A dad has revealed he struggles to enjoy time with his eight-year-old son, describing his situation and wondering where he's gone wrong in life to feel like this.
In a post on Reddit that seems to be more of a vent about his feelings rather than asking for advice, he explains that he feels "no joy" when he's with his son.
He begins, "I swear I'm not a horrible parent! My son tells me often that I'm fun and he loves me. But, I don't feel the same."
He qualifies that he does love his child but that he's faking enjoyment when he's with him.
"I do love him, but I just can't seem to have fun and truly enjoy myself with him no matter what we do. I can pretend very well so he can't tell, but even after eight years I don't get joy out of doing stuff with him. I fake laugh and he laughs, I wrestle with him, tickle him, plays video games and toys, but I can't seem to get into the moment and let go," he writes.
His wife is on to him, and it's causing friction in the marriage.
"It's driving my wife insane too. She can tell I'm not having fun (and lets me know it's not cool), but I know my son can't. What the hell is wrong with me!?" he asks.
The number of replies he receives are currently in the five hundreds, with the post sparking concern among forum members.
One person admits, "Dang that was tough to read. I'm hoping with your still being available to him that one day you guys can start reconciling and building a relationship."
Others are concerned he's depressed, which is affecting his feelings for his son.
"Are you depressed? Maybe you think your son doesn't notice, and I might be inclined to agree if he was two but he's eight, and much smarter than we give them credit for. He knows, he just probably doesn't know how to express it or what it all fully means. Maybe you need to talk to a professional."
The dad reveals he has depression, but that he's regarded as untreatable by doctors.
"Oh yeah, definitely depressed. Been medicated for years. Problem is, nothing works. Psych doc actually calls it Treatment Resistant Depression."
Lots of responders can relate.
"I've struggled with small bouts of depression since having children and then had a major bout last year. It really zapped all of the joy I had in playing with my children and anything else for that matter."
"I admit I fake play with my kids from time to time, because I'm just not into their games. These days I flat out say 'no' to playing dolls because it's just so mind-numbing. BUT! I love baking and started baking with my oldest," they write before adding this activity hads really helped with their bond.
But the dad says his kid isn't interested and they're seeking help.
"The only thing he likes to do is play video games. I love to as well, but that's ALL he wants to do. Getting him to do anything else is an absolute chore filled with screaming and fits. We have a psych doc apt scheduled for him soon. Myself, I've been to more therapists than I can count and none have helped."
Others say that some parents are better suited to having older kids than younger ones, and to ride out these tough years before finding some common ground when the child is older.
"My Mum once told me that she thought that being a Mum was so much better once we were all big kids. Some parents are little kid parents and some are big kid parents."
This person agrees.
"Sometimes people are good parents for toddlers, ok parents for teenagers, and great parents for adults, or vice versa. Maybe this stage is not where your light shines brightest, but you are doing a good job by being present, engaging and attentive when your kid needs you to be."
And lastly, this responder urges the dad to find a common interest.
"Eight years old is old enough for him to do a hobby that YOU enjoy with you. He will love it. So whatever your jam is, golf, tennis, frisbee, model trains, hiking, stamp collecting, making murals out of trash you collected at the park. Do that."
It's a lot to unpack, but we hope the dad can work it out.