My oldest, Patriot, will be 3 next month. One of his favorite new games is to dream up ways to exclude me from family fun. Rarely do we all load into the car and I don't hear from him, "Can we leave Mommy at home?" Matt always gives him a big "That's silly" reaction and we all laugh at our cleverness.

In the beginning, I started to get my feelings hurt by the whole game, but then I remembered a chapter from Dr. James Dobson's book Bringing Up Boys. In the chapter titled "Mothers and Sons," Dr. Dobson describes the importance of maternal bonding with male infants, siting statical research of the health and growth benefits found in boys who had close relationships with their mothers as infants. However, things begin to change as boys become toddlers and then preschoolers.
"Despite the importance of an early mother-child bond, it may seem strange that little boys begin to pull away from their moms during the period between 15 and 36 months. Boys, even more than girls, become negative at that time and resist any efforts to corral or manage them. They say no to everything, even to things they like. They run when called and scream bloody murder . . . They usually respond better to fathers."
Dr. Dobson describes this "pulling away" from Mom as a natural part of boys' development. They are beginning to identify themselves as boys and naturally gravitate toward Dad to start building their masculinity. Mom is a girl, so, in their minds, they shouldn't do what Mom says because Mom might keep them from becoming men.

So what's a mother to do? Dr. Dobson says "they should not allow themselves to feel rejected and wounded by their boys' gravitation toward fathers. Just remember that the behavior isn't personal. Boys are genetically programmed to respond that way." Instead, he encourages mothers to look at this time as a opportunity in two particular areas.
  1. "Mothers should encourage their husbands to be there for their sons at this time when the need is the greatest." Suggest and even arrange father/son outings. Encourage your husband to teach your son a favorite hobby or special ability. When possible, allow your son to observe his father in different activities (i.e. visiting Daddy at work for brief times, going to Daddy's soccer games). Set up certain activities that are only done with Daddy. Mother has been the primary adult in the son's life since birth, now help father and son build their relationship.
  2. Mother "must take charge during these delightful but challenging days of toddlerhood. It is not sufficient to leave the discipline solely to Dad. Respect for her authority and leadership are rooted in this period, and opportunities that are lost will be difficult to recover later on." If you find yourself frustrated with your current discipline tactics, see my review of Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel. It provided lots of new ideas for me.
So next time Patriot asks if they can leave Mommy at home, I just might take him up on that. Patriot might need a little "Daddy time" and a nice evening at home by myself sounds pretty good to me!
3 Responses
  1. Joni Says:

    Wow, sister! That's something! It would totally break my heart to hear Patriot say he wanted to leave you at home! I'm very glad you found an explanation for it and you seem to be accepting it well... Yeah, when you think of it that way, sounds nice to just send the kids off with Matt and enjoy some tivo-ed Oprah and ice cream at home by yourself... ;)

  2. Sarah Says:

    Wow, I'm so glad to read that! Everett is SUCH a Daddy's boy it's insane!!! I was convinced (and adding guilt to myself) that it was because we lost our bond last year when I worked. I don't think that necessarily helped, but it is good to hear that it's a natural phase too. :( Awww....

    BUT, when they get older and play professional football, they always say "Hi Mom!" I've never seen "Hi Dad!" And, they love to come home to their momma's cooking, right? (If it's good.) So, we win in the end... not that I said it was a win or lose thing. Ahem. Not that I'm competitive at all either!

  3. Jessica Says:

    Yeah, Sarah, I've never seen a biker with a Dad tattoo, so I think it all comes out well in the end.

    And even now, when Patriot's sick or hurt, it sure seems to be Mom he yells for. Kind of makes ya feel good . . .