16, 2001 - Friday
The doctor warned us last Tuesday that toddlers who are coming out of teething episodes, sicknesses, or other periods of discomfort often have a lingering sense of attention entitlement. Perhaps during those times, when parents are most concerned, they learn just how effective whining can be in gaining a parental response. And, sure enough, Harry has been running with the idea that his mother's attention is, by right, his. More specifically, she is "my," as he points at her, grabs her legs, or otherwise stakes his claim on her every moment. This evening, this behavior reached something of a climax, at least for me. Harry got to a point of constant clamoring at his mother, not letting her do anything other than pay attention to him. He refused to be with me, let me read to or play with him, and would call out for his "mama" at every occasion she was in a different room. It seemed to me that I had no choice but to stand back, leave Harry to his mother, and let her work it out with him.
I know there will be plenty of times when Harry, like any other child, will go through phases when one parent is tops. It's already happened in the past with Harry, albeit to lesser degrees. Thankfully, I've been able to look at this current exhibition fairly objectively and don't feel particularly rejected as a parent. But, it is certainly frustrating. I like to think I'm pretty involved as fathers go, but it's still easy to see that he would see his mother as more gracious, reactive, physically softer, emotionally more enwrapped with his needs, mother-father stereotypes plainly at work, during his times of discomfort. I'm concerned, but ultimately less willing to react to Harry's outward desires than she is. I think Harry sees or senses that and is working it, either consciously or unconsciously. His mother and I seemed to agree that she needed to set the record straight with him and convince he that, while she loves him dearly, she sometimes would not be able to respond to his ever desire. Unfortunately, once habits start to form, it takes more than a couple of hours to break them.