Monday, July 06, 2009

Engrossment


I have been (predictably) quiet on this space because, of course, I've been deep in the baby haze of renewed fatherhood, punctuated by the sheer energy jolt that is parenting 5-year-olds in the summer.

The baby books call this period of fatherhood "engrossment," in which the male parent (or presumably, potentially any parent who did not physically give birth) bonds intensely with the child through close physical contact, logistical concern, and other domestic involvement with the new child's arrival. I am certainly experiencing that process, as this picture surely illustrates.

But we've got two other children, too, and I've found, perhaps predictably as well, that I've had opportunities to renew my bond with them as well. Much of their childhood has been defined by a preference (not exclusive, but marked) for their mother, even though we split a lot of the parenting duties and privileges. This has been a source of constant, if not devastating, hurt, as I sit quietly as the twins fight over who gets to sit behind mommy in the car, or next to her at a restaurant, as my nurturing of a skinned knee or bumped head is usually elicits cries for Mommy's apparently superior nurturing.

This preference is likely to be even more marked with Junebug, as Willow has been more singularly active with him than I have, requiring my help less frequently during key nursing or nurturing moments. I can only suspect that the next years with him will find some of the same rejections of the father that have stung with the twins.

But as I said, I'm also sometimes engrossed with my older children, having taken them for walks and trips and outings and time in the garden and a lot of other things since Junebug was born. The preferences for Mommy remain, but I'm finding some new, if unnervingly stereotypical, ways of finding affirmation from my children. That Rambunctious, for example, is super-excited to come watch my soccer game tonight induces extraordinary pride. That Imperia, upon her drop-off from a visit with grandparents, sat plastered up next to me at dinner feels warm and affectionate.

Couple these with the engrossment of a sleeping baby, and you can imagine a pretty satisfying month of fatherhood.

5 comments:

LenapeGirl said...

Don't be hurt by the mommy preference in early childhood for it doesn't last. I think it must be tied to the confort of breasts and soft parts for small children!

Very soon, you will be appreciated and loved just as much as Willow. Fathers become very important as children leave the nest of home and venture into a wider world. You will reflect back to them your confidence in their ability to navigate out there. For daughters especially, you will provide a sense of being cherished and valued as a person; that relationship becomes crucial once girls become sexual animals.

Nels said...

Nice entry!

Leslie said...

According to many of my students, who are all girls, they much prefer their dad than their mom once they reach puberty. So around 13, Lilah will become your best friend.

Scrivener said...

Wow, congratulations!!!

Horace said...

Thanks all.

(Nice to see you here, Scriv! It's been a while!)