Mom, Son, Dad

About sixteen months into being a father, my wife did something terrifying: she left me alone with my son for a weekend. Up until this time, my son had proven to be a handful. Actually, that is putting it lightly, he was a tiny hurricane. It would take at least one of us to bounce him around, pick him up or take him for a walk just to keep him from crying. It was absolutely exhausting. We’re only now recovering. The term used these days for this behavior is colic. He had that. A lot of it.

At sixteen months we had finally gotten into a groove with him. Our new routine was, my wife would put him down for the night at around 7:30 and after a wiggling, crying struggle, we’d be able to have our reprieve. We’d watch Netflix, order from Seamless (I gained a lot of weight during this time), or just stare at a wall. My son demanded most of his emotional support from my wife. It was mommy he wanted to comfort him. If I tried to hold him, he would wriggle out of my arms (the only physical defiance a baby could really be capable of) and cry for mommy.

I love my son. Always have. But the thought of being left alone with him for a weekend scared the crap out of me. Would he cry the whole time my wife was away? Would he cry all night because mommy was gone? Would the neighbors call CPS because of the excessive crying in my apartment? With all of these possibilities on the table, I was nervous. My wife had to travel for a bridal shower so I knew she was going out of town to have fun. I didn’t want to share my reservations because it would only stress her out, or worse, make her feel guilty about leaving.

When the day finally came and she left for the airport, my son didn’t cry. Instead, after my wife left, he started bringing me pieces of mozzarella from his snack tray. He acted like everything was cool. He made a little pile of all his snacks on the sink next to me and because I was sitting on the toilet at the time, there was little I could do to stop him. It was a sweet gesture, but what were his intentions? Was this a peace offering or was he just toying with me?

Neither. He, being 16 months old, was incapable of meaningful cunning or deception. Our weekend was awesome. I still think about the time we had together. My weekend alone with my son changed my relationship with him.

Well, I wouldn’t say it changed the relationship as much as it helped define it. He and I took walks, went out to a local children’s play place (appropriately called Play) and just hung out at the apartment. That weekend we had a bit of a weather issue in town and my wife’s return flight was canceled. That meant I had to extend my alone time with my son an extra day. My office was very understanding and let me take Monday off. I happily welcomed the extra time with him.

I had an epiphany during my alone time with my son. I realized up until then, I was taking a back seat approach to being a parent. I was letting my wife handle most of the emotional heavy lifting. My son went to her because that is where he found a bottomless well of comfort. We had an easier time when my wife sat next to him at dinner or put him down for the evening, so we both fell into a routine. My son turned into a little black hole, sucking away energy from my wife. My wife, being a loving mother, would give it to him. What ended up happening is she would get overly stressed out, and I would just watch.

What my weekend alone with him taught me was, not only could I be enough for him, but he wanted me to be. Up until then, I was not stepping up emotionally. My backseat approach to being a dad was enabling this situation where no one was happy. Our father/son weekend together made this obvious to me. Today, I try to exert my “daddness” more. What this means to me is, not checking out and letting my wife drive whenever my son needs emotional support.

It takes effort but I’m getting better at it. Happy Father’s Day to all of you!




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  1. Amy Ferrari

    This definitely made me chuckle a bit. It’s nice to read the “dads side” in a way I don’t think most men would be able to put into words! Happy Fathers Day!

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