Fatherhood Odyssey: What My Son’s Neediness Taught Me About Myself

My youngest son has a seemingly insatiable desire for attention, especially from his mom. Sometimes it escalates into awkward neediness, and it hurt me seeing my son feel this way. I tried to step in and “save” him from feeling this way—but to no avail. Only his mom’s attention would do. And recently, I wondered: Why does this affect me so much?

[00:00:00] You know, it’s Feeling seen being recognized. There’s something so powerful in this. we have two sons, right? The oldest and the youngest.
And when we received My oldest son, that was as oftentimes as with parents, that was a showering of attention and love and trying to do everything right. And having still a lot of strength that everything was new. And so he got a lot of closeness, a lot of love, a lot of attention. When he was in his first two years.
When our second child arrived. There was already an exhaustion. from having problems in the marriage and having a small baby and boom. Now there’s a second small baby there right Now we have like an 18 month old. And a one month old. And. with our second child. His mother was a lot more over sensitized. Like she was just.
Over her point. when he was crying. she could only handle it so much. Not as much as with the oldest. And one pattern that they established still, even, not a youngest child, got a lot of love and a lot of attention, but our youngest child, [00:01:00] funny enough. Very quickly established a neediness.
it was much more needy. And that neediness was creating a. Dynamic between mother and child, that was much more challenged. And I remember very vividly being in the kitchen and our youngest was. 11 months old or something. So he couldn’t fully walk. Quit standing. Good crawl. And he would crawl.
mama, mama and wanting to be picked up. And his mother was doing something in the kitchen. She was like, not now, not now. Lele. Mama needs a break one second. And it’d be like, mama. Mama. And he was like overplayed. He really wanted to be picked up and then she would get angry.
And they would have kind of a fight going on and the angrier, she got the Nidea. He got.
And I remember oftentimes I was stepping in and I was picking him up. And I was like, daddy, see, I’m going to give you this love and attention, everything you need. And he would turn around and be like, mama, mama. He wanted it from her. And that would make her. Even angrier because he’s like, why can’t I get a break? When I really needed. Now. [00:02:00] as our children grew up. This pattern has not changed. It has softened a lot. because mother and child, they have a very close relationship and he does get a lot of attention from her, but he seems more unlimited in his desire and neediness for her attention.
Versus the oldest is more relaxed. And so it is harder for the mother to give the youngest as much attention and love as he needs. It’s much easier for it to give it to the oldest. For a while. As there were a few years older, I started trying to adjust.
And over a gift to the youngest gift to the old, but give a little bit more to the younger, because I felt like he’s lacking that.
Two days ago. we’re at the beach at the ocean. Whole family’s there. That is anchored.
Far down in the ocean. And one thing I like to do with my kids and we established two years ago is sometimes when it’s a very far swim, much further than they could swim themselves. I swim in parallel with them and anytime they need to break, they swim to my back and they hold onto my back and I just carry them right [00:03:00] now. This was so far.
That I’d asked my kids, Hey, I can only do one kid at a time. Because there’s a lot of waves and I don’t feel quite secure to have both of you in such deep water. So I’m swimming with my oldest to the boat. My oldest is hanging out there. We’re having fun. We’re laughing. Eventually it gets back on my back and we swim back. And now the taxi dad picks up.
A younger child and we swim to that place. And as we swamp to that place, he turned around. And he was screaming. Mama, look at me, mom, mom, look, I do this mom. And she was giving him a loop. Once she picked it up, she gave him a little bit of attention. And then she wanted to do something with the older one.
And he was screaming and the more he was needy, the more it was sort of irritating us slightly annoying.
RA: Yep.
SE: And I step in. Again, into the role of showering him with love and telling him all kinds of stories and playing with him and trying to.
We out the scales, even the scales, right. And. I saw [00:04:00] him. Like I saw him reject that. Because it was sort of like a, Hey, I can’t I don’t want your, like I already, my cup is full with.
RA: Yeah.
SE: Yeah, my cup is full with your attention and love. I need this over there.
RA: Yeah.
SE: And then something inside of me clicked. I realized. You cannot, like you cannot feel. The cup. Instead of another person, If there’s something I want or desire from you. Rameen. It’s not as always as straightforward. You’re not giving it to me. I can just get it from somebody else in a field. Totally fine. As long as you’re in my life and an important person.
I will feel the lack of what you are not wanting to give me. I won’t feel it fulfilled from other people.
And so I realized how futile that exercises of trying to fill his cup in that way. then I thought. Isn’t it interesting that we always desire to be seen and [00:05:00] recognized by those who least. Want to look and recognize us that’s especially in children, but this is true for adults as well. We always seek the approval and the recognition from where it is hardest to get.
