I’m having a really hard time bonding with Felicity. It’s not her fault. It’s not Tall Mom’s fault. The fault is mine, and mine alone. But here’s the worst part – I feel awful about it. Oh, and not just awful either – I’m scared too. It’s actually scared me to the point that I felt that I had to write about it here. First, I need some support – how do I get past this? Second, I know if I’m feeling it, then there must be other second time dads who feel the same way too, and they need to know they’re not alone. But, before I sound like a total jackass, please let me explain why I’ve realized I feel this way, and what I hope to do about it.
So let me preface this entire article by saying that I love my daughter Felicity. She is so precious, cute, and best of all, she actually sleeps! I never, in all of my wildest dreams, thought that I would get a baby that sleeps as much as this child does. Watching her with Tall Mom is probably one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed, and she truly brings a level of innocence to the house that I never imagined.
I’ve got a daughter. And while that’s scary as all kinds of hell, it’s actually a really cool notion. She rocks.
Here’s my issue though, I’m not bonding with her.
I don’t know why.
Well, that’s a little bit of a lie – I’m intimidated, I’m tired, I’ve got more on my plate than I care to admit, and I feel like my relationship with my son is far better.
Let’s just go down the list:
1. I’m intimidated – Holy shit am I intimidated. You’d think that I’ve already been through this, so it should come easily for me. This isn’t wholly untrue. I’m not as nervous about doing something to kill her like I was with our first tiny baby. But intimidation is different than nerves. I swear to all that is living and dead that every time I go to hold Felicity, she cries. I’m not kidding. It’s almost given me a complex. In fact, her crying has affected me so much that if is she is at all relatively happy while in her crib or bassinet, I refuse to touch her. I’ve actually come to think of this song as our anthem.
The whole SIDS thing scares the ever loving shit out of me. Yes, I know I just said I’m not as scared to kill her, and I’m not. But SIDS is totally out of my control and I have no idea if it will happen, and when it will happen. True, it’s completely irrational. But, terrifying nonetheless.
Also, she’s a girl, and I am super intimidated by cleaning the lady parts. I know you have to wipe up to down. I get it. But, something just really makes me incredibly uncomfortable about it.
The essence of this idea is that I have a general feeling of unease around her. Maybe it’s because she is a girl and I don’t know how to deal with it? I don’t know.
2. I’m tired – Granted, I did say she sleeps. She sleeps like a guy who just ripped three joints in 15 minutes. My wife has also taken the lead in caring for Felicity in the middle of the night if she needs it – so there is no excuse there either. But, my son Rhys is still getting up at the wee hours of the morning (multiple times) and I take care of him. So I’m up super early with Rhys, and I’m going to sleep late because I need to make sure Mary and Felicity are taken care of. Between that and everything else I have to do (more on this later) I am really fucking tired. I come home from work and all I wanna do is eat dinner, watch Netflix, and decompress. As such, I have very little patience for Felicity and the witching hours of 6pm through 9pm.
3. I’ve got more on my plate than I care to admit – Bear with me as this is going to sound like whining. But, my life is full. No, it’s FUCKING full. Full to the god damn brim. I don’t think there is anyway I can possibly fit anything else into my tornado of a life. Between my day job, my part time job, working out to lose the extra weight I gained through Mary’s pregnancy, house work, TRYING to have a social life, taking care of Rhys, being a poor to mediocre husband to my wife, getting dinners prepared, fixing stuff in the house, decorating the newly moved in house, two cats, and so on – I’m completely overwhelmed. I have so many things on my plate that I don’t even know where to begin anymore. I don’t think I’ve seen the floor on my bedroom in over 2 months because the room is such a mess.
Listen – I’m sure this situation is no different than any other second time dad and that’s why I feel terrible saying any of this, but I feel like I don’t have time for Felicity. I’ve got twenty pounds of shit packed in a one pound bag. I’m a master of nothing. I’m spread so thin that I’m not getting anything of real significance done. I’m doing everything and nothing – all at once. It’s taking a major toll on my feeling of self worth, and my confidence as a man/provider. I keep thinking of that song by The Beatles, “It’s All Too Much.”
