted by eas98 at 11:50 AM on November 18, 2004

Great advice, I just wanted to add that I wanted NOTHING to do with my dad for the first year and a bit of my life. Mom stayed at home, napped with me, and in books and stuff mothers were more prevalent than fathers. Once dad tried to nap with me and I said it was weird and made him go away. He just persisted- picking me up, reading me books, telling me stories about his childhood-- I got over it, so did he, I've adored him ever since. Good luck!

on preview: I dunno, eas98, I'm a daughter.
posted by stray at 11:54 AM on November 18, 2004

BTW, this isn't Matt (I'm fairly sure), this is "anonymous", and Matt kindly posted the "more inside".
posted by stray at 11:56 AM on November 18, 2004

Most of the kids I know list back and forth between primary caregivers--"I want Mom to do it," "Daddy cooks it better," "Grandma always lets me do whatever," and my personal favorite, "that's not what my teacher said, and she's always right." We have gotten pretty good at recognizing oncoming mommy/daddy phases at our house. The temporarily "uncool" parent just plays it low key, knowing that their "turn" will come back around soon.
posted by whatnot at 12:07 PM on November 18, 2004

My current favorite comeback for "But Mommy always lets me do it" is "Okay. What's my name?"
posted by kokogiak at 12:34 PM on November 18, 2004

I wonder if the same is true for the reverse: mothers and their daughters.. Is that so?

I think that kids who are under 5 are unpredictable and go through weird phases that are hard to understand. I think that is true for either sex.
posted by glenwood at 12:39 PM on November 18, 2004

eas98: in our case, it's my daughter who's anti-Daddy.

Reading through all of this has been really good -- my husband has been feeling like he's the only one in the world whose kids prefer Mommy. It's been hard managing his hurt feelings over this while also paying attention to my daughter's intense preference for me -- trying to respect the need she's communicating and, at the same time, trying to gently urge her to loosen her grip on me and accept help/bedtime/prolonged interaction with him.
posted by mothershock at 4:31 PM on November 18, 2004

I can't offer any practical advice, but I'll elaborate on something briefly mentioned above. Freud wrote about the Oedipus Complex and said it was a normal part of child development. I'm no expert here, but simply put: the mother is the first love-object of the infant, but the father takes the mother away from the infant, inspiring hatred of the father. This is eventually reconciled by the child resolving to become like the father in order to "have" the mother. Check the above link and google for more info.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:13 PM on November 18, 2004

Re: Oedipus complex: a good way to think about it--not like I have kids, but a good way to think about the complex--is just that small children depend totally on their parents for everything--love, shelter, food, comfort; and so they love their parents, but can also be scared, freaked out, or what have you by that very intense relationship. And so their relations with their parents are characterized by everything you'd logically expect given how intense being a small child is. They love their parents intensely, yet also need to resist and assert control, as a way of counterbalancing that dependence. It's all a way of constructing their idea of themselves as selves. It is very much a developmental phase that is completely normal (and maybe even necessary).

(This isn't what Freud says per se--but, from what I've studied, it's how the Oedipus complex is made sense of today, in a way that is a not a 'vulgar Freudianism.' Freud's actual theory is really fascinating, but it makes sense even without all that biological / childhood sexuality stuff to realize that kids have a very intense way of relating to their parents that results in all sorts of crazy behavior. When you think about how emotional small children are, and how important their parents are to them, it's no wonder that they go through strange phases like this.--That's a pretty straight-forward Freudian realization.)

Okay, back to posts from real parents....
posted by josh at 8:10 PM on November 18, 2004

1. It's a phase; it'll pass.

2. This is important:

It's natural that he trusts his mother more, she's a stay-at-home mom and I'm out of the house for 9 - 10 hours a day. I see him for about 1/2 hour in the morning before work and for maybe an hour when I get home before he goes to bed.

I know, as you wrote, you don't feel it's an option to spend more time with him, but there's two issues here- his behavior, whch sounds like normal seperation anxiety, and your feelings, which are only partly rooted in his behavior but are also probably connected to guilty feelings you have for the fact that you don't see much of him. I'm going to guess that you'll probably continue to feel guilty as he gets older, and that guilt, which he'll pick up on (and probably does now) won't help you get the most out of your precious time with him, because it'll be in the way.

I've got a friend who was in a similar situation - she is a CPA and was promised by the firm that hired her that they were "family-oriented" and that she'd not be on the road much. She's spent more time in the past year away from home that at home, missing her son and husband, and finally, she decided to quit and freelance, knowing this would mean financial strain for a while - the point being that perhaps this might be a time to consider whether spending more time with him could be an option with sacrifices in other areas. You may evaluate and find it's not possible, but you'll feel better having at least tried to come up with an alternative solution.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:19 AM on November 19, 2004

When my 21 month old was going through a no-daddy phase a few months ago I spent a lot of time during the day talking up her dad and getting really excited myself that he would be home soon or whatever.

It seemed to help, and now she runs to the door when he walks in to give him a hug.
posted by frecklefaerie at 12:00 PM on November 19, 2004

Hey, I'm just curious - how does mom respond when the kid doesn't want dad to give bath/read books/wipe butt...It's critical she send a firm message that Dad's in charge and capable, imo, for the kid to move on from this otherwise normal behavior.
posted by docpops at 4:30 PM on November 20, 2004

As a child, I think I was kind-of similar. Of course, i'm talking about my teenage years, which are clearly different. But I found my father rather unaccessible, and emotionally absent - a large part of this was simply that he worked a great deal (and so did I), and simply wasn't around enough to give that super-quality time that comes with omnipresence.

So I would goad him, and annoy him, and in general filibuster until I got a reaction - any reaction - out of him. It's probably the cruelest, most immature thing I've ever done, and he was certainly hurt by it. I wonder whether two-year olds do the same?
posted by metaculpa at 6:19 PM on November 21, 2004

Keep repeating: This is normal, this has absolutely nothing to do with me, this will pass
This is also the Mantra for parents of teenagers.

My 21 month old girl seems to prefer Daddy. But for the first 12 months of her life it was all about Mom. We both try very hard not to take it personally, but we're only human. This is another example of how being a parent is meant to be a learning and growing experience for us. It is a daily challenge. But it is one that we can meet - mistakes are allowed.
posted by raedyn at 1:17 PM on November 24, 2004

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