Yesterday when I got home from work JB held Riley up to the window so he could see me as I got out of my car. I waved, and I could hear Riley’s excited squeals—”Mommy! Mommy!”—but when I came inside he clung to his father’s leg, begging to be picked up.

“Give Mommy a hug,” JB said, and Riley shouted Nooo, Noooo, want Daddy, want Daddy, Daddy up, Daddy UP, and as I approached my son he ran from me, crying and wailing and shouting NO, WANT DADDY.

Oh, a thousand knives in my heart. A million.

Riley has always shown a preference for JB, and I guess I’ve gotten used to it as much as a lesser-wanted parent can be expected to. In the last few weeks, though, things have been—well, what? What’s the word for it? Things have been weird, things have been sad. My boy has been clinging to his father and rejecting me on a daily basis, and it hurts so badly I can barely think about it without tears coming to my eyes.

There are big, painful moments, like yesterday’s refusal to allow me to touch him or approach him, or the never-to-be-forgotten horrible meltdown at the Christmas tree farm where I dared to hold him while JB put the tree in the back of the truck, and there are countless small moments that cut into me over and over and over: the way he instantly asks for his father when it’s my morning to get him up, but when it’s JB’s morning he never asks for me once; the way he climbs into his father’s arms at a moment’s notice but often has to be coerced into mine; the way he will hand a toy to his father but refuse to let me touch it; the way he curls against JB’s body in a way he never does with me; the way he follows JB all over the house, begging for “up, up!” until I think I’m going to scream.

I know my boy loves me, and when we’re alone together everything is usually fine—although I doubt he asks about Mommy when he’s with JB as often as he asks about Daddy (“Daddy working?”) when he’s with me. I also know how blessed and lucky we are that his father is here and present and that he has such a strong bond with JB.

But. I just don’t understand why things are so off balance. JB and I share parenting duties fairly equally, we both dole out discipline when it’s necessary, we both do baths and diapers and bedtime stories. I don’t think there’s anything I could be doing to improve the situation, and yet every time Riley rejects me it feels like I am failing in the most critical of arenas, it feels like I am the most colossal fuckup on this planet and that I am doing every single thing wrong.

It makes me feel ugly, unwanted and unneeded. It hurts me in a way that is deeper and more painful than anything I’ve ever experienced: it’s like being fired, and broken up with, and grudgingly accepted last in the schoolyard pick, all at the same time, over and over.

I find myself thinking despondent, sorry-for-me thoughts: why can’t you love me as much, oh god what is wrong with me?; I find myself thinking immature, angry thoughts: I have given up everything for you; I find myself thinking the kinds of thoughts that are hard to confess to: You don’t want to be around me? Fine. You know what, I don’t really want to be around you either. In fact, I’d rather be reading a good book, or going to a movie, or a doing any fucking number of things other than sitting here trying to play Legos and hearing you whine for Daddy.

Sometimes, after we’ve had a particularly Challenging Moment, and my face is full of pain and I can’t smile, he looks at me and say, “Be happy, Mommy”. I don’t know what to think about this. Does he know it hurts me when he rejects me in favor of JB? Does it matter?

I’m so afraid that things will get worse with a new baby in the house, that he’ll cling to JB even more, that the scales will never, ever shift in my favor and our relationship will always be one of second-best. I’m afraid of the exact same scenario happening with my second boy. I’m tired of feeling sad and resentful.

Things are not always bad. Things are very often good. We play together, we read books, he randomly chases me and grabs my pantleg and yells “I GOT DA LEG!”, he shows me he loves me too. This is not an every-moment-of-the-day problem. And maybe there are some easy explanations: I’m cumbrously pregnant and I can’t roughhouse the way his dad does, I’ve been sick and not feeling like myself, I stay home with him part time so maybe I am taken for granted a bit.

I just wish it wasn’t like this. And I don’t know if there’s anything I can do about it.

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Jess
14 years ago

I don’t know if there is anything I can say to this, or that anybody can say, that will really make it better. But I do want to say that I exhibited an equally strong preference for my father until about age three or four, and I barely remember it now, and it didn’t last forever, and it hasn’t had a lasting impact on my relationship with either of my parents. I hope and believe it will be the same with you and Riley.

KCL
KCL
14 years ago

My daughter did the same thing at Riley’s age…only it was opposite…my husband was the odd man out. She is 4 1/2 now and adores her Daddy-she often prefers him to me! And-go figure- our second is a “Daddy’s Girl” at age 18 months (No, Mama!-I hear often).
I think children favor different parents at different times in their lives. It will all balance out in time.

