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Help. Advice needed on how to help ds whose father left when he was a baby

(28 Posts)
bbqsummer Fri 14-Jun-13 22:53:54

I am a lone parent. Ds is now five but his dad (exHusband) walked out when he was six months old and there's never been any contact since. I have no idea where he is now.

ds knows that 'daddy ran away to another country' and that he was 'naughty' to do that, but that I love him totally and can love him enough for both of us and that he will always be loved and I am never ever going to leave him.

He's a confident, sociable, loving, clever boy with great friends. He's doing well at school and I pack a lot into our lives as possible. We are very close and have a super wamr loving relationship. The husbands of a couple of good friends are also around and make an effort to do dad things with him - bikes, fires, cars, go-karts etc. But of course they are not constants in his life iykwim.

In the last few days he's been throwing himself at other kids' fathers saying 'you're my daddy'. His teacher told me this today. She says he needs more 'boundaires' and that he has made two fathers (he doesn't know them) feel uncomfortable.

I am not sure what to do or how to help him.

Any advice? We have no family at all - so as well as zero father, he has no grandads, grannies, cousins, uncles etc. It really is just him and me.

Can anyone suggest what I should or can do and how I should adddress the throwing himself (desperately wanting rough and tumble) with him?

I'm going to copy and paste this into relationships too as people on there might know young children in a similar position whose mothers have found a way.

Thanks for reading.

LastTangoInDevonshire Fri 14-Jun-13 22:57:06

My brother did this, aged 5, after our father died. He grew out of it.

bbqsummer Fri 14-Jun-13 23:00:25

Thankyou for replying Tango, and I am very sorry to hear about your dad. That's very sad. I hope you and your brother have carved out happy lives for yourselves after such a trauma.

DoTheBestThingsInLifeHaveFleas Fri 14-Jun-13 23:05:10

Ah BBQ I really want to offer some advice but have literally no experience in any of it at all. Just didn't want to read and run. It sounds like you are a fabulous mummy with a strong mother and son bond, but i can understand why you are worried. Sending hugs until someone with wise words comes along xx

FastLoris Fri 14-Jun-13 23:39:25

He's five FFS. Little kids say all kinds of stuff, even with the most "normal" nuclear family behind them.

Tell the teacher and the other dads to get a life.

bbqsummer Sat 15-Jun-13 00:33:35

Thanks fastloris. You may well be right. sad

Trouble is I have no idea.

But I have to assume that other children in his class are not throwing themselves at others' dads and saying 'you're my daddy' etc. I know he does it as he has with others outside of school.

But maybe the teacher is just picking on us as easy targets and she's lying, and has picked up on local gossip and they want him out of the school as it's very full so they're building new classrooms - so maybe my ds is a good target as she will get no fight baack from a 'nuclear family' thing.

I honestly don't know. But you have made me think that really, ds just needs to get over it and actually maybe we should probably just move out of the county.

thanks smile

Walkacrossthesand Sat 15-Jun-13 01:13:16

Oh BBQ, I'm sure the teacher isn't trying to get you to leave shock - and surely a change of area & school is the last thing you and DS need? Maybe you could sit down with DS with some paper and colouring pencils, get him to draw his family, and talk about what a 'daddy' is - there's some confusion in his head at some level, maybe he's picked up something about some children having a step-dad and hasn't understood how that comes about?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 15-Jun-13 05:56:17

I'm also going to suggest you don't overreact to this. 5yos are often very free with their affections and have peculiar ways of expressing it. I remember one little friend of DS's solemnly announcing he was going to marry me when he grew up ... smile (I think it was because we have Jaffa Cakes) In a similar way I think him saying 'you're my daddy' to strangers probably just means 'I like you a lot'.

I don't think the teacher is picking on you at all. I think what they want you to tell him is that, even if he really likes someone, he's not to call them Daddy (or hug them or whatever else was involved) because they might not like it. This is also the age when you need to start thinking about ideas like 'stranger danger' (and obviously it's not just strangers kids have to be careful of) personal privacy, that kind of thing.

So don't worry. You've obviously got a very loving, very demonstrative little guy there and that's a nice thing. I don't think it's some psychological problem at all. Just curb the excesses and he'll be fine.

Lweji Sat 15-Jun-13 06:25:57

It's normal for young children to need a father figure.
Even DS, 8, who is in contact with this dad but remotely, was very happy to attach to someone I was with recently.

