Monday, March 19, 2007

splitting pairs

I've spoken before about M's inclination of all things mommy. Mommy, mommy, mommy, she chants while eating, while playing, almost every single sentence begins with Mommy. Mommy-daddy is how she addresses J most of the time. I am center stage every waking minute. It's just how it is.

I've got the mojo, friends. Touch me, I'm golden.

This has been long coupled with Mommy Do It. Others of you have occasionally spoken of this. I know I am not alone in having a child who only wants their mother to do any and everything. It's caused some strain but for the most part, we roll.

Perhaps we were rolling along a little too well for her two year old brain to manage, because this weekend, along with my previous post of minor woeful musings, brought this little morsel:

I no love daddy. I only love mommy.

We were at the grocery store this afternoon and M and I were traipsing (she rolls, I traipse) through the aisles when all of a sudden she says I no love daddy. I only love mommy.

Baby, I say, why would you say that? She was rather cheeky, words drawn out, a smile that could break glass. She wasn't upset, but rather working an angle (is that bad to say about my kid, because I swear, she was).

So I said honey, do you know it's okay to love us both? You don't have to choose, you can love us both and it only means there is more love. M started in on another topic so I let it go.

But when we got home she went up to J and said Me no love you daddy. Me only love mommy.

Ouch. I glance at J, and watch his face fall. He's been a trooper these past months; all the mommyness has been wearing on us both. It's worth noting that since we both work, we both take fairly equal responsibility at home; there isn't a lot of one doing more than the other. But M has made equality difficult lately, hysterics abound if we are both home and I am not the one to do her bidding.

He said, baby, I love you and you love me. It's okay if you don't feel it right now. I love you no matter what.

But I know it hurts. And while I want to respect her process, I don't want to reinforce this behavior, because frankly, it's kind of shitty. I did offer to go to the beach for a week and let them get on without me in the picture, but no one (besides me) seemed to think that was a good idea. I still think if that's the best idea we can come up with, I'll take one for the team.

Because I'm sacrificial like that.


Tabba said...

It is heartbreaking all the way around. Though the ped. tells me it's a natural process. I know my day is coming to be on the other end of that. The very thought kills me.

Karen said...

a close friend struggled through this so gracefully. they put out ground rules for life with daddy, basic things that were non-negotiables (using nice words to and about daddy, letting daddy read one book, daddy putting her to bed every other night, etc) and then let the rest slide til she outgrew it. They did a great job, though I'm pretty sure the beach would work well too. One time my oldest suggested that my husband go live far far away, that was heart wrenching and also kinda funny, cause who would put batteries in stuff for us?

metro mama said...

It is a lot to ask, but I agree, you should take one for the team, you martyr.

Velma said...

This is where Daddy gets to do something fun with her that is something she only gets to do with Daddy. For our kids, it's the local children's museum that is off-limits to me.

It's not a hard and fast rule, but that is the way it has worked out, and it gives them something they want (fun) and something they need (time away from the all-powerful Mommy.)

Deezee said...

this is unfamiliar territory to me. Takin' one for the team...good angle. ;)

QT said...

While it sucks for J right now, pretty soon that little M will be fighting to separate her girl identity from mommy and all you will have are these wonderful days filled with love to look back on. Soak 'em up, honey, because I have a friend going through catty little girl identity crisis right now and wow, can they get mean!

J will be the knight in shining armor that she will be wooing away from you soon enough...but hey, take one for the team and go to the beach!

I have posted my Saturday morning Dad memories before, perhaps I will do so again. Saturday mornings were Dad's realm exclusively -library, movies, forbidden fast food, bowling, you name it....all the way through my teen years. I looked forward to it every weekend. I often wonder if that is why I have more guy friends than girlfriends...

mamatulip said...

Oh, can I ever relate to this post. That's how it is here with Julia -- I do everything. Dave is just in the sidelines. It's difficult, but it too shall pass, and I try to make myself unavailable at times so that Dave can get in there with Julia. Once they get together, she has a great time with him.

On the flip side, Oliver sees the sun and the moon for Dave. Whenever he's not home it's always "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy" out of his mouth -- but Dave says the same thing when I'm not around. "All he did was call for you," he says.

I do think that the same-sex parent relationship has a lot to do with this mentality. M relates to you because you're a woman. Oliver relates to Dave because he's a man, more than he can relate to me, I think. They have a closeness, a camaraderie, that we don't have...yet I feel it with Julia.

Interesting stuff, yet hurtful stuff, too. I mean it when I say that this too shall pass...

Thailand Gal said...

I like Velma's idea. They need to develope an independent relationship of their own.




slouching mom said...

