What do you do when your child favors the other parent?
We arrived at Four Mile Beach and dumped our towels, sand chairs, snacks, and bags in the little patch of sand we chose to claim for the morning. Ryan began setting up the sunshade tent and I urged Levi to run down to the water with me so we could test out the water temperature and get our feet wet.
Levi wasn’t interested. I pleaded and enticed and used my best enthusiastic voice, complete with eyebrows raised and massive grin on my face… but he just wanted to help dad.
A few minutes later the shade tent was set up and Ryan said to Levi, “let’s go down to the water” and off they went.
I sat there, left behind, feeling a small tinge of jealousy as I watched my little boy—a stick in each hand—run ahead of my big boy. Why hadn’t he wanted to come and play with me? I thought to myself. I’m a fun mom. I sit in the sand and get my hands dirty. I play with sticks and splash around and kick the ball…
But today it was all about daddy.
And then I remembered earlier this morning when Ryan was trying to entice Levi to come downstairs for breakfast. Over and over Levi would run up to the side of the bed where I was still lounging and fling his arms up around my neck and rest his head on my chest. Daddy would call out and Levi would flash his grin at me and hug a little tighter. He just wanted to hang out with mama.
He did the same thing an hour later when Ryan was offering to play with him but all Levi wanted to do was hang out with me, put on lip balm, and play with my make-up brushes while I did my make-up.
I find it strange that one moment it’s all about mom and the next it’s all about dad. If the other parent tries to step in they usually get shot down pretty fast.
What makes a kid choose which parent to favor in any given moment?
Of course secretly we’re always hoping they will choose us. Being chosen makes us feel good, valued, appreciated, and loved. And yet at the same time there’s something very precious about watching them choose the other.
I love seeing my boy choose his daddy. The bond they have is incredibly special and, as much as I want to climb up inside and join in the love, I can’t. I don’t belong there. It’s a place that’s carved out especially for them.
And I’m okay with that. Even when I get a slight tinge of jealously or wish I could bust in and experience it along with them, I am grateful that they have something that is unique to them – a place that I don’t exactly fit in.
I never want our children to have to choose between us. We are a team. When daddy is chosen, we both win. When mama is chosen, we both win. It means that our parenting, and our honoring of one another within our own marriage relationship, is working. We’ve chosen each other, and we want our children to follow suit.
Our kids need to be free to favor one or the other in any given moment without being made to feel guilty for doing so. It’s not a reflection of who is a better parent or who is more loved. It’s a reflection of mood and moment and timing and temper.
So for kids who are lucky enough to have both parents around, we shouldn’t be in competition with one another, we should be championing one another and cheering one another on… even when our little ones are choosing the other one first.
Dear friends, do you ever get jealous when your little one chooses your husband over you? How do you support the relationships shared by him and your children?
Championing my kids’ daddy,