My Daughter Is a Mama's Girl and It's Making Daddy Sad
My 16-month-old daughter is going through a phase where she favors me over her dad. And he's taking it personally.
My husband and I coincidentally arrived home from work this evening at the same time. We walked in the door to be greeted by our 16-month-old daughter, Stella, who was in the babysitter’s arms, all smiles. She squealed in excitement and reached out her arms. My husband, glowing with adoration towards his baby girl, reached his arms out to get her. You could just feel his daddy pride. I saw it in slow motion and set it to a touching instrumental version of “My Girl” in my head. But then suddenly Stella did some form of sharp karate chop down and blocked her dad’s arms. “NO,” she said sharply and proceeded to reach and squirm to get to me. She gave me a warm, welcoming smile, after just having sprayed her daddy with daggers. Of course, I was happy to receive her, but I felt sorry for my husband who was slowly lowering his arms, his smile fading into a look of confusion, daddy glow departing and slowly being replaced with an Eeyore gray.
Within the last three weeks or so, my daughter has made it abundantly clear that she is a mama’s girl. She follows me around at home. She wants me to cuddle her. She demands that I and no one else put her to bed. She will only eat if I’m feeding it to her. Her dad gave her milk in a sippy cup the other day, and she ran to me, handed me the cup, and insisted that I be the one to hand it back to her. Ouch. And she’s gotten really good at ignoring her dad, pretending he’s not right up in her face begging for a kiss. And when she doesn’t feel like pretending, she all but shoves him away with an accompanying look of annoyance. Poor daddy. He’s trying so hard. And he just keeps getting high-fived in the face by his sweet little angel. Oh, and it’s also breaking his heart.
I try my best to temper the situation. “No, no Stella,” I say. “We LOVE daddy! Let’s show daddy how much we love him.” But Stella is not having it, and she looks at us both like we are wasting her time, like she’s trying to say, “What about ‘Mama’s girl’ do you not understand?”
“What did I do?” my husband says with a tone of hurt that makes me gasp in sympathy. I tell him he hasn’t done anything, and that toddlers go through stages like this, and it’s just a part of their development. But it doesn’t make him feel any better. It’s hard for him not to take it personally.
Of course, he knows he hasn’t done anything to deserve this cold little toddler shoulder, but why is our daughter favoring me? My husband and I spend about the same amount of time with her, we’re both very affectionate, we both put in some serious reading and play time. Sure, I’m the goofier one of the two of us, but my husband’s charm more than levels the playing field. We found ourselves talking it through like this, and we realized we were more or less assigning parenting points to our personality traits, and we had to stop ourselves. I got online and started to read articles about this common phenomenon. Most of the articles supported the idea that toddlers show preferences in food, in toys, and even people as part of their emotional and cognitive growth. One article even seemed to indicate that the exiled parent was really the special one because the toddler is so secure in that particular relationship that she can diss that parent and know he will come back with open arms. “Um, that just means she thinks I’m a sucker,” said my husband.
There’s not really anything else to say to make my husband feel better, at this point. Other than, “I’m her mommy, and I think it’s a girl thing.” I mean, my daughter and I do listen to a hell of a lot of Beyoncé together, and one of our favorite jams is “Run the World (Girls).” And we do have a lot of dance parties… “Yeah, you’re probably right,” my husband said, “it’s totally a girl thing. I’m sure it’s just a phase. She’ll be begging for me again in no time. I’m not going to worry about it.”
And then later on that night, as he went in to her room to say good night, I heard him playing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” on his iPhone…
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