My Toddler Rejected Me


Her face was red with anger and streaked with tears as she screamed at the top of her lungs for her father.  I’d never heard such urgency in her voice, or seen such fury in her eyes as she swatted at me from her crib.

I hadn’t done anything except to try to put her to bed.

Like I do every night.

After tenderly nursing, cooing, cuddling, and cradling her.

Emily is two and a half and she is in a mega-daddy’s-girl phase.  She wants him to play with her, carry her, change her and dress her.  She wants to hold his hand.  She wants him to be the one who buckles her into her car seat.  She wants him to help her brush her teeth.  If I try to assist her with a task, she pushes me away and says, “NO, Mommy!  Daddy doos it!”

It breaks my heart.

Emily has always been my delightful cherub.  She was a relatively easy and placid baby, and has grown into a generally compliant toddler, as far as toddlers go anyway.  At 30 m0nths, she still nurses first thing in the morning and right before bed, but she is showing signs of weaning, such as only partaking in one “side” in the morning before she rolls over to say, “Morning, Daddy!”  and ask for his iPad.

It breaks my heart.

Her face was primal in its rage.  The way she howled for her father reminded me of videos of those angry and aggressive little monkeys being confronted with a captor.

I wanted nothing more than to dissolve into tears, but my distraught brain was still capable of the rational thought that she’s only two and a half and this is just a phase.

I think Jack went though such a phase, but I don’t think it felt nearly so personal.  I mean, my husband is pretty great.  He’s more laid back than I am, plays more and worries less.  So, it is only natural my kids would gravitate to him.  Additionally, I know that it is a “normal” developmental phase for a child to gravitate more to one parent than another.

It isn’t anything to be taken personally.

And yet, it feels keenly personal.

I wonder if it is a gender thing, or if it is because Emily is my last baby and I wanted to keep her for myself just a few minutes longer, but oh man, it stings.

My husband came into the room and hugged her.  He settled her down and covered her up.  Then he said good night and went to put Jack to bed, leaving me with Em.  I gulped a sob back into my chest.

“That made mommy sad, Emily,” I said.  I couldn’t help myself.

“Sowee smacking, Mommy,” she whimpered.  She stood up in her crib and patted my face.  “Mah milk, Mommy,” she said.  She crawled out of her crib and into my arms.  She patted my face, played with her foot, and held my hand as she nursed.  She made goo-goo eyes at me, and hummed and chuckled in the back of her throat.

“Mommy loves you, Em,” I said.  She crinkled up her eyes in the funny little eye-smile-thing she does when she is nursing.  Then she crawled back into her crib, blew me a kiss, and sang quietly to herself as she drifted off to sleep.

Has your toddler/baby/child ever preferred your partner over you?  How did you handle it? 

6 responses »

  1. In many ways both of my kids prefer their dad. And yes, it hurts. Some days more than others. I have two boys, but many of my friends’ girls seem to prefer their dads even more. It does seem to come in waves and I think it has made me appreciate their affection more when they run to me. I’m the less laid back parent and more the one who establishes the rules. Really, I got nothing. Just keep showing up and letting her know you love her and will always be there for her. And as hard as it is, try not to take it personally. It hurts and it sucks….

  2. oh Charlotte it breaks my heart reading this! My Daughter is in a phase when she wants both parents, meaning that if I spend my day with her, trying to entertain her despite my exhaustion and depression she calls Daddy whenever she can, looking for him in the car, in the park, at the store etc. but she does the same with my husband when he is looking after him so… I fear the supposedly daddy-girl phase to come but I try to tell myself that it is just a phase and that it will be a great demonstration of self-confidence for my girl to be able to assert some preference and of trust to me because she’ll know I’ll be there always whatever she does and whoever she prefers… But we’ll talk about this in a few months when I’ll cry binging on ice-cream and watching reruns of Grey’s!!!
    Lots of love, and be sure of this: she loves you and trusts you

  3. Pingback: Being Away From Babies | momaste

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