Oh, now here's where I can claim some expertise, because my kids are older now (5 and 9). Both my kids went through mommy-worship until they were 5 or so. Jack even said to his dad, "Mommy's number one on my list, Miss K. (teacher) is two, Kate (friend) is three, and you, Daddy, are forty-seven."


But fear not -- both my kids have been in a daddy-worship phase since that time. And I've never gotten back my good standing...

Mad Hatter said...

When she is 10, her dad will shit gold. No doubt about it. At least that's how I reassure my husband.

Julie Pippert said...

If I had a dime for every time I told Patience almost the same thing. She used to cry and hide when her daddy came home from work.

Two things we did:

1. Hurtful words (and those do hurt) are not okay, but nice words are (so we tried to always think of something nice)

2. Special one on one time with Dad (particularly helpful since by the time this came up there was a #2 wrecking havoc).

Everyone said it was typical, and someone even told me what it was about and indicated, but I don't remember. Sorry.

It does come to an end. No doubt.

Go read OmegaMom's blog today and the comments. Or, better, let J, go read it. :)

But I know how it is during it.

Z said...

When my youngest (a boy) was a baby, there was a clear pecking order. Big brother, daddy and big sister, then, a long way behind, me (I used to say he loved Al lots and lots, he loved Daddy and El and Mummy was useful). He grew out of it - didn't love them less but loved me more.

Hard to hear, but maybe tougher, almost, for you than for J.

Oh, by the way, my daughter loved daddy best too. Only my first son put me first! And not at anyone's expense. So I really do feel for J, but he'll deal with it, don't feel bad about it.

carrie said...

I can hear the waves lapping on the shore...

My big question at this age was "how the heck to they even know what 'love' is the way we do?".

I hope you both know that she does 'love' each of you, in her own little way. And yes, there's a lot of pressure on the parent who is "it" all the time, but it won't be like that forever. Don't let it get to you!


Penny said...

She'd resent him more if you left for a week.

I found similar responses from Oee to her bio-dad and to TDOW. The only way is for them to take an active role. And, to understand. She just doesn't have all the words for 'prefere' or 'I need you to spend more time with me'. If she didn't care, she wouldn't have told him. Kids are smart.

Tell J that she'll come around and his answer was perfect.

Her Bad Mother said...

heartbreaking to read, heartbreaking to witness.

We're bracing ourselves for this. WB already has moments of refusing to be held or consoled by HBF, which he understands is normal, a phase, but nonetheless experiences as hurtful.

Ah, how they clench our hearts in their little fists!

mamatulip said...

I just had to come back and tell you this --

This afternoon Julia woke up from her nap and was very upset. Since her surgery, the worst time for her is when she wakes up -- her throat is dry and she's very uncomfortable. It takes a good 20 minutes for her to settle.

But today she wouldn't settle, and I finally got it out of her: she missed Dave. She was sobbing for him. I called him at work and she got on the phone and was like, "I m-m-m-m-miss-sss-ssss *hic* you *hic*!"

He talked to her and when he handed the phone back to me he said, "God, that was so cool."


Bob said...

We went through this too. II wish I had wise words, but from what I remember (this was 18-19 years ago) we didn't do anything other than be patient.

It hurt like hell for a while. I got used to it, I knew my kids loved me.

She will go to you for some things and J others. Laura would get spitting mad when she would answer a question for one of ours and they would immediately turn around and ask me if she were right. They would sometimes continue to act out when she told them to stop, but when I walked in the room they immediately quieted down.

I like Velma's idea too.

meno said...

Dear god will the sacrifices that a mother is willing to make ever end? Not, the BEACH, NO!

I remember telling the Mister that his turn would come when this mommy only phase happened to us. I was right, daddy's little girl appeared right on schedule.

It seems like part of their job is to try and hurt and manipulate the people with whom they feel safe, just to see what they can get away with.

Oh, The Joys said...

I can testify that it does hurt. A lot.

K is that person in The Mayor's life and it hurts big time.

K is the enforcer - the one that teaches The Mayor that it's not o.k. and the one who teaches him nicer things to say.

I appreciate him for that.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Ouch. Chicky went through this during most of her first year and a half of life, but now she's a lot more accepting of her daddy doing things for her. I'm sure this will hit us again. Or worse. She could start preferring her daddy to me.

KC said...

Yes, what J said was perfect. What a sweet man.

I am not looking forward to this- I love our threesome unit now. Roll around in a pile full of feathers love.

I would be crushed.

Momish said...

Ouch is right, but I am sure J will get his turn to shine the next time you deny M or reprimand her. Piper has learned how to go back and forth as it suits her means.
It may sting for us, but to them, its all just words, not much meaning.

Hey, though, I admire your selflessness!

NotSoSage said...

