Since A discovered that Momma and Papa Bear were completely separate entities to her, she has become my shadow. As soon as she started crawling, I would hear a gentle tip tip tapping on the wooden floors as she followed me. When she learned to walk, she would waddle wherever Momma Bear went. And now that she has mastered running and shouting, I hear a chorus of “Mommy, wait for me!” anytime I try to leave the room. I don’t mind my ever-fixed shadow being glued to me as I make my way from room to room – despite it being mildly inconvenient at times. What is a challenge, is the effect this parental preference has on B. Do you have a child who favours one parent over the other?
The other night B was tucking A and her beloved Duck into bed, as he does every single night. The look of pure and beautiful love he clearly and honestly has for A struck me. He had a smile and happiness in the gleam of his eye that simply spoke of love and pride and my heart melted. I have seen this look a lot since the very moment she was born.
The Best of Friends
B is A’s best friend. She laughs and plays the most with him. They have games that only they can play together. They have a language that only they understand. She greets him from work with such love and affection. He understands her inside and out – he should! She is practically his duplicate in looks and personality! She loves him as much as he loves her but she rarely cries after him or chooses him over me.
She has had numerous meltdowns because I have simply indulged in going to the bathroom on my own (I realise I rescinded this right as soon as she was born but we can live in hope!) or popped out to the shops for all of half an hour. On one especially difficult day, B sent me a video of an extremely upset A as I hurried around the New Year Sales. Thankfully this was the worst scenario and we’ve managed to avoid another situation as strong as this but we are aware that it could happen again. It was a very difficult few hours for B. Admittedly, by the time I got home, everything was fine but the hurt and upset in B’s face said it all.
Choosing Sides – Gaining Control
Toddlers are not expected to understand their place in the world yet. They are only getting to grips with having a mind of their own. Saying no is the biggest control and most overwhelming power they have.
But this is a side of parenting that is not advertised in the “Let’s Have a Baby: Guide to the World”. And in reality we don’t exactly think we will be the snubbed parent. It’s not easy on B who regardless of A’s actions beautifully comforts and loves her. I’ll be honest I’ve yet to be snubbed so I can’t exactly relate but can appreciate how B feels when I’m given preferential treatment.
We have spent countless hours talking about this behaviour and how it can be rectified or to help A stay connected with Papa Bear (and possibly disconnect from Momma Bear for at least half an hour a day. Too much to ask?) but the truth of the matter is that there is no fix.
They say, and by they I mean psychologists on the internet, that it is a positive thing.
- The child feels connected enough with you that they feel they can jilt you at any second.
- It’s a sign of emotional and cognitive growth.
- It helps them to assert their independence.
- It encourages decision making skills.
- It’s a phase and all toddlers go through it.
- Remember, it’s not personal.
Saying that it’s a phase, it’s not personal and that A is learning does nothing to appease B and I completely understand this. How long will this phase last? It’s been on and off for 2 years as it is.
Not Always and Not Forever
It’s not every interaction and it’s not every day but B is usually the parent to be pushed away, B is the parent to get angry at, and B is the one who hears no the most from A. In saying that, B and A have amazing one-to-one days together when I am at work or away with business and B is off work. On these occasions, she rarely pines after me or even looks for me. In fact when I come home, she doesn’t particularly want to see me on those days and is very hands-on with B. There are times when I am beyond exhausted and A happily and lovingly plays with Papa Bear and revels in his attention.
These rejection moments are temporary but routinely happen. Despite everything that B tries, A will choose me over him nine times out of ten. The hurt and rejection is real. How does the suffering parent overcome this?
The Wonderful World of the Internet
The wonderful experts of the internet have action plans for parents dealing with the preferential parent treatment. B does them all naturally, with or without success, he does everything he can in his power to appease and show his love to his daughter. No matter how many no’s he hears he will always try.
- He gets down on the floor and asks A if he can play with her rather than assuming she would play with him.
- He tells her he loves her consistently and that he misses her when he’s at work.
- He gives her space when she wants and needs it.
- He backs off when she only wants Momma Bear.
- He asks her to help him with special tasks like collecting the milk from the gate on a Saturday morning – she always obliges.
- He has special one on one time with her.
What to do, what to do?
We know things will change. We know there may be a day when I am no longer in favour. But until then, it’s trial and error. Until then, there will be days or even just simple moments when A chooses me over B. As frustrating and upsetting it is, we know it won’t last forever.
Until then, keep doing what you’re doing B. You’re an amazing Papa Bear. I tell you this all the time. Because it’s true. And I know A believes it too. Regardless of the moments when you may be shunned, when it may seem like A doesn’t want or need you, remember that she does. Remember that you are her best friend. Remember that she truly does love you.
And hey, it’s a phase!