Sometimes he just wants Dad

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,


About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Melissa
    30 May 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I feel the exact same way. A lot of times, Riley only wants me… when she gets really tired, or when she’s feeling sick or teething or hungry. But sometimes, she wants her dad. She cries when he leaves the room or leaves for work sometimes. And to be honest, it makes so happy to see her loving her daddy so much. I know it’s never a me vs him thing, or a “who does she love more.” I LOVE that she wants him to play with her and hold her and gets sad when he leaves. I haven’t yet gotten jealous of their little relationship because I definitely get my fair share of Riley and mommy time!!

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      1 June 2011 at 12:59 am

      Yes, I gets lots of Levi & mommy time too… and it always helps me to remember that when I start to accidentally get a little jealous. 🙂

  • Joey
    30 May 2011 at 10:06 pm

    I love these parts:

    “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 —

    “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.”

    Definitely the marriage is priority. Don’t let our kids come in between us, even when it looks like a “good” thing.

    But over time, with boys, you will have to help him choose his dad more and more. He’s young at this point, so no rush. 🙂 But it’s crucial for moms to be willing to let go and release their sons, to help them identify with their dads.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      1 June 2011 at 1:00 am

      Thanks for your input Joey. Yes, I’m in no rush 🙂 but I do see the importance of boys getting to be with their fathers. Absolutely.

  • Amanda
    30 May 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I’ve noticed it works in reverse too, when she picks me over the him, he sometimes looks as if he feels left out. It’s hard to be a parent sometimes 🙂

  • casey
    31 May 2011 at 12:20 am

    I like the first persons comment but, yes, I too have felt a little twinge of jealousy here or there when D is more excited about Daddy then mommy. I know however; that it constantly changes…like by the day! lol. That’s why we all need to have a few kids so at all times one of them at least should like us! hahaha just teasing..well, maybe I’m not. lol

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      1 June 2011 at 1:02 am

      Lol. For ages Ryan was saying “let’s have another kid so we don’t have to share”. hee hee hee. Not serious of course, but I totally get it!

  • Cari
    31 May 2011 at 4:45 am

    That can tug the heartstrings when the kiddos choose the other parent {especially when You’re divorced, ick}. But it shows great balance and each of you can give Levi what he needs at the time he needs it. It’s wonderful that he does do that, when #2 joins the party, you’ll be grateful for it. Such a sweet little guy.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      1 June 2011 at 1:04 am

      I was actually thinking about that too, Cari – how it must feel when divorced. I decided not to “go there” in this post though since I can’t comment on that subject with much authority. I’m sure it must be really hard in that situation. I really do feel for you. x

  • Jessica
    31 May 2011 at 11:47 am

    I love it when my daughter chooses my husband over me, mostly because it shows me that she appreciates and loves us both equally. It shows that she wants to enjoy us both on her own terms, which is fine by me. When not chosen, I feel blessed to be able to be a spectator to their relationship. It makes me appreciate, I think, my relationship with them both even more, if that makes sense. On another, and possibly more selfish note, I also like being the parent not chosen because it gives me a much needed break!hehehe.

  • Cameron
    31 May 2011 at 12:19 pm

    We’ve been having this happen a lot lately, too! For us it goes in phases. Whenever I have switched from staying home or working, she’s gotten really attached to whichever one of us she sees more. So the last 2 weeks that I’ve been home, she’s been super attached to me & doesn’t want Lewis at all. But she always evens back out. haha

    But I love the way you put words to this perspective. I agree that when you’ve got 2 parents who are together and parenting as a team, you have to cheer each other on & not worry about the moments when your child may seem to favor one or the other.

  • Rachel
    31 May 2011 at 1:28 pm

    My older son has preferred daddy since about two years old. It has broken my heart. My younger son Evan has been much more even. I don’t know what the difference is. All I know is that I am done fighting it. Maybe baby number three will be a mama’s boy. You never know.

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      1 June 2011 at 1:08 am

      Yes, it’s strange how they “choose” isn’t it? I have a friend with a little girl that is such a mommy’s girl. I feel terribly for her husband as he’s a great father and really wants to be involved in her life more. They’ve just had a little baby boy so I just hope and pray that he will give dad the time of day he deserves! I guess the important thing is that you/we don’t let that make us feel condemned or inferior as a parents. Remembering that it’s them, not us… and that it certainly doesn’t mean you’re not a fantastic mom!! Hard though, I’m SURE. x

  • Mellisa
    31 May 2011 at 10:53 pm

    I might have felt this way when it was just my son – but since having 3 more…if one of them wants Dad more than Mom – I’m thankful. It’s so important that we both form these close knit binds to our children and I am happy to give him the space and secretly thankful to have a bit more space for myself most days.

  • Micheline
    1 June 2011 at 5:10 am

    It’s funny because I’ve noticed that Q has been choosing his dad more lately, which I think is great. I’ve noticed twinges of jealousy in my husband because Q typically wants his mama, and sometimes I worry that their bond isn’t as strong as ours is. But lately Q calls out for him when he gets hurt and tears up when we’re home and T is at work. I’m just grateful that we each get our special time with him. I’m so curious to see how it will be when baby girl arrives!

  • Carol
    1 June 2011 at 5:13 am

    I’m with Mellissa up there…my Chloe is a daddy’s girl. She soaks me up when he’s not around, but the minute he walks through the door it’s “Daddy Do it” all over the place. I love it, I treasure the time it gives me to do laundry, take a bath, or play with my 5 year old. I’ve learned that the tables turn a lot with kids…right now it’s Daddy’s turn, soon it’ll be my turn, so I don’t get jealous, I just enjoy the down time.

  • Nessa
    2 June 2011 at 7:09 am

    You know this just happened to me… the jealousy. We took a trip over the weekend – first time away for more than just a night. When we got home she was so excited to see her daddy – but not me. I got over it – but still hurt my heart just a little. Okay a lot – I just wanted to hold her and she wouldn’t let me. Independance of a toddler right?

    • Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos
      2 June 2011 at 11:52 pm

      Yeah, the toddler independence is amazing isn’t it?!! We are blown-away by this lately. I’ve always been a very independent person and so it’s not super-surprising that I’d have a pretty independent kid… But you just don’t expect it to be so strong so soon. And then BAM it hits and you’re left standing there in the dust. Of course, a few minutes later you might get a little person climbing up into your lap for a story or to randomly give you a cuddle and a kiss. You just never do know, do you? They are all up in your business one minute and want nothing to do with you the next! That must have been hard to come home to after your weekend away though. I would have found that very difficult as well. 🙁

  • Branson
    2 June 2011 at 2:04 pm

    This is a great post! I know matt and I have talked about these feelings before. It is a good sign that he values both parents, though, and I love watching my guys together 🙂 I can totally relate to the twinge of jealousy, too!

  • mandi
    2 June 2011 at 11:48 pm

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately! Thank you! He knows that I’m momma but will often call me dada but will call out my name a ton when I’m gone. I do get jealous and so does my husband and I feel it goes in waves where he will be super lovey on me one day and then the next with his dad. Either way I think it does say a lot about us like you said. We are great parents and he has the luxury of having both of us in thier lives to learn and grow from. I would be incredibly sad if he didn’t want to be with his dad often. He gets the best of both worlds!


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