Plight of the Pushover Parent

Here’s a humorous column on getting your toddler to call for daddy at night instead of mommy. I have no doubt that this is an actual issue in many households.

It is not a problem for us.

Early on this was intentional. The demands on a mother during those first few months after having a child are unbelievable. There were just so many times when I couldn’t appease our son no matter what I did. The bond between mother and child can never be understated. It’s also something I don’t think fathers can ever truly understand.

But that bond can cut both ways, as the child makes continuous demands of the mother, demands which can periodically be filled by the father.

Any dad worth worth anything at all will relish these opportunities, even if they’re a bit rocky to start. Our son wanted his mommy whenever something was wrong and instead he regularly got his daddy and he was not happy about that, not at first. He would get mad at me when I went to get him in the morning, telling me he didn’t want dadda, he wanted mama.

I still remember the first time that flipped.

It was my morning to sleep in, or what passes for sleeping in when you have a child. Nicole went to get our son out of bed and she was greeted with “Don’t want mama, want dadda!”

So I got up and went to his room to get him out of bed.

I couldn’t let a moment like that pass by.

We are at the point now where our son usually calls out for me (there are rare instances when he calls out for his mom, but she a) is strong enough to ignore him when it’s not serious and b) could sleep through world war 3, so often doesn’t even hear him). And every time I have to fight the urge to run to him. I have to calculate whether or not he actually needs something or if he’s playing me.

That’s the thing about toddlers: they are master manipulators. It’s frightening, really, and our son is quite adept at it, which shouldn’t be all the surprising given who his father is.

Needless to say, I end up running into his room multiple times in any given night.

This has gotten better recently, as he’s falling asleep faster and not waking up as many times at night. But when he does, he calls out for me, just as he does when he wakes up.

This is only one example of how wrapped around my son’s finger I am. And I know that it’s not really a good thing and that I need to stop.

But that’s the thing about pushover parents: we can’t help ourselves. We don’t want to be a pushover parent. Even if we’re conscious that we need to be less weak with our children, it’s hard for us to stop.

No sane person wants to get up four times a night — and that’s after the three times I go in there before he even falls asleep. No sane person wants to feel like they constantly need to be “on.” No sane person wants to be responsible for their child being spoiled.

But, in the end, parenting is all about defeating your lesser self. Being a parent means constantly having a gut reaction to any given situation and then considering if that gut reaction is correct or not and then acting appropriately. It’s how we become better parents, how are children become better than we ever were.

So I try. With everything I have, I try not to be the pushover parent. Because I don’t want to be like this. I know it’s not good for my son, just as I know that it’s not good for me.