He wants me, he wants me not; which is it?

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 1, 2010

If there is a scouting organization for first time, 40-year-old fathers, I would have earned two merit badges this week.

Gibson has never been one to cry a lot, so when he does, I’ve always reacted with anxiety.

So, I was caught off guard on a recent morning when I realized that his cries elicited a smile from me.

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When Gibson turned 1, my wife and I decided to send our son to a private childcare provider. He has always embraced his new “school” with enthusiasm. Each morning, he leaps into the arms of his sitter waiting to find out what new things he will discover.

For his first year, Gibson received childcare at home. In those days, I knew I could stop by the house or my wife’s office to get in a quick visit. Now, I go on with the day without seeing Gibson until after work.

The remaining hours left in the day seem to fly by, leaving me with little time to be with him before he goes to bed.

Recently, I lamented that he ends up spending more time with his sitter than he does with his own parents. No wonder he gets excited whenever we drop him off each morning.

So, when Gibson became slightly clingy one morning, I wondered what suddenly had changed. The clinginess continued as I walked out the door.

Not wanting to prolong the situation, I continued walking to the car as he reached out, crying.

The experience left me with conflicting emotions. On the one hand I was concerned and wanted to console him. On the other hand I felt a strange sense of validation. My son, who previously leapt from my arms with little concern, was now reaching out for his dad.

Despite the wailing, I left with a smile on my face.

That smile didn’t last two days when my dad credentials suffered a setback.

It seems that you don’t have to wait until your children become teenagers before they give you that classic sign of embarrassment — the dreaded rolling of the eyes.

At least that’s what I imagined Gibson doing Thursday morning when I dropped him off at his sitter.

Everything was going smoothly when we walked up the front steps. Unlike Monday, Gibson showed few signs of being clingy when he jumped down to begin a long day of play.

After a hug and a kiss, I walked up to my car, hopped into the seat, put the key in the ignition and turned the key.

Nothing happened. The entire car was dead.

Gibson watched from the arms of his sitter, wondering why his dad was just sitting there — doing nothing.

I got out, popped the hood, scratched my head and inspected the situation. After jiggling a few wires, I tested the ignition. Like magic, the car started.

“See. Daddy can fix anything,” I said as I drove off waving goodbye.

Those words were made to be eaten when about 500 feet down the street, the entire electrical system went out once again.

Sheepishly and a little perturbed, I climbed out of the car.

As the sitter watched quizzically, I thought I saw Gibson hiding his face in embarrassment. As I stuck my head under the hood, Gibson decided he had seen enough and walked away.

It was then that I realized that there are days when your children want you and days when they don’t.

Which day is which? There is no way to predict.

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.