Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Case of the Oedipus Complex

We’ve had a little taste of what toddlerdom may be like in the past week, with a couple of tantrums, some irrationality and some yelling. I’ve had a tantrum or two to deal with myself (I probably got the worst one, which lasted a good two minutes). But Mark is really getting the brunt of River’s treatment. Not only does River favor mom, but lately he has been overtly rejecting dad, refusing to do things when dad asks him, but doing them for mom, throwing a fit if dad tries to help him with something. Last night, dad offered to read him a story, normally River’s favorite thing to do. Not only did River say no, he chased dad out of the room, screaming no and hitting him. That is quite bruising to Mark’s psyche, making him wonder why he’s unloved and what he is doing wrong.

I asked the doctor about it and she said it’s just the good old Oedipal Complex, a normal stage of development, she says. “River thinks you belong to him. So he’s probably OK with dad when you aren’t there. But when you are together, he gets very defensive and is probably resistant to dad hugging you. You are his in his mind and dad is a threat.”

That was an accurate description of what it’s like. Just this morning River got upset when Mark hugged me and immediately demanded an “abrazo,” (hug) for himself. We do regular “family huggies,” in which all three of us participate in a bear hug. Those are generally acceptable to River because he’s often in my arms at the time of the hug. And they allow Mark to be part of the family too.

If there was anything I could do about it, I’d prefer for River to show more affection for his father. He puts in a lot and it’s really not fair to him to feel so rejected. It also tempers his enthusiasm, which is not high to start with, for a second child. It’s not nearly as rewarding to put in the sacrifice if you are not getting the special moments in return. At the same time, it’s touching that River sees his relationship with me as so important that he’ll do his 33-pound best to fight off any threats. But it is a little disturbing to think that anyone owns me.

The doctor said this could last a year. In the meantime, I hope that Mark and River can get out for more one-on-one time, so that they can create positive memories together without me being there to cause River to think there is a threat to his bond with me. This evening, Mark made a point to be engaged with River immediately upon coming home, and I made a point to go out for a walk and leave them alone together. I was glad to hear River’s peals of laughter as Mark chased him and to see him sprawled across daddy’s tummy going over flashcards.

Anyone else been through the Oedipus complex? Any tips on making it through?

1 comment:

Lainey Wright said...

Oh gosh, this sounds just awful! -poor Mark! -I hope he can martial through it & do what it takes to form his own tight bond with River. I know M already feels a little out in the cold (especially when he is unable to comfort X whatsoever when he cries at night -X just tolerates him & waits for me...), I cannot imagine if X overtly rejected him!