Matt
14 years ago

Riley loves you, but he is a little guy. As a little guy, he is completely unaware of how other people are reacting to his actions. That’s not a fault of yours or his, just how he naturally develops. Trust me, you are a great mom, and he will always love you.

wordygirl
14 years ago

Linda, it must be so hard for you to be rejected like that! I like the way you write about it, so poignant and meaningful. I don’t have any wisdom to share since our baby is still in utero and thus obviously prefers me, being the Source of All. But I wanted to chime in and thank you for writing this, and tell you that I do believe it will get better! Hang in there!

Amy M.
Amy M.
14 years ago

I have the opposite situation. My toddler screams, “No, Daddy, no! Mommy do!”, & I know it makes Dad a little sad, but we know one day V won’t want to play with his terribly uncoordinated Mommy, & Daddy will be the playing go-to-guy.

My Mom was a stay-at-home & I definitely took her for granted while I was growing up. My preference flip-flopped. This, too, shall pass. Hang in there. I know how hard it is to do with knives in your heart!

Trina
Trina
14 years ago

I have heard you talk about this before. I am so sorry. Especially since you are pregnant and the emotions are running even higher. I wish I had some advice, but I don’t. Just a big internet hug.

lisa
14 years ago

Just know you are not alone. My first son does exactly this and it is like a zillion knives going thru my heart. My second son, on the other hand, only wants me and is the happiest, smiling baby ever. (son #1 was not!)

I wish I had an answer for you–hang in there!

Sadie
Sadie
14 years ago

oh, this breaks my heart…because even if Riley’s preference for JB is fleeting, or not as lopsided as it feels – it still crushes you.
Here is a thought, maybe valid, maybe gibberish; have you ever expressed to Riley that it hurts your feelings when he rejects you? In a simple, toddler-understood way, like looking sad and saying “you hurt Mommy’s feelings,” and walking away to sit by yourself? If nothing else, this could be the beginnings of teaching him sensitivity or empathy. Granted, I don’t have a two-year-old, so this could be totally age-inappropriate advice…but I have played the “boo hoo, you hurt my feelings” card on many a toddler who gave me the stiff-arm, and sometimes I get a touching, concerned reaction.

I’m sorry, I can feel the painful lump in your throat through your writing. I hope this a passing phase.

Jamie
14 years ago

It will get better and it has nothing to do with you. Both my boys prefered their daddy. Hell, I can’t even get my 2 year old down to bed. His daddy comes home to get him down for a nap and only daddy can put him to bed at night. He screams and cries for daddy at nighttime. Once Michael is in the room, Daniel passes right out.

Enjoy while you can because once the baby gets here, he won’t leave your side. You’ll be surprised how weirded out he’s going to act at first because you are “Riley’s Mommy!!”

Mandy
Mandy
14 years ago

My son went through a similar thing until he was about 2.5 to 3 years old–but it was my husband in your shoes. What you wrote could have been us with the roles reversed. It was draining for both of us–me for always being the only one my son wanted, and my husband for being rejected over and over. We both work full-time and share parenting duties 50/50, so there was no ready explanation for his behavior. Now at 3.5 he much more readily turns to my husband for comfort, and they play together even when I’m in the house. There have been times lately when I’ve gone to the doorway of the room they are in to see what they are doing and my son says, “Go away Mama!” This is a big deal for us! Now my son is much less likely to reject his dad’s attempts at affection unless he’s really tired and cranky, and he even prefers his dad at times. I don’t have any advice for you, except to say I think it’s just a developmental thing, which I would imagine isn’t much of a comfort to the rejected parent. Riley will grow out of it, as did my son, and your relationship will not suffer, but that doesn’t make it any easier in the meantime, I know.

Mandee
14 years ago

I’m so sorry.

I was the same way (with the parents’ roles reversed) for a long time. Ironically, as close as I am to both my parents, my dad is the one I now rely on much more than my mom.

Laura
14 years ago

I don’t have any children, but I have friends with children and I do believe these are just phases that the kids go through. It doesn’t make it any less painful (I’m sending you huge hugs and good vibes), but I think he’ll grow out of it.

laughing mommy
14 years ago

I’m sending prayers and hopes your way that the next baby prefers you… you know, to kind of even things out. I guess you can’t control which parent a child will prefer… but it is totally possible the next baby will be a mama’s boy.