I was looking for a Big Brother programme in the UK, but it doesn't seem to be there one, although there is something somewhat similar (Friendship Works, although I'm not sure your boy would qualify as he seems to have lots of support already).

Personally, I'd show him a lot of photos of his own dad and would talk to DS about him.
That might help create a sense of parental identity for him.
Are you in contact with your ex's family?

JustinBsMum Sat 15-Jun-13 06:59:21

I would remind him that his DF is out of the country so definitely not at school.
Maybe it's just wishful thinking on his part. But also make sure he realises that it isn't only him without a daddy, there must be some others in the school who you could tell him about or make up, maybe not risk pointing out, or DCs with different than 'normal' mum dad and two kids. Are there bedtime reading books about lone parent families?

perplexedpirate Sat 15-Jun-13 09:09:32

The dads were 'uncomfortable'?! A small boy, obviously working though some issues, makes a comment to them and they react by tattling to teach that they are 'uncomfortable'?!

It sounds like your son will be fine OP, and it also sounds like you are doing a great job.

These men, on the other hand, need pointing in the direction of the nearest purveyor of grips.
hmm

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 15-Jun-13 09:28:55

I think everyone's being a bit too literal here. To your DS, a 'Daddy' is a) male, b) nice and c) willing to take him go-karting etc. Can you blame him if he adopts a few more to the cause?

How about dropping the gender restrictions & showing him that Mums (women) are fully able to do 'Dad stuff'... and that he doesn't need to approach random males in order to get a bike-ride or light a fire?

bbqsummer Sat 15-Jun-13 10:12:26

Thanks for all input. To answer one question below, no there's no contact with ex's family - their choice not mine. They want nothing to do with us. sad

I do as many 'dad' things with him as I can - I am not much of a girly girl really and I am strong and capable, so he helps out with shifting stuff, lifting, getting logs in and lighting the fire, putting up huge xmas tree, um kicking a ball around and playing a bit of cricket. Just random examples there.

But he really loves all the rough and tumble games and I'm not strong enough to do those with him. He's three stone and very active. A couple - friends of ours - came to our house for supper one night last week and the husband did rough and tumble with ds and he loves it. He follows the husband round everywhere and cried his eyes out when they left. sad

It's hard explaining to ds about his father, because he has very little concept of where the man is - he went abroad and frankly I don't know where he is anymore. He has seen pictures of his dad but it's difficult for him to 'get it' as in them, daddy is holding him, or standing with me and we are holding ds together etc. Normal husband and wife with new baby pics kind of thing.

Last night he said 'when I'm six you can get me a new daddy but if he's naughty like the old one you can tell him to leave'. I said that would mean me having a boyfriend or partner and I don't want one as I like looking after ds and I don't want a boyfriend.

In summary it's been a tough enough journey for me, being left holding the baby quite literally and not knowing where on earth this man I married is..so it must be even tougher for a five year old brain to grapple with.

Thanks again

Lweji Sat 15-Jun-13 10:15:22

TBH, I think your DS is at a stage of gender identification. I have noticed with DS and his friends, that at these ages they more clearly distance themselves from the girls.
It is likely (and I don't know enough about this) that, biologically, he needs a male reference figure.
Not only for "doing things" but a reference male. Just for being male.

It's great that he has those figures in his life, through your friends, but I suspect that because he's being raised by a "village of men", he's more likely to associate the role of dad to different men and any men he finds nice.

So, it may be worth clarifying to him that the word "dad" belongs to that man who gave him half his DNA.
Perhaps he doesn't know what to call these other men and calls them the same as the other boys? "Dad". smile
Maybe he should be properly introduced and told their names, for example?

My best mates son announced age 5 that he wished I was his mummy and he could live with DH and I. His parents were most pissed off until I explained about the Magnums we keep in the freezer....
Cupboard love smile

Lweji Sat 15-Jun-13 10:19:08

As for rough and tumble, could you enroll him in some sport where he has lots of regular contact with males?

DS has had a male swim teacher (not that I intended to) and he's in an anti-bully self defence class. He loves both and the teachers have provided good male role models too.

