The day I was dreading has arrived.
My sweet little 3 ½ year old isn’t choosing me anymore.
It’s not that Coraline doesn’t like me. It’s not that she’s not happy to be around me. It’s just that she wants her father to do the things that I always (100 percent of the time) did with her.
Kevin (my partner) and I joke that he is the daytime parent, and I am the nighttime parent. As a stay-at-home dad, he rules the daytime. And when I say rules, I mean rules.
From the initial good morning of “Are you awake, Dad? Do you want to make us breakfast?” to the afternoons running around at Winding Hills Park or the Frederickson Library, Kevin crushes his parenting time.
Coraline loves books and learning, shares easily with other kids, and loves to “do it herself.” To give credit where it’s due: Coraline is a great kid because Kevin is a great stay-at-home dad. Unless we actually did hit the “nature” lottery, Kevin’s got the “nurture” part on lock.
I do help somewhat with that nurture, too! Starting around 5 or 6 p.m., it’s my time to shine. Nighttime parent mode engaged. I close my laptop, ignore my phone, and get into the thick of it with my kid. Crafts, walks, parks, books, games – her wish is my command.
I always make sure that in the evening, she’s got my attention. I am obsessed with my career, but I want her to feel like she’s the most important thing to me. I want her to know that she’ll always be my main priority. Because she is.
But I’m not hers. At least not lately.
I honestly thought that when the day came, I would be fine.
I was not.
We were having an unexpected (and delightful) Saturday breakfast at Chef de Crêpe, and Coraline announced, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
Now, while Kevin and I have daytime/nighttime situated during the weekdays, the weekend is a free-for-all. However, there are set things that are “dad duty” or “mom duty.” Potty time is definitely a “mom duty” situation.
I started to get up from the table, but Coraline stopped me.
“I don’t want you. I want dad.”
I slowly sat back down. Kevin looked at me with an apologetic gaze, but off to the restroom he took our girl.
I was flabbergasted. You don’t want me for potty time? But, like, I’m your person for that…
SIDE NOTE: Yes, I understand that I am “poor me-ing” myself for not getting to wipe my kid’s butt. I cannot say without more conviction that I NEVER thought I would be the parent I am. But! Here we are.
I was surprised, but didn’t have super hurt feelings. Just kind of a slight emptiness that I can’t describe. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time Coraline wanted dad for mom-type stuff during the following week.
I always put her to bed. Well, she wanted dad.
I always snuggle her in the middle of the day. Wanted dad for that, too.
After several days of this, I started working myself up, thinking about all the ways I had recently let her down: signed her up for a bogus athletic activity, embarrassed her by yelling out that she had been tripped, didn’t really pay attention when we watched Frozen (for the sixth time) together, made her walk at the park instead of carrying her…there were so many things that I can’t even count them all.
Obviously, this is what I deserve for being a failure of a parent. She probably shouldn’t ever choose me again.
The more it happened, the more it hurt my feelings. I thought I would get used to it, but I didn’t. I could feel my heart getting more and more soft and more and more sad.
Start to finish, it was only a week.
One week of her not actively choosing me, and it ripped me up inside.
Within seven days, we were back to “regular.”
And I have to tell you: if this is my experience with one week of toddler annoyance, I am absolutely terrified of how I’m going to handle the teenage years.
Prayers and thoughts encouraged now. Maybe it’ll give me a head start.