Well, it happened. My son doesn’t like me.
I knew the day would come eventually. My jokes were destined to get stale, my fatherly opinion would turn overbearing, and classic dad-son disagreements would naturally ensue. It’s normal for there to be an ebb and flow to every relationship as two grow apart and back together. I expected this day to come. I just imagined it would be when he was ten years old, not ten months.
No doors have slammed and no “I hate you”s have been thrown. A ten-month old rugrat can only do so much defiantly. His parental preferences are obvious as he waddles to his mother and not to me; he leans out of my arms and into hers; and he throws his head back crying every time he is passed to me.
It always hurts when someone you love doesn’t return affection, but when it is your child, the pangs of anguish sting more deeply as disappointment and even insecurity infect the wound. Have I screwed up this fatherhood thing already? is the question that bubbles between my ears every time he leans away. I feel embarrassed as others witness his distaste for me, and I am saddened in the aftermath of rejection.
But, in an effort to collect the gray and brown streamers from the rafters and the deflated black balloons from the floor while yelling out last-call for woes and whines, I’ll wrap up my pity party. I get it—it happens. It’s the mommy-stage.
I love that he loves his mom. I find joy in watching him go to her, and it fills my heart to see her make him laugh. As a fellow mama’s boy, I appreciate the potential anchorage such a relationship can offer. So, yes, Isaiah, take your poopy diapers to her; your public tantrums and your wailing mood, but just don’t forget I’ll change your poopies too. When you turn your back to me, I won’t go anywhere. And I understand that this stage won’t last forever, so I will be patiently waiting.
Ultimately, I hope to navigate this season well to create an even stronger bond with my son on the other end and demonstrate my faithful love for him through every stage. Not taking it personally, keeping active in love, and being patient are key components of parental resilience. He’s a baby only now discovering that he can even have something called preferences. He’ll grow out of this stage and into another. And through every one, be it a mommy-, grandparent-, school-, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-, My Little Pony-, friends-, girlfriend-, or wife-stage— I need him to know that I’ll always be there for him. I’ll love him through the phases. My son doesn’t like me right now, but I plan to survive the mommy-stage as an engaged, loving, faithful, and patient daddy.