Jamie
14 years ago

I teared up reading this. My two year old has gone through phases like this, mostly in favor of me over his Daddy. We’ve had times when my husband wasn’t allowed to come near him or he’d scream “Mommy! Mommy!” and cling to me for dear life. This completely broke my husband’s heart. The last couple of months or so, however, our son has done an about face and is now playing favorites with Daddy. So who knows. Kids are fickle.

Hang in there. I’m betting it’s a combination of being taken for granted and perhaps not being as much fun as you used to before you got pregnant. No matter why, it still sucks, and I’m sorry.

Pete
Pete
14 years ago

Don’t know what to say. My boys tend to cling to me and my girl, her mom.

Jennifer
Jennifer
14 years ago

I just want to say in the most supportive way…Dude – that sucks. And I think I would feel the exact same way you do – how could you not? And I would be afraid (if I were you) that when the new baby comes I would somehow shower the new baby with all my attention because the attention is wanted and needed and never rejected. I only have one son so I can’t compare. It will be okay Linda – Riley loves and adores you – it is obvious in his sweet beautiful pictures. But it hurts. And that’s okay – kids hurt their parents. Just come commiserate with us. We get it. XOXOXO to you.

Ali
Ali
14 years ago

“it’s like being fired, and broken up with, and grudgingly accepted last in the schoolyard pick, all at the same time, over and over.”

Oh my. What a perfect explanation. (And, yes, I realize that compliments on your linguistic skills are probably, um, not comforting right now, but still….perfect.)

My step-daughter was very young (too young to remember her bio Mom)when her father and I started dating. But once she hit two, I was so Not. Good. Enough. And, oh, how it hurt. I thought all the things you’ve posted and worse. I wept because the man I loved had a daughter. (And, I realize some people think that step-parents can’t love their children as much as biological, but oh my. Are they ever wrong.)
But, we came through it. Every hug made up for every stab in the heart, and eventually the hugs outnumbered the knives, and then the stabs went away completely. I wish I could offer you advice, but I can’t. Each situation is different. I can tell you that you are not alone, and that he WILL grow out of this.
And, just a thought, but maybe when Secondopus comes on the scene, Riley might just be fighting for your affections instead of running from them. (Not that you want your kids fighting, just, oh never mind. I’m shutting up now.)
Good luck.

cbrks12
cbrks12
14 years ago

I am the mother of two boys. My oldest was head over heels for his dad. He really didn’t like to be held by anyone but his dad and preferred him to everyone else. They were very close — more like friends than father and son. Now that he is a teenager, all that has changed. My husband struggles with this child that has gone from worshipping him to rejecting him just because he is one big ball of hormones and an ass to boot.

All this to say that this too shall pass. Boys have to break away from their moms and identify with their dads. Some do it sooner than others.

Hang in there…he loves you. He just doesn’t appreciate you yet!

Swistle
14 years ago

Two things.

Thing the first: I have noticed (in my own house and at my friends’ houses and at the daycare where I used to work) that children nearly always prefer the non-primary parent. I try to think of it as balancing the scales: they get 8 units of time with Primary Parent and 4 units of time with with Secondary Parent, so their little minds struggle to balance it and they ask for Secondary Parent.

Thing the second: I can think about that theory all I want, and it doesn’t help much when my 6-year-old says, “I wish YOU worked and Daddy stayed home with us.”

Jennifer
Jennifer
14 years ago

And another thing – I remember when my son was 13 years old and going through that horrible hateful teenage thing that we all went through….he was being positively hateful and it totally hurt my feelings and I was so caught off guard by the fact that him being a shit to me hurt my feelings rather than just making me angry. And I talked to MY mom that night and asked her if she ever felt the same way years ago when I treated her the same way…and when she said yes…I just cried and said “I am so sorry”. Life’s lessons man. Funny.

Elizabeth
14 years ago

Oh man, that sounds really really hard. I’ve got nothing else, just that everything you feel seems justified. What does JB think about it? Just curious what it’s like from his end of things. And wondering how I’m going to feel when this surely happens to me and I’m not as cool or as fun as Dad is.

Formerly DDM (Sonia)
Formerly DDM (Sonia)
14 years ago

*Gulp* I got a big old lump in my throat reading that. My son went through a prefering me stage. It lasted a good year, and it hurt my husband’s feelings something fierce. BUT. It did stop, and now we’re both pretty important to him. I would guess that this is a phase Linda, and that it will get better. If not, you can ply him with his favorite treats and sugar shock him into loving momma the most!

PattM
PattM
14 years ago

Sounds like son #2. Big time daddys boy: mommy only to nurse, scream for HOURS at night until daddy came in, refused to hug, kiss, look at or talk to me. You described how it was for us, too.

