Parents worry about having a favourite child, but what about when the child has a number one parent?
We, as parents, spend a lot of our time trying to be fair - and splitting everything from our time to our money to our patience equally between our offspring - but often our children aren’t quite so diligent in spreading the love evenly. Fairweather friends in miniature, most kids go through stages where one parent can do no wrong while the other is persona non grata. And mum is usually - if we’re talking babies and toddlers - the favourite.
My children are devoted to me at the moment. This sounds lovely but actually, in reality, having a hefty three year old and a squeaky 18 month old hanging off you when you’re trying to cook, clean, read or - God forbid - go to the loo on your own - can be exhausting.
William, my eldest child, is so in love with me right now he climbs into my husband Russell’s and my bed every night without fail, pushes his father out of the way, then whispers I love you one inch from my face, clutching my cheeks in his clammy palms, until he dozes off. This sounds wonderful but it’s making me exhausted, and putting a wedge between me and Russ, who usually heads off to the spare room after the third kick... and if he’s honest, is a bit disgruntled that all the attention and affection is coming my way.
‘Alfie asks to marry me, tells me I’m beautiful, and compliments my clothes constantly,’ admits my friend Samantha, about her son. ‘If anything he’s just highlighting how inattentive Dave is, so we both get ratty. Alfie has definitely got himself into a position of power that is well-meaning but not good.’
“The children have turned him into that needy boyfriend you can’t dump”
Sometimes, in the mood just for mummy, Matilda, my toddler, will bark ‘no!’ and push Russ away when he goes in for a cuddle. It’s heartbreaking to see my 39 year old, 6’3", strapping husband crumple due to her disinterest. It’s silly and doesn’t mean anything but it’s hard to watch. The children have turned him into that needy boyfriend you can’t dump, desperately begging for the kids’ attention and words of love! And I never get a break.
“Breastfed babies will always want their mothers first”
‘You’ve got the boobs,’ Jill, a friend and mother of three, reminded me. ‘Breastfed babies will always want their mothers first. But don’t get smug. It’s not you. Your smell is like catnip to them. Dads can easily become the favorite if they invest a little time.’
If I point it out, or enjoy their measured love too much, it hits a raw nerve with their dad and I am accused of fueling the favouritism. So I’ve gathered some handy hints from other parents that have proved invaluable. Russ is feeling loved... And I’m getting to shut the door when I need a wee. Everyone’s a winner.
Quick tricks to make dad feel included:
1 Make dad’s return from work a big deal. Sing a song about it, cheer when he walks through the door and perfect a little welcome dance. Not only will the big guy love it, but the children will learn that dad’s entrance is a great joy and look forward to it.
2 Set a specific part of the nighttime ritual that is just for daddy and offspring. We’ve got into a routine where my husband climbs into bed with the two of them and reads three books every night while I’m tidying up the kitchen after dinner. Dad is seen as the fun one, while I get to listen to the radio and get a chore done.
3 Find a new hobby they can all do together. Whether it’s building Lego, camping, going to the pub to watch their favorite football team, or playing guitar, positive new associations will help build a bond away from mummy.