Before I gave birth to my daughter Juniper, my husband Matt warned me of something. He said she would probably fall madly in love with me first.
Matt claimed it would most likely be due to me nursing her and the bond we’d have from it. He also acknowledged my general awesomeness and how that would only make her love me more.
And he was right. Juniper was, and still very much is, a “mama’s girl.”
But what Matt didn’t include in that warning was the internal struggle he would soon admit to when June stopped nursing at 17 months old. It was a secret he felt almost ashamed to confess out loud to me, but finally did one day. He felt jealous of Juniper’s relationship with me.
I can totally understand my hubby’s dilemma. No matter how involved most fathers may be, it’s annoyingly hard to bond with a toddler when they’re only making googly eyes at mom.
Thankfully, this South African dad is getting real about the issue!
On Monday, blogger Terence Mentor (aka AfroDaddy) shared a life-changing moment he experienced with his 2-year-old son, Eli. In a heart-tugging Facebook post, he wrote that while he initially felt happy for his wife Julie’s immediate connection with Eli, he also envied their bond.
“It’s quite a thing to be a dad who can’t comfort his child, who is constantly told ‘No, I go to Mommy,’ who never seems to have a real, relational moment with his own son,” he said in his post.
But then, something changed for Mentor. Much to his surprise, his son began to prefer him over Julie at times. Finally, all the hours of fatherly attention and support were beginning to pay off.
And on Sunday night, the sweetest thing happened — a simple exchange that moved him to tears.
“While he was asleep on his mother’s chest (the only place he has always found comfort for the last two years), he got up and, still asleep, cuddled into me,” Mentor continues. “This child, who would cry when I so much as looked his way, came to me for his comfort and calm. Not going to lie … I got a little teary-eyed.”
You’re not the only one tearing up, papa bear!
When Eli snuggled up to his dad, two years worth of pent-up feelings inside Mentor were released. Because while his son’s actions were small, the effect was quite powerful.
“All my son did what shift from his mom’s bosom to my lap in his sleep, but it felt profound to me,” he tells Babble. “Heart-swelling is probably the best way to describe the feeling. Pride too, because he actually chose me, and also a whole lot of relief that we had turned a corner together.”
Mentor ended with a meaningful bit of truth. While being a dad is hard, all the faithful love and effort will eventually be rewarded. You’ve just got to hang in there and trust you’ll receive it.
Being a dad is hard, but every bit of emotional and [physical] energy that you use can be repaid to you in an instant. So maybe you are a parent going through what I’ve been going through. Keep going. Keep pushing. It will be worth it,” he shared.
For this daddy of two, the biggest challenge of parenting has been the vulnerability of loving someone who has not yet returned the feelings.
“We don’t try to be good dads because of what we get in return, but without those little moments to keep reminding us why parenting is great, it becomes really easy to get resentful of your partner and kids,” he explains.
Despite the challenges, Mentor stresses how important it’s become for modern dads to pick up more responsibility at home with so many moms working these days. And while doing laundry and making dinner is awesome (like, really awesome!), the blogger is referring to something much deeper.
“I have definitely seen a change in how fathers have become more responsible in the emotional growth of their children,” he tells Babble. “Dads now need to be able to help their children navigate through a complex world – it’s not just mom’s job anymore.”
Mentor has a few recommendations for helping fathers maintain an active, loving presence for their kids. First, he encourages putting electronic devices away whenever possible.
“One tiny thing that I try to do is put my phone away while my boys are watching me,” he says. “I want them to know that they are important, and that they have my attention.”
He also encourages dads to allow their kids to lead the way while playing together.
“Try and let them direct some of your time together – even if it means eating supper in a tent in the middle of your lounge (true story),” he notes.
For dads everywhere — and us moms too! — Mentor is a welcome addition to the parenting blog world.