And. As we swam back.
He was strongly in that neediness state than usual these days. And I. Was Abe. To not get involved in that and try to, even out. And I just let it play out and it was just playing out. He wanted to, and he never stopped. It was unreasonable. He never stopped wanting things from his mother.
And the more he wanted it, the more annoying he was getting and a more out of rhythm, like his jokes didn’t work. He tried to play a prank on her, but it’s kind of like off and was not funny. And he was struggling harder and harder and she was struggling harder and harder to be like, calm with it and nice to him. And so that we’re struggling together in this. And I was observing this. [00:06:00] And I thought. I wonder why this is something that I see.
So strongly, and that actually is hurting me. Like it’s something I’m not at peace with. I’m not relaxed about. I wanna. I don’t want my child to feel this way. I want to heal it and help it. Right. And rescue him from this. Back in the day, I was very judgmental about his mother about this dynamic, but I’ve let this go because there’s a lot of beautiful things she does with both of their children, but this is just one little struggle they have, and it’s just the struggle they have. And I started thinking about my own childhood. I’m like. Was I needy in ways that were in sooth. Did I need certain things from certain people that I couldn’t get.
And then, you know, you flip the script as we always do. And I went well. What are the parts in me that are needy and want attention and love and acceptance and recognition I’m. [00:07:00] Not fully ready. To give those things to. And then I realized, you know, when I was a child, I got a lot of recognition.
For certain behavior. Everybody was telling me. That I’m smart. Everybody was telling me. That I’m ambitious that I’m going to. I’m going to go far in life. That was all the praise. I have a God that was all the things people. we’re highlighting. Right. Which makes total sense because those were strengths that I had as a child that were obvious to people, gifts that were obvious.
But. Nobody ever said. Wow. You’re super sensitive, which I was, that was incredibly sensitive as a child. Nobody ever said that nobody ever said, wow, you, your creative or your capacity to feel, or maybe even. It’s fine to be like. I remember a lot of times people would tell me that I’m too selfish when I was a kid.
But nobody ever told me that. [00:08:00]
We are all selfish and it’s fine. You just have to learn to deal with it. And it’s okay to want something right. And desired fully. There were just like with most people that will boxes that were the good behavior and boxes that were the bad behavior. And one thing, I always felt that my mother was a very attentive, loving mom, which she was in some ways in the ways that she, that was easy for her.
But, you know, we had a conversation recently at dinner with my mom and my brothers about our childhood. And I started that because I wanted to see, how did you guys experience me? And how did I experience you as a child? Like just talking about our childhood and earlier years in our family. And.
The all three of them, my brothers and my mom started laughing about how much of a hermit I was as a kid in my room. That. And my mom started telling this story that she’s like, you know, you were crazy. You never wanted me to even open the door. I would open it a little bit and you’ll be at the door and be like, what, what, what do you want, what do you want?
[00:09:00] And she wanted to clean my room because my room was always a mess, right stuff on the ground. Everything was always crazy. And I would
RA: actually surprises me.
SE: Yeah, it was very, very, uh, everybody still thinks I’m that way. You know me you’ve lived with me and you. Experienced me a lot. I’m super clean now.
But this is something. That I learned from my mother. In my upbringing, but as a kid, I was super messy. And. she was saying you were the only child. I had that on Sundays. You were taking the vacuum cleaner to vacuum your room. You were taking all the, you. The linens to change your pillows to change her. She’s like, no, I don’t know if my boys ever did this.
But you were so in such a panic for anybody to enter your room, did you always want it to do all these things yourself? And I looked at her. And I went. Do you know why that is? And she was like, No. And I told her, you know, because I didn’t have. Things in the room that I thought were cool and I [00:10:00] didn’t want other people to see.
Or porn magazines or something that I was embarrassed about. You know what it was.
I was deeply, deeply unhappy. And ashamed.
not just because my room was unclean because I felt. As a child that was kind of after my dad died kind of between six years old and 14, 15 years old, that time range.
I felt.
worthless. I didn’t know my place in the world. I didn’t feel cool enough. I didn’t feel beautiful enough. I didn’t feel smart enough. I didn’t feel strong enough. I was outwardly confident when I needed to, but. Inside. I was actually hiding and I remember being in my room looking out and when I saw kids or people, girls that I was interested in, they would pass the window almost like hiding and watching them.
And in a panic that they would see me kind of ugly, and my hair is shitty and I’m in this. Terrible little ugly room. I didn’t want anybody to see me the way I was. I was kind of, I was a pretty unhappy [00:11:00] child during those years. And my mom was shocked. And. I thought. Yeah, because she never, my mother never saw that.
