Ben Claassen III (For Express)

Q. I worry that my husband is not cut out to be a parent. We are finally past a super-stressful time with our baby, who was born prematurely and had health problems his first year. But he’s the same. He is short with our son, who is just starting to walk and is just a happy little boy, and he doesn’t initiate any play with him. He said he had always wanted children, but I have dark fears that he just isn’t enjoying himself at all. Frustrated Wife

It could very well be true that he is not enjoying himself. But where you see a potentially less-than-stellar dad, I see a probably depressed man (and it’s not just these glasses). You describe an arduous and stressful first year with your baby. My guess is that he has not yet recovered from that. Irritability, apathy and lack of motivation are classic hallmarks of depression, which can rob a new parent of the ability to bond with his or her child. And yes, it can also be maddening to live with.

Convey your concerns that he doesn’t seem to be himself, or even happy, and how maybe it’s been tough to recover from the earlier stresses. Don’t make it a laundry list of the ways he’s falling short. He needs help, and you could use some support as well.

Dad’s dating, and it hurts

Q. My mother died of cancer a year ago. My father loved her through 33 years of marriage, and I know he went through a lot. But I don’t know how to deal now that he seems to be dating the mother of one of my childhood friends. She is a nice person and I know he deserves happiness but I feel like it is too soon, and that him dating someone he knew all throughout their marriage is a betrayal. I know it doesn’t make sense but I don’t know how to handle this. Heartbroken

I’m sorry. Sometimes someone’s behavior can hurt others terribly, even if it’s not doing anything wrong. Your pain is natural and understandable, and yet your mindset is right in that your dad deserves to find happiness. In truth, his ability to embrace life again is a testament to hope, and a toast to the power of human connection, not a negation of his love for your mom. That this person knew your family while your mother was still alive may sting more in certain ways — again, your feelings are normal — but it’s a common scenario, as it brings comfort and familiarity. And it can actually help keep your mother’s memory alive, strange as that may seem. Give yourself time and space to feel all this; it’s part of grieving, and you’re human. A skilled counselor can help this transition.

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