ARTHUR MOLLOY, ISLE OF MAN, UK
Originally published October 2012, republished here with the express permission of the author.
I am the dad of a breastfed toddler.
How do I feel about our two-and-a-bit-year-old still nursing?
Honestly, if you had asked me that two years ago, I think I might have been dumbfounded.
Even now, I sometimes wonder about it.
I’m not trying to annoy anyone, you understand, just trying to explain how I feel.
Is he too old?
Are we babying him?
Would he sleep better if he were night weaned?
When will we get to try for another baby?
Will he ever stop?
Those are the hard days, the days of questioning everything.
Men as a whole are more isolated when it comes to parenting our children.
I don’t attend any toddler groups, I don’t spend much time with other children of a similar age to mine, and my contact with La Leche League is limited to helping my wife who is a Leader prepare for meetings, and reading various passages from books that she passes to me on the couch at night.
So while she has the support of meeting with other mothers who are also nursing toddlers, I spend my days with people who generally assume that breastfeeding is something for tiny babies, not toddlers who can walk up and ask for milk.
I think about my role as a father.
What does the world expect from me?
What does my wife expect?
What do I expect and, of course, what do my boys need from me?
Steve Biddulph, in Raising Boys, suggests there are three stages of boyhood. Birth to six, when the boy primarily belongs to his mother; six to fourteen, when the boy starts wanting to learn to be a man and looks more and more to his father; and fourteen to adult, when the boy needs input from male mentors.
Well that seems to tie in nicely with a natural weaning age of two-and-a half to seven years, and we haven’t reached even the lower end of that range yet.
The questions will, I think, continue.
It’s hard to shake a lifetime of assumed (pre-children) parenting ideas, but when I need an answer to how I really feel about it, I can do one small thing to check.
I can look at my son, watch him ask for milk, and revel in his happiness when he snuggles up to his mum.
Arthur wrote this story in 2012 and he and his wife Siobhan now have four children.