As a parent, I enjoy the feeling of being wanted and loved by my children. When they get hurt or are scared, the little cry of “Mommy!” makes me feel that my kids know I’ll help and protect them. When they are excited about something and come grab my hand to show me their new “cave” or “store”, I (usually) can’t help but smile. But to be honest, being a stay-at-home mom can be really exhausting. Sometimes it’s really hard to muster up the excitement and exclaim “wow!” for the 100th time that day or pick up their drink off the floor or sit down to eat some lunch only to have them ask for more food.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade staying at home with my kids for anything. But I also just need a little break sometimes. Enter Daddy. My husband gets home between 5:30 and 6 each night. The kids run to the door, fling it open and jump into his arms. Daddy is their wrestling buddy, tickle monster and airplane flyer. But many days when we sit down to the table for dinner, the kids will ask me for whatever it is they want or need rather than my husband. I get it. They are with me all day and are used to asking me for help. And my husband, bless his heart, is always willing to help out by getting them a drink or more food and he always makes sure the kids thank me for dinner every night.
But the last couple of months have been rough, mostly when it comes to bedtime. My son, who I’ll admit is more of a mama’s boy, won’t let my husband put him to bed. He screams. He cries. He reaches for me. He struggles to escape my husband’s arms. It’s a bit ridiculous. My kids share a room and go to bed at the same time. Since my husband is home most nights, we put the kids down together. Last night, for example, my daughter asked if I could read her a story on her bed. This left my son with my husband and immediately he started throwing a fit: “No, I want mommy! Not you! I don’t want you! I want to sit with mommy!” and so it went. He calmed down for a few minutes while we read a story but started right back up again as soon as it was done. It took him about 45 minutes to get settled enough to finally fall asleep. During this time, my husband checked on him periodically while I showered and did a few things around the house.
So what’s the point of this story? (Hint: It’s not about bedtime routines, parenting styles or kids sharing a room. *wink*) It’s about what to do when your child prefers one parent over another. What do you do? How do you handle it? While I’m still trying to figure it out myself, there are a few things that I think make a difference. (And I hope it’s obvious that I’m gearing these suggestions toward healthy relationships, not abusive ones.)
When this first started happening with my son, my instinct was to just take over and hold him or help him or whatever it was that needed to be done. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me at the time. But as time has gone on and the behavior has persisted, I’ve had to restrain myself and let my husband take care of things. The way he tries to help is often different than the way I would do things. But if I continue to butt in each time, our kids might think that his way is “wrong” and my way is “right” or even that we don’t back each other up.
Encourage Relationship Building
As our kids have gotten a little older, my husband and I have tried to be better about spending one on one time with them going on daddy-daughter dates, mommy-son dates, daddy-buddy hangouts and mommy-daughter dates. We believe, as I think many parents do, that building a strong relationship with our kids is essential for the days ahead as they get into dating, hanging out with friends and all the things that come with growing up. We want our kids to know that they can come to either of us for help, love and advice.
Say “I love you” to Each Other
This might seem like a “duh” suggestion, but hear me out. I say “I love you” to our kids multiple times throughout the day. My husband also says this to our kids when he calls during the day or over chat as well as when he gets home. Our kids also need to see that their parents (my husband and I) love each other. How often do you say “I love you” to your spouse in front of your kids? Do you compliment each other in front of them? Do your kids see your love through words and actions?
If you’re going through any of this right now with your kids, I hear you! It’s not easy and can be really frustrating. I hope that at least one of these suggestions will be helpful to you. I’m still trying to figure out this whole parenting thing and we need each other! If you have anything that you find helps, please share!