She didn’t just see it because I was hiding it. She didn’t see it because she was hiding it herself. There’s a lot of like pain and hurt and grieve that my mom was hiding. And so we’re all hiding our shit. And so none of us were seeing and recognizing. Are each in each other. The problems, the, the ugly sides, the weak side, the insecure side that was not recognized.
Right. And that hands, why? All three of my mother’s son became very strong, man. That appear very confident. Physically strong, mentally strong that are always very like practical, pragmatic. Logical people when problems arise. People always like all our songs are like, all right, this is the problem. He is my responsibility. He has had to deal with this.
We learned how to be really, really strong. But none of us is able to deal with any [00:12:00] kind of weakness, ugliness with a shadow sides of ourselves or other people. We’re not great at that. We, we don’t have, uh, an appetite to see somebody’s weakness without being irritated about it in some way, without wanting to shake the other person out of it. Yeah.
You’re hurt, but it’s not that bad. Don’t be that sensitive. You can do it. Just have positive thoughts and go in and change your life. Right. That’s kind of how we dealt with problems when we were young. And so. I was wondering. If part of these, these sides of me that were ugly, weak, afraid, powered Lee, whatever, all these pieces of me and parts of me.
We’re in. We’re seen and recognized and accepted. And so I was hiding them and other people didn’t want to see them. And didn’t see them. And I eventually developed. [00:13:00] A blind spot for them because I don’t want to see my shit. Right. I want to hide it. And that should these parts of us, the ugly parts of us are the ones.
That are most hurting to be seen and recognized and accepted. They’re the ones that are the most.
Traumatized by living in our inner shadows and outer shadows by being pushed away. By being locked away. And none of this is.
a crazy revelation to me. But it was the first time this played out.
So intensely. And then I was able to fully and clearly see for myself at this point, what was going on? And for the first time. To not feel hurt or a nervousness. That I need to save my child or even understanding that I can’t save him in this way. Like by showering him and praising. Him because [00:14:00] the part of him that wants to be seen is in this case, a needy part.
And it wants to be seen by. The ones that are not ready to see that, or the ones, the parts of the judge, that the parts that are irritated by that neediness. So we’ll have to figure that out on his own one. The interesting thing. That is happening is, so we swim together to that boat.
On the way back. It was very, the ways were very strong. My oldest was a much better swimmer. Both of them are pretty good swimmers, but my oldest was a better swimmer. Didn’t want to swim the way back. So it was on my back the entire time. My youngest started swimming alone and eventually. I was like, Hey, I think you could do it. If you keep breathing at this pace, you’re going to do it.
And so he was doing it. He swept the entire. Part back alone. And at the final stage, I go, wow. Leo as we’re swimming. You’re going to definitely make it.
Are you proud of yourself? And I could see the entire time he would not lose sight [00:15:00] of his mother. There was a desire to, for her to see this.
RA: Yep.
SE: And as I tell him, dude, Instead of saying I’m really proud of you. You’re amazing. I just said. What do you think of yourself for swimming all the way back? Are you proud of yourself? And he said, not really, maybe a little, but not much. And then when he arrived, the first thing he did is he did this. He looked at his mom and then he looked at me and then he looked at his mom again. And there was a question mark and beer that said,
Dad. Are you going to tell her. And I went. Leo do we want to tell her? And he’s like, yeah, tell her. I’m like, mom, Leo swim all the way back on his own. And then, you know, all the adults. Wow. Leo, great, blah, blah, blah. But I thought it was. So interesting that when I asked him, are you proud of yourself? He was like, not really.
Right. so. I think I can already see that there’s. Sides of himself that are not seeing an accepting certain other parts of himself. [00:16:00] And this is the healing that needs to happen here. Cannot come from me. Telling him how awesome he is. You know, a high fiving him or giving him that healing has to happen by.
which is another. Another layer on top of this. All I can do is heal myself in this regard, in front of him. And be somebody that is more needy, more sensitive, more ugly sometimes in front of my children, as well as in front of myself. So he sees me doing this, practicing this embodied in an embodied, lived out fashion versus a verbalized theorized. Let me tell you something about.
Words and theories and ideas. And. Aye. The best way to help the overall dynamic is not by me adding more judgment to this duo right there. Like two people were actually, it’s a dynamic of three, there’s two that struggle. And I’m here judging one of those two, which [00:17:00] is amplifying the struggle.
What I can add to this is more acceptance and understanding for both sides and allow them to figure it out and not amplify the problem, which is another thing that I’ve been thinking a lot recently. You know, there was a moment. Today. Where. The kids would jump into the pool and do a bunch of crazy shit.
