This scenario plays out often at our house. It’s time for bedtime. I tell our child, “Daddy will give you your bath tonight” She throws a tantrum. She is three years old, and ever since she was a tiny baby, she has preferred me.
Before she could speak, she would show her disapproval by crying. The crying has turned into fits and tantrums whenever daddy tries to spend time with her. Now that she can talk, she hurls hurtful words at my husband. The words “I only want mommy” have crossed her mouth, and the gut-wrenching “I don’t like daddy.” He tries to give her hugs, but she pushes him away. My husband has not done anything to deserve this. He is kind. He is patient. He is a good parent. We thought things would get better over time. However, things have not improved.
People say that eventually, daddy will become the favorite parent. That may be true but when? I ask. Will the tables turn when she’s five? Eight? Twelve? The worst part about it is: that my husband is hard on himself. He blames himself for being away because he was in the army for the early years of her life. He was gone for months at a time. I tell him not to blame himself. The fact that I returned to work full-time has also made things worse in this favorite parent saga. She was used to having mommy 24/7. Now, mommy is gone at work for long stretches of time. I have tried encouraging bonding time. Daddy shows her new games to play. She and Daddy have shows that the two of them watch together. That helps some.
I try to get her to understand that her words hurt daddy. I will tell her that Daddy is sad when she says those things. I tell her to look at Daddy’s face. The sadness is apparent on his face. Perhaps if she develops emotional intelligence, she will realize that her words affect daddy negatively. She will realize that she is saying things that are hurtful.
Maybe it is just a phase. Maybe in the future, she will see us as equal and I’ll no longer be the favorite parent. Maybe she will favor her daddy. In the meantime, I am struggling big time. I would love to take a shower without hearing my toddler screaming in the next room, begging for mommy. Mostly, I feel bad for my husband who tries to show love and affection to our daughter who pushes him away. I sure hope people are right. When people share stories of their kids of how close they have grown with their daddies, it gives me hope. I start to dream of the day when Sophie and daddy will have daddy-daughter dates. I think about daddy teaching Sophie how to throw a football and how to play Candy Land and other games. I hope that daddy will get his turn as the favorite parent. I hope she will grow to see daddy for the wonderful parent that he is.