The Daddy Complex

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I'm curious if you went thru a tough time when the boys were 3-4 yrs old? We have a 3.5 yr-old boy. A yr ago he was challenging but mostly sweet & fairly easily diverted from mayhem. In the past 5 months he's morphed into one of those purple minions from the 2nd Despicable Me movie. No volume control, endless energy, a tiny tornado of destruction always wrestling, play fighting & hell bent on getting what he wants. Will our sweet little dude ever come back? Have we lost him to the dark side?

Asked by tlogirl

Yes, we did. And again at 5-years-old. And 5½. And from conversations I’ve had with other parents, it basically goes on like this —periods of calm followed by periods of havoc—until the child leaves for college. And also after that.

Your kid is fine. All kids go through these stages. He’s figuring out how the world works and his place in it. Your sweet little dude will comes back, but he’ll have better cognitive and social skills for having battled you. 

I read your blog and HowToBeADad every morning when I take a break from pretending to work. Need advice that I can't seem to find much info on from a man's POV: I am a dad (13 happy months in to a very chunk-like baby boy). My wife's dad and step-mother are completely self-centered, arrogant, pushy, toxic, and thankfully out of state. Wife now is taking a stand on her own accord, but I can sense the battle for middle earth is upon us. Any advice before we take this plunge?

Asked by Anonymous

I need some clarification. She’s taking a stand against what exactly? Battle for Middle Earth over what? Just their personalities? Or are they, like doing something more egregious than just being assholes? Like are they telling you what to do or trying to steal the baby? Wait…

Oh, my God! Is your father-in-law the Goblin King? If so, tell him I think Hunky Dory is, like, one of the best albums ever.

Without knowing the specifics, I’ll offer these two pieces of advice, the first of which is my standard bit of wisdom:

  1. I barely know what I’m doing, so keep that in mind.
  2. If your in-laws are truly “toxic,” keep them from having anything to do with your child. Or monitor their interaction with him. Sure, an uncomfortable conversation lies in your near future, but your baby is more important than the resulting awkward silence during Thanksgiving dinner.
High-res Wyatt gets out of bed every night after we say goodnight. Like, every night. Multiple times. This is normal, all kids do it. I know. But, last night it led to a revelation for him.
As I said goodnight, I urged Wyatt to stay in bed. I added that him repeatedly getting up to make unnecessary requests of us was one of the reasons we haven’t stacked their beds into bunk beds. (It’s not entirely true, but I thought I’d try it.)
A little while later, Wyatt came down and asked us if he could sleep in Boone’s bed. We have no problem with that and even told him before that he didn’t have to ask, that he can work that out with his brother. We noticed, however, that as he talked to us his demeanor changed and his breath caught in his throat a couple of times.
My wife asked, “Wyatt, are you trying not to cry?”
Wyatt said, “Yes, because Boone’s in the room crying right now.”
“Why is he crying?” I asked, assuming the answer would be because he was alone upstairs or something.
“Are we not going to stack the beds because I got out of bed?” Wyatt asked in reply.
We saw what was going on. He didn’t remember whether or not he was allowed to sleep in his brother’s bed, so he wanted to ask permission (and, yes, it was an excuse to get out of bed). But, Boone thought that meant we’d never stack the beds. And as Wyatt was talking to us, he realized what he’d done, how he’d upset his brother.
I went upstairs to calm Boone, told him we’d stack the beds when everyone was ready. Wyatt laid in bed next to him, still processing his realization.
They were both pretty tired, so I’m sure that contributed to the emotions he felt at the moment. But, I love that their love for each other means they shed genuine tears when the other is upset.

Wyatt gets out of bed every night after we say goodnight. Like, every night. Multiple times. This is normal, all kids do it. I know. But, last night it led to a revelation for him.

As I said goodnight, I urged Wyatt to stay in bed. I added that him repeatedly getting up to make unnecessary requests of us was one of the reasons we haven’t stacked their beds into bunk beds. (It’s not entirely true, but I thought I’d try it.)

A little while later, Wyatt came down and asked us if he could sleep in Boone’s bed. We have no problem with that and even told him before that he didn’t have to ask, that he can work that out with his brother. We noticed, however, that as he talked to us his demeanor changed and his breath caught in his throat a couple of times.

My wife asked, “Wyatt, are you trying not to cry?”

Wyatt said, “Yes, because Boone’s in the room crying right now.”

“Why is he crying?” I asked, assuming the answer would be because he was alone upstairs or something.

“Are we not going to stack the beds because I got out of bed?” Wyatt asked in reply.

We saw what was going on. He didn’t remember whether or not he was allowed to sleep in his brother’s bed, so he wanted to ask permission (and, yes, it was an excuse to get out of bed). But, Boone thought that meant we’d never stack the beds. And as Wyatt was talking to us, he realized what he’d done, how he’d upset his brother.

I went upstairs to calm Boone, told him we’d stack the beds when everyone was ready. Wyatt laid in bed next to him, still processing his realization.

They were both pretty tired, so I’m sure that contributed to the emotions he felt at the moment. But, I love that their love for each other means they shed genuine tears when the other is upset.

Story Time

Wife:
OK, time for a story. Who wants to start?

Wyatt:
Mama, can I act out my part?

Wife:
No.

Wyatt:
Why?

Wife:
It'll take too long. Boone, start us off.

Boone:
Um... Once upon a time, there was a snake—

Wyatt:
—Ssssss... I'm a snake–

Boone:
—who lived in a cabin.

Wyatt:
And I live in a cabin. Ssssss.

Boone:
He's acting.

Wife:
I know!