Saturday, November 2, 2013

9:31 PM
Mommy & Me
For the first year of his life, my son almost exclusively preferred me to anyone else in the world. It may have
had something to do with the breastfeeding or the 7-month long maternity leave or the fact that his father and I were dividing and conquering - husband taking the easy, self-sufficient 3YO, me taking the cranky, needy infant.  Whatever the reason, it was me and the baby, together always.  But around 12 months I stopped breastfeeding exclusively and stopped all together (at the baby's direction) at 16 months.  Suddenly, whatever hormones had triggered me to wake up at his slightest stirring or cry disappeared and I resumed my pre-baby habit of sleeping deeply and soundly through the night, largely leaving the nighttime feedings and wakings (and there have been many many many of them since) to my light-sleeping husband.

Two plus years into the game, my son now nine times out of ten prefers daddy to me.  Their closeness has been hewn out of many rough midnight and early morning moments which have been exhausting for my husband, but endlessly gratifying in the resultant relationship they have formed.  If daddy is not around I will suffice, but bring daddy into the mix and mommy is asked, none too politely I might add, to exit stage right. Immediately.  This is both a little hurtful and a lot freeing, although the freedom won of rejection is none too sweet.

I tell myself that this daddy fixation is just a phase and seek parental refuge in the arms of my long-legged, recently gap-toothed 5YO who still holds a slight preference for mommy and is always up for a snuggle and hug.  She bears my kisses and nuzzles graciously and then says "will you read to me?". Quid pro quo.

I recently spoke with a woman who is a mother of four.  Feeling stretched thin in my ability to manage two most days I asked how she and her husband had made it work.  A parent of a different age, her first words were that my kids would be just fine and that I shouldn't feel any guilt that I wasn't doing enough or spending enough time with them.  But then she did recount something that her husband, who traveled often for work, had done to create a special bond with each child.  Once a month each child got to select one thing to do on a Saturday and then he and that child would spend the day together in the child-led activity.  That tradition sounded great to me and is something that I aspire to do, albeit on a smaller scale, with my kids now.

Certainly, by not working Fridays, I have made a big effort to carve out extra time to spend with my kids. Right now this means that I walk my daughter to school, go for a run, and then volunteer in her classroom. We have lunch together and then we pick my son up from daycare and the three of us spend the afternoon together doing various activities (pool, zoo, hike, museum). By virtue of schedules (i.e., she no longer naps) my daughter is getting more of my time, and certainly more one-on-one time with me. We are old-hands at this, having been great buddies and co-pilots from day one, and we use this time to go to lunch, or garden, or shop, or watch a movie, or see a show. We chat, we enjoy treats, we giggle, we revel in our girl time. "Just mommy and A____ time" we call it.

In the way that nothing is ever perfect, all of this special time with my daughter has added to the little sadness I have about my son - I am not spending enough one-on-one time with him and that is also why he prefers his father. Yet, finding that extended one-on-one time with him has definitely been harder, beyond the bedtime routine and commute to daycare that we share most days.

Today though we might have had a little breakthrough.  For the first time in a long while, we had "Just mommy and H______" time in the true sense of the word.  Of his own volition, he left his dad and sister behind at home to go on a hike with me and the dog this afternoon.  He tromped down the trail, snuggled me in the ergo, threw stones into a creek, and sat contentedly next to me for a snack.  The entire way home he chirped about our "adventure" together and how fun he thought it had been.  It was a special little time, carved out of a crisp fall afternoon, that we could call our own and that carried us through into a sweet evening at home as a family.

Case in point: After dinner, I was upstairs working and my husband was downstairs playing with my son. "Mommy look! Mommy look!" my son called.  I came downstairs where he wanted to proudly show me the puzzle he had just completed.  I guess maybe he does love me too after all....

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