Crap, I'm catching up after a weekend away, so I don't have time to read all the other comments, but let me tell you this: Mme L cycles through her favourite parent...sometimes the cycle lasts a day, sometimes a week, sometimes a month. It hurts like hell when it's not you, and makes you nuts when it is. It is what it is. And when she's a teen, you're going to be dog meat and J will be the only one who understands. I realise that's not comforting, but it's likely.

I say take the beach time now AND when she's a teenager.

Em said...

In an effort to make J feel a little better, I want to let you know that I've had this with all three of my children. Actually #2 and #3 are still in this phase... however my son snapped out of it around 6 years and Daddy is now #1.

#2 is now four and she's my extra clingy one. I don't know quite when/if she'll give me up. But we do make sure that she and daddy do special things together (just the two of them) and this helps.

#3 is still too little (only 17 months) but I expect she will be a daddy's girl pretty quickly as she loves the rough and tumble and the outdoors.

So, I know how hard it is for BOTH of you... but it will eventually get better.

dionna said...

Kids can break their parents' hearts in so many different way. (I know I did!) It just gives you a reason to show your husband a little extra love I imagine :)

Kyla said...

Oh, poor J. Ouchie.

urban-urchin said...

Jen, the sacrifice you're willing to make in going to the beach for a week and leaving them together is truly inspirational.

J's response made me want to hug him- what a great guy.

We're going through this hear- but the other way around- the Boy is all about Dada or as he calls him Mama. I have no name. Seriously. I hear that he calls me mama when I'm not around. If daddy is around I don't exist, sigh.

Take heart it's a phase that will pass (doesn't make it any easier).

Hel said...

My heart took a dip for him.

But I think at her age it is normal and she does not know how her words are hurting. She is probably just testing for a reaction. She loves him with all her heart, but does not yet know it because she can not imagine not having this love.

Flo's nephew Gabrielle sometimes starts crying when he sees me and says lena no go away. GO AWAY.

And a day later he is begging to be allowed onto my lap.

But it still feels sad.

crazymumma said...

J is a mature man to react that way. Excellent response J.

It is totally normal behaviour, undesirable granted, just like when she will roll her eyes at you when you tell her that she is dressed in appropriately and go running for J and say that you her Mummy doesn't understand her (many years hence), but she is just doing her job.

And a fine ride she is taking on your heartstrings. you and J both.

PS. I was out of the loop for a while but have read all the other stuff and left a few tidbits, you prolific lady you.

Susanne said...

Poor J. We've had this on and off for quite a while. The idea some extra-quality-father-daughter-time sounds good. And as all of the commenters before me said, it is normal, yes, it hurts and it will pass.

And no, not the beach. There is only so much a mother should do for her offspring...

kgirl said...

Ow. That sucks. And I know that it's coming soon to our place too. How bout we head to the beach together. We'll split the difference - say, Florida?

Alice said...

My girls are 7 and 11 and I can tell you they still go through mommy stages - especially when they are sick or had a bad day. The "no love daddy" thing is just M. trying out her new ability to watch people react to her words. The power of speech can be quite a rush. :)

Sober Briquette said...

Oh, my. I am tempted by the beach idea.

I think Penny is right though.

Your reactions sound good. We had this and overreacted, so it took a long time (and another child) for it to simmer down. Now that was going too far!

kristen said...

I've been in J's shoes. It's only in the past year and a half that I've been the one of choice. I love J's answer to M and think she doesn't quite understand what her words mean, doesn't understand the impact the word love has. I'm quite certain M adores her daddy and loves him fiercly, but as Penny said, she just needs to be with mommy more right now and that declaration was her way of saying it's all about the girls.

When A first shifted over to needing more from me, I had a hard time adjusting to the constant demand of my time, especially in the evenings. So I think it was very noble of you to offer to go away. (=

deb said...

How old is she? Two, three. They're a pain in the ass when they're that age, they're preparing you for what they'll be like when they're a teenage. As I write this my 16 year old is complaining I chew too loudly and I need to stop typing!. Remind me why I had children.

radioactive girl said...

My son (3 years old) used to say that he only loved me. We turned it into a game, and now he says "I only love mommy", waits a beat and then laughing says "just kidding". Would something like that work?

Mary G said...

My mother had an extreme case of mother-onlyness, as my father was in the navy when I was born and saw me once before my third birthday. What my mother did was leave me with this stranger and what my dad did was split a bottle of beer with me (as my mother told the story) and we were great friends when she got back. I'm not really recommending this, mind. Just to say that the problem is universal. My grandaughter is a mommy first. Used to be grama then daddy. Now has switched to daddy then grama. They all grow out of it.

Her Grace said...

We went through this too, for months on end. "I don't like Daddy." It was hard for him, but he moved in when he could and stood back when he had to.

But eventually, she came back. Now she talks about him all day when he's gone and he was the first she kissed this morning.

Tell J to hang in there.