Riley is too young to know that he’s hurting you and he isn’t doing it on purpose (that comes with the teen years). It still hurts, it is still rejection. Son #2 is now 14 (!) and he and his dad are still very close. He doesn’t scream in pain when I touch him; he does talk to me and actually enjoys being with me. It does turn out fine in the end.

A little twist: with your attention being diverted to the new baby, Riley may suddenly decide that he wants to be your pal. Kind of along the lines of we want what we cant have. We had a daughter when he was about Riley’s age. All of a sudden, son #2 wanted to sit with me ( of course to see the new baby), talk to me more, and needed more attention. He also became a great protector and built in entertainment for his sister, too.

Better days are coming. Hang in there.

Sleepynita
14 years ago

It must be hard to feel rejected by your son who you take so good care of. My husband is going through this with our son, who ALWAYS wants Mamamama……I guess I am the rockstar in our house…. my Husband feels absolutely hated by the boy some days.

That being said; kids are lame and fickle and the tides will shift eventually. And don’t knock it too much, being the rockstar in the house is very exhausting.

Stacy
Stacy
14 years ago

I have this theory that some little boys spend the first three years enamored with their fathers, and the rest of their lives in love with their mothers. And that additional children often bring into the family what is needed to correct anything that is out of balance. I agree with Ali that it’s possible having a new little brother around taking up a good part of your attention might just turn the tables a bit. You have a beautiful family, and even in the tough times, when it’s seemingly more work and heartache than reward, that love will get you through.

angela
14 years ago

My feeling is that the reason for this is that you are home more often. If JB were the one staying home part time I’m sure that the tables would be turned. Also, he’s a boy. You’re a girl. You’re Momma, but you’re a girl. You don’t roughhouse the way JB does. And JB was a 2 year old boy once upon a time. That gives him an enormous advantage that you can’t dismiss.

Alyson
14 years ago

It’s all a part of Riley’s preparing for the baby. He knows he will have to share you soon. The problem is, he doesn’t know he’s going to have to share DAD, too. Uh-oh! This too shall pass………

What’s really going to drive you crazy is when, in about 6 or 8 months, he starts threatening to run away from home. When that happens, give me a shout. I’ll tell ya how to nip that in the bud! It only happens, ONCE!

Amber
Amber
14 years ago

I totally feel for you! My son’s dad plays the drums and guitar, rides a motorcycle, loves fishing, camping, boating, volunteers as a referee…I’m always busy with schoolwork and laundry. Sometimes I get a little jealous and resentful when I don’t get picked first because dammit, I pack his lunch, drive him to school, bring treats for school parties, tuck him in at night etc…My suggestion?

How about having a regular mommy and Riley date night (might be especially helpful after #2 gets here), you could go to a coffee shop for story hour and let him order a milk steamer with whip cream. Kids love that stuff at his age!
Most importantly do something you don’t normally do and let him know this is your special time together (no daddy) just mommy and Riley.

Amber
Amber
14 years ago

I totally feel for you! My son’s dad plays the drums and guitar, rides a motorcycle, loves fishing, camping, boating, volunteers as a referee…I’m always busy with schoolwork and laundry. Sometimes I get a little jealous and resentful when I don’t get picked first because dammit, I pack his lunch, drive him to school, bring treats for school parties, tuck him in at night etc…My suggestion?

How about having a regular mommy and Riley date night (might be especially helpful after #2 gets here), you could go to a coffee shop for story hour and let him order a milk steamer with whip cream. Kids love that stuff at his age!
Most importantly do something you don’t normally do and let him know this is your special time together (no daddy) just mommy and Riley.

Deanna
Deanna
14 years ago

This will pass I promise. Maybe the new baby will make Riley want to be with you just a bit more.
My #2 is so cute. Invariably when I am feeding #3, he will come up and just want to be held or want a hug or just check in with me. Not in a jealous way but way more than before the baby came along for sure.

And I agree it is a good time to start teaching the empathy thing (“you hurt my feelings” with a big pout and walk away). If nothing else it gives him the vocabulary to deal with his own hurt feelings later.

Naomi
14 years ago

Aw, I can hear the anguish in your words. I’m not a mommy and never will be, but I love kids and feel like I raised my own (I’m the eldest of six girls). I remember my youngest sister preferred me to my mother for a long time, she even thought I was her mother because my mom went back to college after she had her. I’m sure that hurt my mom.