And their mother would like step in, in my eyes a bit too hard and often to be like, don’t do this, don’t do that. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That. And I started off by telling her. Hey stop. Just trust them. Stop just let them do it. And then the third time. I stepped in and said something I recognized.
I’m doing the same thing to her. I’m telling her not to do to them. Right. Instead of trusting her and trusting them that they’ll figure it out. I’m stepping into [00:18:00] correct things.
RA: Yeah. That’s funny. Yeah.
I do the same thing. And just when you were telling the story, I was like, oh, I do the same thing. And then you say, oh, I did that.
SE: Yeah. I’m like, I’m seeing her. Correct too much. And then a step in correcting too much to stop her. Like. It’s beautifully ironic. Right. And so, once I caught myself. I just jumped into the pool and started playing with them. And the moment I was in the pool, she relaxed and did something else and just
Resolved itself, but I came up with this.
idea to practice, to say, let me see if in the next couple of days. When I see behavior that I think is overly micromanaging or overly this or overly that, that I won’t try to micromanage that, but just trust and relax and let them figure it out, figure it out, let her figure it out.
If there’s something to figure out and just embody what I want to.
Stand for and create an [00:19:00] experience. And live, which is be relaxed. And body relaxation and body trust and body allowing struggles to happen or dangerous, even if it’s the danger of my children being too micromanaged. Right. Versus the danger of them. Jumping into the pool in some way. That’s too dangerous.
And embodying what I want versus talking about what I want while embodying something completely different. And I’ll finish with a story because this popped up and I haven’t thought about this in. I don’t know. At least a decade. I used to tell this story a lot when we did the hypnosis and NLP workshop company, because it was during that time.
Of exploration of communication that I’ve had that moment.
I’m at the breakfast table with one of my brothers and his daughter. She was the first child in the family. The daughter is three years old. The mother has made breakfast for all of us. The uncles Steli is visiting. I’m sitting down. And the daughter is picking up a little. That was a kind of little bottles of yogurt.
[00:20:00] Pre-bought that were kind of strawberry yogurts, yogurt drinks. And my little niece is picking up the yogurt drink and my. Sister-in-law, my brother’s wife screams slow sources. So, and the little one is like, X-ing the whole bottle and Fills herself with yogurt all over her shirt, her hair, everything.
And her mom starts saying this happens all the time. I knew it. Now I have to change your clothes again. Dah, dah, dah, this, that, and the other. So she goes through the struggle. She puts on new clothes. Now my little niece, she wants a new, new yogurt. Good Bible because she barely had any, right. She, she showered in it, but she didn’t have any food consumption.
In my, my, her mom says, no, I already gave you one bottle. You’re not getting another bottle. I’m not changing your clothes again. And I go. Marianna. give me a new bottle. And she gives me the new ball and I say, watch this. And I give it to the little one to my niece and I go.
Drink it, but [00:21:00] drink it very. Very fast. As. Fast. As you, and while I’m speaking really slowly, she’s like my little niece is like very slowly drinking the bottle and looking at me. Have hypnotized. And everybody at the table is confused because I’m saying, you know, as fast as possible shower, you’ll face with it now. And she’s just like slowly and carefully drinking the whole bottle.
Nobody understood anything of what happened? Right. I thought it was such an obvious demonstration of communication. Nobody got it. I explained it afterwards. And they’re still in such a trance that I don’t think anybody ever got any lesson from it, in my, to my eyes, it was clear that. So, so, so, so, so, so slow.
Right. You’re staying the word, but you communicating through your body and your tonality fast, fast, fast, fast, fast panic stress, which is what the child picks up. Versus the words themselves. Um, [00:22:00] And this is not just true of a little children and yogurt drinks, but obviously for everything in life. So often we want to teach somebody.
Just relax, but we’re like draft to relax. You don’t understand. You need to trust, just trust. Listen to me, trust you have to just let go and open up and it’s like, What are you embodying right now? Like there’s no trust. There’s no openness. There’s no relaxation. Anything you are exemplifying. And your words are meaningless.
They don’t matter. Right. We don’t pick up the words. We pick up the energy. The energy is what attracts the energies, what heals. What hurts. It’s never the words, or rarely. And so, Again, true, in a work is very humbling. And when I noticed that when I was in my middle of like giving a speech.
Then I noticed that I was like, ah, God dammit. I am. Here I am making problems bigger thinking I’m solving. Fix.
Illusion of solving something I’m creating [00:23:00] problems, but I think everybody else. If they could just listen to me. You know, things would be simpler. Uh, yeah, dude, not a day is going by at this vacation where I’m not humbled.

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