I think you sound brilliant and well done for making such a great life for you and your boy. I think he'll grow out of this too, and I don't think the teacher is trying to get rid of you! I doubt the fathers were that uncomfortable, think she's trying to give a message about stranger danger. My DP gets a lot of 'attention' from DS6's friends and a couple of the lads without dads around in particular, but he isn't 'uncomfortable' with it, he likes being a role model to them. (because he's basically a big kid himself) Think Lweji is right in her last post BTW.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 15-Jun-13 10:23:44

It's actually not tougher for a 5yo brain. He accepts the world as you present it to him. He's blissfully unaware of the minefield complexities of adult relationships. So however you explain the distinction, he'll go with it. Where/when I grew up it was traditional to call unrelated adult friends and neighbours 'Uncle' and 'Aunty'. For some reason, no-one found it all confusing.

AnneElliott Sat 15-Jun-13 11:11:50

I wouldn't worry about it too much. Teacher sounds as though she's made a big deal out of nothing. My friends DS calls my DH dad sometimes, especially if DH is playing with them and my own DS is shouting "Daddy". My friend's DS does have a dad that he sees, but he's a but rubbish about doing stuff with him. If your son enjoys your friends partners, can you not try and see more of them?

hotbot Sat 15-Jun-13 11:15:22

An your little boy sounds amazing. I think you are doing everything right and as lots of posters have already said, it is perhaps a phase. I would second, enrolling him in a so called macho sports club, tag rugby at 5 is possible.
As for the dads I think it's odd, but perhaps they are worried about contact with a little boy they don't know and have handled it IMHO in a very over the top way.

bbqsummer Sat 15-Jun-13 13:19:33

He can't do running and contact sports because he has a long-term illness. he can't go swimming for same reason. He does do other hobbies though. I am going to have a sit down talk with him later tonight, re other dads - what a 'dad' actually is and to get him to think about not hoping every man he meets will do blokey rough games with him and want to be his 'dad'.

I too hope that as he understands more about where his own feckless 'dad' went (he thinks he lives in France?? But as far as i know he certainly doesn't!) he will learn to accept it and live with it. As he gets older he will be able to make his own male relationships stronger.

Thanks again.

girliefriend Sat 15-Jun-13 13:28:08

Hi i have a dd who is 7yo and also has no contact with her dad. She did at a similar age to your son go through a phase of calling other kids dads 'dad'. It made me feel sad but i sat down with her and said she can't do that, they are not her dad.

She got quite upset about it and I just supported her best I could, I told her it was o.kay to feel sad or cross about it and I also gave her as much info as I could about her dad. Things like his name, age, what he did for a job etc, I also had a photo I could show her. Kids are curious and want to know ime as much as poss. Also be careful that you don't portray him in a negative way, even though we think of them as feckless twunts I don't want my dd growing up thinking of him in that way!!

You might want to post in lone parents as well as there is lots of us in the same boat smile

Whatwouldyousay Sat 15-Jun-13 14:53:22

I would get an age-appropriate book out of the library that you can read together - there are plenty about single parenthood and absent parents aimed at children.
Good luck smile

It sounds to me that his rushing up to other parents and saying "you are my daddy" is his way of showing how much he wishes he had a dad that interacted with him.

I'd talk to him about how it sounds like he really wishes he had his daddy living with him. Let him express how he feels, even if he is sad. Agree that it is really sad but that even though other men in his life aren't his dad and can't be his dad, they can still do things with him like a dad would do eg rough and tumble games. He can do "dad-like" things with others but can't call then Dad.

girliefriend Sat 15-Jun-13 20:01:47

There is a book called 'do I have a daddy?' which my dd found useful, we got it through Amazon.

bbqsummer Sat 15-Jun-13 22:12:24

Do I have a Daddy talks about reinforc ing the other family members - grandad and uncle etc. he simply doesn't hjave an yone like this and i dont want to make things harder for him! I am going to have to write my own book i reckon

girliefriend Sun 16-Jun-13 11:45:54

I think as someone else said it might be worth looking at booking him into a class where there would be some strong male role models. Have any of your friends got partners that would be happy to spend some 'boy' time with him?

My dd loves spending time with my bestfriends partner and even said to me on one occasion that she wishes he was her daddy! He will need some males in his life so it will just be finding a way of making that possible I suppose.

girliefriend Sun 16-Jun-13 11:51:11

But yes writing your own book is a good idea as well!! I found that book useful for getting the conversation started, its a non confrontational way my dd can say she is thinking about it or wants to talk about it if she goes and gets that book out.

However in the book the little boys dad was about when he was a baby which for my dd wasn't the case so I had to try and explain that was different. Its not easy and I suppose I am fortunate in that dd has got a grandad that she sees quite often (and who dotes on her) and I also have brothers so there is a few men about. If you asked my dd though she would say its a real daddy she wants though sad

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