There’s been a noticeable change lately in Max. It’s fair to say that he’s always been a mummy’s boy. He’s very attached to me, and even at over 2, the separation anxiety is still with us and I can’t leave a room without hearing the cries start. That’s not to say that he’s not always had a great relationship with his Dad – John is a fabulous Dad and it’s always been clear how much Max adores him. But it’s always been me that he’s more comfortable with; me who he’ll head to for comfort and cuddles. As the primary caregiver, I suppose it’s natural that I would feel like the ‘favourite parent’.
But I’ve noticed a big change lately in the relationship between the two of them, and in the difference in the way he views us as parents. John is definitely regarded as the ‘fun’ parent – Max is always hyped up, excited to be with him, lots of throwing up in the air and giggling. The holiday was a fantastic week for just sitting back and watching the two of them together – it was lovely to watch John having the one-on-one time with Max that perhaps I take for granted a lot of the time as a semi-stay-at-home-mum. There is nothing that makes me happier than watching the two of them playing together – it gives me that heart melty, squishy tummy feeling where you just feel all consumed by your love for both of them.
But now the holiday is over and we’ve arrived home. Life has gone back to reality with a bump and Max was understandably put out by this. At first, he would get very upset when John left for work – tears, rolling on the floor, the full toddler tantrum works. He seems to have accepted that more now, but will still just randomly come out with ‘Daddy?’, during the day. And things that Max will do without a fuss for John, become a struggle of epic proportions with me. Changing a nappy? With me, that involves a chase round the house with Max screaming ‘No, no, no’! With John, he’s happy to lay down on the changing mat. Bathtime with John is full of giggles, splashing, squirting toys. Bathtime with me involves screaming that he doesn’t want to go in, then standing there while I at least try and get every bit of his body wet before hauling him back out again.
I remember thinking ‘I’m not the favourite parent anymore’ and feeling a bit put out. But then the sensible part of me got a grip of myself. It’s not that he loves me any more or any less than his Daddy. It’s natural that he behaves differently for John, given that I am with him most days while John is at work. He sees us both having different roles – it’s the age old setup of Daddy being the fun one, Mummy being for comfort. It’s not to say that he doesn’t have fun with me, or that he can’t be comforted by his Daddy. Just that our primary function in his eyes is different. And that’s why we work well as a parenting team. John is laid back and spontaneous, while I can’t leave the house without a solid plan and a to-do list. I’m cautious and don’t like to take risks, whereas John is far braver with Max than I would be, and pushes him to do things that might be beyond him.
I think it’s natural to feel a bit left out when you sense your own relationship changing, but I love to watch the developing relationship between Max and his Daddy. I think that’s the beautiful thing about our capacity for love – love isn’t a finite resource with only a certain amount to go round; your heart just expands to accommodate it. Max’s growing relationship with his Daddy doesn’t diminish his relationship with me – it’s just a strengthening of the bond between the two of them. Here’s to watching many more of those sun-soaked, heart melty, butterfly tummy moments with the two of them.
Have you found your relationship with your child has changed as they’ve got older? I’d love to hear your comments.