July 21, 2010

Playing Favorites

These days, it's all about "Dada" around our house. When Colin wants something down from a shelf, he calls for "Dada." When he's upset and wants to be comforted, he calls out "Dada, Dada." From the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed, Colin is all about his Dada. He actually seems to have dropped the word "Mama" from his tiny vocabulary, and now calls me "Dada," too.

I'm trying to be a good sport about this--OK, I'm really not trying that hard, rather I'm doing a lot of moping around the house about how "my son no longer loves me"--but as melodramatic as I know that is, I'm finding it really difficult to come terms with losing my most-favoured parent status. I can't help wondering where I went wrong that Colin should no longer love me most. Was it my failed attempts at weaning? That's bound to provoke some resentment. Is it because I'm now doing some "gentle ignoring" whenever Colin launches into one of his Wagnerian tantrums? Or maybe it's because I'm just a lot less patient and attentive these days. For the past couple of months, my work-life has been so stressful that I have no patience left at the end of the day to deal with Colin's toddler histrionics, so Kevin's been doing most of the parenting while I work out my frustrations chopping vegetables or--more often--vegging in front of the computer with a beer.

The funny thing is, until recently, I was the most-favoured parent, and I didn't like that role either. Because, let's face it, being #1 in your child's life is really hard. They look to you to soothe every trauma. They want to be held by you--and only you--all the time. It doesn't matter if you haven't eaten all day, or really need to get dressed to go to work, or really, really, really have to pee. They want YOU, and that sort of favouritism can be really exhausting. And it leaves very little time for vegging in front of the computer with a beer.

So I promised myself that when the day came that Colin preferred his father (because I knew that day would come), I would be gracious and grateful. But being Miss Congeniality is just a lot harder than I expected. Part of the problem, I know, is just societal expectations. We all expect that the mother should always be #1 in a child's life because for most of us she always was. It was only natural. She was the one who cared for us day-in and day-out and knew how to cut the crusts just so and how to do all the voices in our favourite children's books.

But Kevin and I have tried to use a different model. We wanted to be true co-parents: to split the child-rearing 50/50. So I try to remind myself that if Colin prefers his father to me about half the time, we must be succeeding. And I'm grateful, too, that when one of us is stressed out and distracted for weeks on end, Colin has another parent who can fulfill that leading role for him. But I still catch myself hoping that sometimes, when Colin is saying "Dada," what he really means is "Mama."


Sarah said...

you are sweet. kids alternate favorite parents - in a few weeks he'll be back to you! don't worry. then someday it'll be his favorite uncle or aunt (me) hee hee.

be glad you have a good husband who is a good father and who your child loves. that's the most important thing.

Rachel said...

Colin looks like he is having much more fun with you though! You might be his most funest parent.

Vicky said...

Kids do swap favorites and it does make the other parent feel a bit rejected. But it all pretty normal. What annoys me more is when my 5 year old calls me Daddy or worse her teachers name! Does she still not know who I am? xxx.