The baby has discovered separation anxiety – not at being separated from me – people all over the world rejoice daily that they are separated from me. The baby has developed a deep dislike for being separated from his mother. This includes separations of as little as a few feet.
Separation anxiety takes its toll on everyone. The mother is exhausted; everyone, except perhaps anxious babies and opossums, needs to be separated from everyone else for a little while every day. Otherwise, a fraying of the nerves sets in. This fraying is manifested in desperate pleas in the nature of: “Somebody please pull this baby’s tentacles off me!”
It is difficult for the father not to feel rejected. It’s as if the baby has contracted amnesia and has forgotten all the wonderful times we’ve shared. The baby and I have spent many good times on our own, from which we’ve built a certain bond. Suddenly, our games only inspire the baby to make that frown that says: “They say I used to like this show. I must have been very unsophisticated in my youth.” The frown is followed by the wail for Mommy: “Mommy, help! I’m trapped in the arms of a balding man who aspires to drollness and claims to be a relative.”
The baby is stressed out because he is living a nightmare where he can’t find Mommy and he is being stalked by a sad clown who thinks he’s a funny clown. And he can’t heckle me enough to make me stop.
There are moments of light, in which the baby seems to recall that I am a loved one rather than a bad comic sent to annoy him. For a fleeting moment, he might coo sweetly to me. If I am extra lucky, he might even lean in and give me one of those kisses babies give, with their mouths wide open. If anyone but a baby kissed that way, it would be disgusting. In the next instant, the frown is back, as though I’m the one who gives disgusting type kisses. The wailing for Mommy is sure to follow.
I’m sure he’ll grow through this phase and retrieve his memory of me as a guy who did actually make him chuckle once or twice. Meanwhile, he’s Mommy’s ball and chain. If that sounds unsympathetic to you it only means that you have not been punched and kicked by him in his efforts to get away from you so he could crawl to Mommy.
“When will he reach that age when he only wants to be with you?” my wife asks me with a callow hopefulness. I don’t have the heart to tell her the truth: never. Even when his older brother spends the whole day eagerly lengthening the duration of my chores by helping me with them, he is always a single stern word away from running to Mommy. Mommy is the only one who can overrule Daddy. As such, she will always be needed.