I Love Daddy More!
Ila’s chin quivered as I undid her car seat buckle after school a week ago.
“Is daddy home?” She asked.
“No, sweetie, he’s working,” I replied gently.
And then…the saddest cry in all humanity came from the depths of her. Tears swelled and cascaded down her tiny face. She cried hard…her-little-mouth-opening-with-no-sound-coming-out hard. I scooped her up and asked, “Sweetheart, what is the matter?”
“I want DA-ddeeeeeeeeeee!” (As if THAT wasn’t already apparent.) But I put a smile on my face and said as cheery as I could, “I certainly understand that you miss daddy. But he’s working hard for us so that he can help pay for our house that we love, our car we drive and the school you go to. So it’s just you and me! Let’s have a fun girls’ night! ”
She pulled off her glasses, blinked her big eyes a few times to help the remaining tears get over her bottom lids, used the back of her sleeve to wipe her wet face and with the honesty of a four year old turned to me and said, “But daddy is SOOO much more fun than you…”, and then again the tears…and the chin quiver…and the wails of despair.
GULP. SWALLOW. BLINK. BLINK. (Shake it off, Logan. Shake. It. Off.)
And then….a few nights ago…at bedtime after the three of us spent an evening together…
“Good night, mommy,” said my fleecy-pajamaed, fresh-out-of-the-bathtub girl.
“Good night, my dear.”
“Mommy, I love you and daddy so much!”
“Well, Ila, we love you so much too!”
“But mommy, I love daddy MUCH more because he is sweeter than you.”
OOF. UGH. BLECH. OUCH. PHWPP. SIGH.
They hit me. I will not deny that these two proclamations hit me hard. I allowed myself to wallow in it for awhile, especially after the second declaration of unequal love. I’ll admit…it fed into my “I’m unlovable complex.” But then…then…I let Hindsight take over.
Here’s the thing he told me:
Ila DOES genuinely feel stronger about her father than she does me. Right now, that’s how it is. Right now. After all, a four year old is interested in fun and games and imagination and play, and well that just isn’t me. I DO play with her; “princess” and “giant” and “baby” and “firewoman” and “Frozen”. I play it all. However, daddy DOES do all of that stuff SO much better. Not only that, he makes up other cool things that I couldn’t possibly even think of because my brain just doesn’t work that way. So she loves that he (out of the two of us) gives her what she wants more often and more intently than I do. Truth.
But Hindsight reminds me that our relationship is being established so that there are and will be things that she loves about me just as much as she loves her dad’s ability to play. She trusts me already. I can tell. When she has a problem, she freely expresses it and knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will help her with it. She thinks that my decisions and strategies are good ones. I know this because when faced with a recurring problem or situation, she will fall back or use again something that we brainstormed before. As she gets older, this trust and confidence she has in me will be needed and valued more and more.
And…even though she now defines love as play and imagination, we have our things too. Hindsight has taught me that you follow your child as far as where her interests lead her. Ila loves music, and so we go to music lessons together. We play the piano. We sing and learn new songs and weekly put together CD’s of our favorite music that we can play in the car. We watch videos on Youtube of Broadway show snippets or musical movies or even the videos that are made today by popular artists. At night, she won’t go to sleep unless I sing to her. We may not have play, but we have music that bonds us.
Ila loves to ride a horse. I have helped her follow that by bringing her weekly to a barn where the teacher/therapist and her volunteers make my daughter feel incredible and brave and talented. I stand each weekend beaming at the progress of her riding and quite often during the week we’ll talk about “her” horse Lukey and the riding that she loves. The long car ride to and from riding has become a time to play brain games like “I’m Thinking of Something”, to sing at the top of our lungs to the songs on our CDs, or for me to make up stories and tell them to her as we drive up and over the hills of that windy road.
We are both book lovers and each night we hungrily read from a new chapter book or favorite picture book. Quite often we use parts of those books to communicate or solve problems. For instance, on missing-you-days I will give her ten kisses on her hand that she can use when she feels like she needs me, just like in the book, The Kissing Hand, and when we really want to show each other how much love we have for the other we’ll say, “I love you to the moon and back!” from the book, Guess How Much I Love You? Quite often the other will answer the same way as the Little Nutbrown Hare answers that declaration, “Wow, that is very very far!”
Lately, we have decided that together we will “see the world.” My daughter “lifted” this phrase from the famous “Atalanta” story off the “Free to Be You and Me” CD that we love to listen to so. It was her idea to keep a list of places. So each week, we seek out or she may hear of a place that we can add to our “see the world” list. So far we have Paris, Venice, China, and the Pacific Ocean along the California Coast. In fact, last night, as I was shutting her light off for bed time, she called my name. I stopped and turned around and she said, “Hey mom, today I read a book in school and I have another place to put on our list!”
“Great!” I replied. “Tell me what it is and I will go write it down right away!”
“Japan!” she squealed.
“Japan! Yes that sounds wonderful. Tomorrow we will take a computer tour of that country and see which parts we want to visit.”
“All right!” She replied, and then, “Mama!” sigh…. “Mama, I love you to the moon and back.”
I turned back towards her and smiled the grateful smile of a mama who finally gets it… “Wow!” I answered. “That’s very very far!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (cc) Steve Snodgrass]