There is, however, worse news. I know I’m letting my wife down because of all this. I know she only wants the best for me, so she tries to help and give tips on how to best soothe or handle Felicity. But, while the baby cries in my hands, the last thing I want is someone to tell me that I’m a failure at doing something that should be natural to me. Is she actually saying that I’m a failure? Of course not. She is just trying to help. But, that’s how I feel. So not only am I not handling my daughter well, but now I’m disappointing my wife too. That’s the worst kind of pressure, and it just keeps building with each passing day.
Like I said, I’m tired. I’m tired from all the above mentioned shit and more. I don’t want to deal with a newborn, I don’t wanna deal with the disappointment, so I avoid it as much as possible.
4. My relationship with my son is better – while I know this reasoning is the most asinine and unfair assessment of all the conclusions I’ve drawn so far, somehow it’s the one that rings most true. My son Rhys is my buddy. My shadow. He and I do everything together. Football, baseball, eat, sleep, go to work, play on the swingset, drive in the car, you name it and we do it. Of course, it wasn’t always like this, he was a colicky little dink for so long. In fact, he was such a god damn pain in my ass as a baby that I didn’t want to hang out with him at all either. But, even though he was such a terror, it just felt different than it does with Felicity. Perhaps it’s because he was my first child and it was all so new to me that I had an instant connection. Suffice it to say, the passing course of events have completely solidified and shifted our relationship of today into something that’s really beautiful. We talk, watch How To Train Your Dragon together, laugh at each other, rough house, and it all makes sense.
But, none of this exists with Felicity. She barely smiles at me, cries when I touch her, she mainly relies on Mary for all her needs, she’s frail, and I can’t converse with her. You see, I already went through all the tough shit with Rhys. I did my time. I did the sleepless nights, the colic, the teething issues, getting sick, taking care of breast milk, endless diapers, bouncing on yoga balls to calm the crying, all of it! I earned the relationship I have with my son and I god damn deserve it too. I have to start all over now? It’s kind of like losing 75 pounds, getting in shape, and then eating at the Old Country Buffet every day for a year, only to regain the weight and put on more to boot. Then you realize you have to lose it all again. You know how to do it, you know what it takes, but you look in the mirror and say, “Jesus Christ that’s a lot of fuckin’ work, and I don’t wanna do any of it all over again.”
What scares me is that I’d rather be with my son at any given moment. I don’t want Felicity around at times because I feel like it takes away from my work with Rhys. It’s stupid. It’s nonsense. I get it. But, it’s horrifying.
So in the end, I’m messed up. I don’t know what to do. I hope it gets better, and I keep telling myself that it will. But will it? I don’t have a guaranteed answer of yes. I look around me as things happen, and I wonder if I’m the man my wife deserves? People around me are breaking up, ending their marriages, moving on to different endeavors, and I can’t seem to get anything right. Will my wife move on from me too? (Of course not, but it’s the insecure jackass in me that keeps pushing this idea to the forefront of my asshole brain.) Can someone far smarter, and better than I be able to handle all of the issues that are thrown my way and still be able to treat her in a manner that she truly deserves?
Do you know that my wife and I were at breakfast the other day, and as I looked at a twenty something couple who just trudged into the diner (definitely after a night of partying and heavy drinking) and I broke down crying because I miss those times with her? I miss waking up at 10am, rolling into breakfast at 11am, getting home by noon only to take a nap with her after, and then go for a ride on the motorcycle for no other reason because “we could.” I remember what it was like without my kids, and I wanted it back. I wanted just my wife. Felicity (and, yes, even Rhys) prevent this from happening. They prevent us from being us, and I hate it. Yet, I love it at the same time.
My children have made my heart grow in ways that are inconceivable. I get so much joy and fulfillment from them that only a parent can understand.
So this is my quandary – a living, breathing, walking, talking paradox of life. Happiness and sadness all wrapped up in a titanic anomaly of life.
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