I got pissed. Just like that I went from 0 to 100 real quick. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining bright and after a wonderful church service as we were driving home to get lunch, I looked in my rear view mirror and said to my son, “hey, before we go to the park, let’s call daddy!” Trying my best to inspire excitement at the thought of speaking to his part-time dad, I smiled and exerted happy eyes and the best happy voice I could. “I don’t want to call daddy” said my three year old. Without questioning him on why, I turned my smile upside down into a frown at his statement and said, “we must call daddy as often as possible son, and remember what I said last time about actually talking when he gets on the phone, like a big boy!” I said this with sternness. On the last phone call to his father (and plenty of other calls) I had noticed that my son always acted out of character- pretending like he was a mute or didn’t have words, changing on emotions – seemingly sad or mad when just moments before we were laughing and singing. I attributed the stark difference in his attitude and actions to the fact that well, he simply doesn’t see his father often enough and at age three, he just doesn’t know how to feel about it. Now, some other philosopher may beg to differ or say that a three year old doesn’t have that capacity to think that deeply but I can only go off of my first hand observations. The older my son seems to get, the more aware he is of his lack of connection with his dad.
I jumped into panick mode seeing my son become visibly distraught each time I prodded him with “let’s call daddy”. After all, my one desire since his birth was for the two to have an undeniable relationship. It saddened me that the happy go lucky coming of age toddler actually loathed phone interaction with his dad, which made me wonder, now that he’s a little older, how would he take to being sent off to be with his dad one-on-one? It had been 6 months since he last spent real quality time with his dad and at three years old, he hasn’t spent time with him in his fathers atmosphere (away from mommies house) in this state. Yes, he spent time there as a “baby” and yes his dad could come to our place for a day or so to visit. Now that he has his own mind and can orchestrate thoughts and sentences, he can travel to his father’s city to a) be around his older brothers and b) to see how his father naturally responds and engages in his own environment. I’m always thinking of the small nuances that my son could observe and learn of his father by watching day to day interactions would be helpful to how he views his father and could build lasting impressions that could potentially sustain his connection to his father when they are many miles away.
So the other wise sleeping fire in me FLARED up when I suggested the two take on an impromptu visit over spring break and the idea was shot down.
The two – the son and his father- had been on the phone a good few minutes dialoguing back and forth on the kids experience at church that morning and other topics. The conversation had been going pretty well up until the dad began reprimanding the son on being obedient throughout the week – a conversation that he and I had shared earlier in the week. As they were face timing, I observed the look on the son’s face as his fathers voice became stern, reminding him that he would get in trouble if he did not listen. I appreciated the reminder, as my son had been getting out of hand lately, but his timing was dead awful.
The episode his father was speaking of took place days prior in which my son lashed out into an uncontrollable toddler fit. Again, this was days ago, hence it was the furthest thing from my three years olds mind. This was the first time the two had spoken this week. So my son was oblivious to why dad was getting on him. Immediately his body language and facial expressions changed. He was ready to get off the phone. His eyes immediately went down. “Do you hear me son” his dad said. The son was quiet. “Do you hear me!” His dad asked again. “Yes ma’am.” He said to his father. “I’m not a ma’am, I’m a sir.” His father corrected him. I allowed their exchange to finish before I reared my face on the FaceTime. I usually never show my face. I leave it as an interaction between the two. Only on occasion will my voice from back chime in with information when it’s needed like when his father asks for clarity on something and my son doesn’t have the answer.
Sensing my sons uncomfortability, and noting his earlier reaction to my suggestion to call his father, it came to me that maybe this was why he didn’t like calling his father. It seemed that each time he was on the phone, there was a disciplining moment, his father attempting to portray authority, but there was not often enough an “off-set” moment. What I mean by that is traditionally, a father is in the household or physically available full time by being in proximity. The fact that my son lives states away from his dad and only engages him part time from a distance (voice over the phone or FaceTime) it could seem that my son sees his father in a potentially negative or passive light. I didn’t like the thought that came to me as I replayed my sons response, “I don’t want to call daddy.” With the the look now on his face as he was reprimanded. It dawned on me: “he doesn’t have enough positive reinforcement – physical or emotional interactions with his father.” Not only that, he can’t reach out and touch or hug his father later on after an argument like he does mommy, so no, most times he isn’t happy to “call” daddy.
My mind immediately went to a previous note that I had give. His father, “he really needs to see you soon.” I had just texted that to his father a week prior so hence today’s suggestion popped up in response to my mommy intuition: lHey what are you doing this week for spring break?” I asked. I had been meaning to ask him a week or so prior to this point but never got around to coordinating it. But what the heck I figured. “Do you have plans this week, Monday – Friday?” I asked.
I got Cedrick this week he said, why what’s up?” He answered. I was thinking maybe I could bring the little one up there for a few days. I said. ” I got Ced and have to take him out of town with me in a few days because his moms out of town. I mean this is last minute.”
My sons father travels regularly so that was nothing new, and having his first born son Ced with him was nothing new either, in fact they live in the same city and he has him often – even picks him up from school regularly. I could agree that this “thought to fly his youngest son to see him” during spring break was last minute but yet I was pissed at his response. I was pissed at the undertone that my son would be an inconvenience because he had his other son for a few days and that he has to take him out of town with him. Bullshit I’m feeling. This was a bullshitish reply, point blank period. Whatever went thru his mind when he said it, it was the wrong thing to say, in my mind. “That’s fine, I know it’s last minute, we’ll just plan it better for another time.” I responded. Unsure if it was the irritated look that took over my face or my rushed tone to get him off the phone now that had him double thinking. “Well u can go ahead and bring him if you have time.” He said. It was too late, my temperature had already been spiked. “Nope, that’s ok. I responded. We’ll go somewhere else.”
With SXSW here in Texas, friends and family were asking for us to come down to spend time.
“What do you mean y’all will just go somewhere else. His father asked. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll better plan and bring him another time. I have to go. I said, “Tell your dad bye son.”
It sucks being a single mom having to coordinate with a long-distance part time dad. Was I wrong to get upset at the undertones of his reply? Maybe. But it’s an everyday struggle to balance communication, schedules and the emotional well being of a child. My prayer is that we all get better by and by. SXSW- Austin, TX here we come!
Question for other mommy’s: What would you have done? How would you have responded? Let Sky know your thoughts! @email@example.com
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