I didn’t want to write this post. For weeks, I told myself that I didn’t need to write it. But I’ve been blogging for over a year now and what I’ve found is when I blog about something, I can make sense of things and find the silver-lining in a situation. So it’s time. It’s time to write about something I haven’t wanted to write about for quite sometime. I’m going to warn you, it’s not about committing to a hairdresser or catching worms. Today’s post has a bit of a different tone. I hope that you’ll hang on until the end. The purpose of this post is not to bum you out. It’s not to throw a pity party for Susan. It’s a way for me to sort my thoughts and heal.
My son loves my husband more than he loves me. I know this because he lacks the developmental skills to know that he’s not supposed to have a favorite parent. Instead he tells me that he loves Daddy more than me on a regular basis. I realize that he’s three and three year-olds say things they don’t mean all the time. Except that they are also brutally honest. They don’t sugar-coat things to spare someone’s feelings. That’s why I try to be strong when I enter my son’s room to read him his bedtime story and he exclaims “No, I want Daddy to read to me.”
In some ways his words are the easiest expressions to deal with. Of course he’s going to say he likes my husband better than me. My husband is the fun parent. He has all the patience. He sneaks them candy when I’m not looking. I’d like him better than me too.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s one thing to say he loves his dad more, but deep down he doesn’t mean it. There are other ways to express love. He loves him more in those ways too. When my son falls and skins his knees, it’s my husband’s kiss that will make it all better. When he wakes in the middle of the night with a bad dream, he cries out for his daddy. When he had his tonsils out, awoke from anesthesia, was groggy and needed a parent to hold him for two hours before he could be released, it was my husband who got to hold and comfort him in the comfy chair. Meanwhile, I sat in the uncomfortable chair usually reserved for dads and watched as child after child came out of surgery crying for his mom. How does it feel to be the second place parent? Sit in the cold, hard “dad chair” for two hours and you’ve got a pretty good idea what I go through on a daily basis.
It’s not that he doesn’t like me. It’s not that he doesn’t hug me. It’s just that I’m not his preference. And being the open and honest kid that he is, he’s very upfront about this. If you’ve ever spent time with a three year old, you know that they are particular. Good luck trying to get one to eat a graham cracker that has the tiniest broken corner. My son is the same way when it comes to my zipping his coat. When he’s in one of his “my way or no way” moods, daddy is the only approved helper.
Quite possibly the only thing worse than being turned down for my husband when he’s around is being turned down for my husband when he’s NOT around. There are nights when my son will sit in his bed crying for his dad and there is no act of comfort I can give him that will calm him down. A hug from me will not do. A kiss from me will not do. No cuddles. No tickles. I am simply not his dad.
Second place sucks.
It shouldn’t suck. I should be happy for my husband. I should be happy that a little boy can love his dad so much. Many children aren’t close with their dads, how fortunate that my son has such a close bond with his. How lucky am I that I have such an amazing husband that built such a bond with my son. I could got on. There are many reasons why I should be happy about this situation.
But the truth is, it sucks.
It sucks because when my son falls off his bike and starts to cry I want to hug him. I want to hold him in my arms and tell him he’ll be okay. I don’t want him to scream and say “Don’t touch me, I want Daddy!” It sucks because when I plan a fun outing with just my son and me I want him to be excited and jump for joy instead of saying “No, I want to do that with Daddy!”
It sucks because I’ve convinced myself that I’m the only mother who has ever had this happen to her. I question where I went wrong in my parenting. I wonder if I held his twin sister too much and him not enough. Did something go wrong during his “imprinting” stage? We should have been more intentional about switching babies. Did we play favorites and now they have favorites?
I’m learning to look for opportunities to sieze the good moments. For a lifetime planner, this is a challenge for me. Because the opportunities come without warning and often without any pattern. On Wednesday, he wanted to hold my hand while walking to pick up my older son from school. Last week, he asked if I wanted to play with him in the basement. On Saturday, he asked if the two of us could decorate the Christmas tree together.
Each day I continue to hope for progress. I’ve learned to not take a single act of kindness for granted. I celebrate each hug, each kiss and each bedtime story. I know these moments aren’t forced. I know they are real and honest. I cherish them all and hold them all in my heart.