Anyway, like everyone else’s comments have said, I’m sure it’ll even out and things will change. :) He DOES love you. Of course.
But you know that. :)

claire
14 years ago

Not that more advice will necessarily help, but i had asked my mother (since i don’t have any kids of my own) when i read your last post about this. I felt so badly about THAT post, i wanted to see what another mother thought. She said pretty much the same thing as Swistle did about the Primary Parent. My brother and I were both like this and as a 1st grade teacher she got to see it with her many 6 year olds.

This, too, shall pass. In the meantime, try to enjoy the time to yourself if Riley wants Daddy. You could probably use some down-time, especially while you’re pregnant.

Advice from the childless person’s mother – over.

Joanne
14 years ago

I am super scared about having baby number two here in a few weeks because I have no idea what it’s going to do with my and my son’s relationship. When I think about leaving here and coming back a few days later with a baby, and how that will make him feel, I can barely stand it. He has been acting *so* weird with me, definitely preferring me over my husband, sitting on my feet every time I sit down, wrapping his arms around my legs, etc. He can’t communicate that great yet (he’s a late talking 2.5) and he definitely knows something’s up but he doesn’t know what to do about it. I look different, it freaks him out, I know.

The only thing I can say is to try, try try not to take it personally. Lucky for me (and I never thought I would say this), my son was an insane newborn who never stopped crying and seemed to hate me. This has sort of toughened me up to what he thinks of me, and I my husband too, so we are more immune to him hurting our feelings. So maybe they all hurt us and wound us in their first few years, it just happens at different times? Maybe you (and I) are both projecting our worry about what this next baby is going to do to our relationship with our kid, and our husbands too? I know that when my son ignores my husband in favor of me, it makes me feel terrible for my husband and somewhat … not angry but sad with my son, that he can so cavalierly hurt my husband’s feelings. It’s really heavy, what’s going on in your family right now, but a lot of people have done it! I’m sure it will all work out and by this time next year you’ll have a boy wrapped around each leg, vying for your attention, and this will be a memory. Hang in there.

MotherGooseAmy
MotherGooseAmy
14 years ago

A friend of mine has a similar scenario. Her first son was born a few days before Riley (August ’05) She has second baby boy who is 11 months. She calls her baby “sugar” and her eldest “spice.” Fortunately you have a new baby coming, which means one more chance to have a Mama’s boy. I have a feeling you’ll be getting the love an affection you are craving from Secondopus. Hang in there. You are a GREAT mommy. You are doing everything as right as possible.

willikat
14 years ago

you are so honest. it breaks my heart. i’m not a mom, but i can tell you do everything you can, that you are a fabulous mom, and that he’s a little kid who idolizes his dad, and that he will one day be on tv saying, “it’s all for my mom.”

Beth
14 years ago

Mia is the same way, except that I am the favored parent and Chris, who she honestly does worship and adore, is more often than not chopped liver. I think it is just how they are, not that it helps at all.

BethanyWD
14 years ago

Your honesty is breaking my heart; and I think this (not to devalue at ALL what you are going through), is something that happens at one time or another to parents. The first word my son (the firstborn) said was “Dada” (VERY CLEARLY), even though I was the one with him more. It hurt, and I think the depth of my pain and the depth of YOUR pain, is directly related to our love and adoration of our children.

Josh
Josh
14 years ago

Well he’s a dude. Of course he’s going to want to be with/like his dad more. It’s a guy thing. I wouldn’t read too much into it. Sorry you’re down, I’ll go make some hot cocoa and drink it for you to try and send cheery vibrations in your direction. Those are like AM radio waves, they bounce off the stratosphere when it’s clear and cold. I’m sure you’ll get them. ;) Fear not.

Meg
Meg
14 years ago

Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry.

Reading posts like this makes me feel more sympathy for my husband. I’m the favourite with our kids.

Fwiw my son, who’s 7 now, slowly got better and better. He still seeks me out for certain things instead of his father, because he knows I’ll do certain things for him that his father won’t. But he slowly got better with letting his father cuddle him, going to him to talk to him excitedly about things, playing with him, and so on.

My daughter is nearly 3. She’s still wary of her father but has begun to improve in terms of letting him touch her, letting him give her things, handing him odd things to hold like she does to me, and so on.

My son got quite jealous when my daughter was born. He didn’t shove her or try to get rid of her or anything awful like that (though he was 4 – he would’ve been meaner when he was littler, I think!!) and he liked that she wasn’t getting into his toys etc. – but he wanted attention from me every time she was having attention from me. He wanted to sit with me. He wanted to know what the baby was doing. He wanted to help with changing nappies and so on. Riley may do that with you too.

So while I don’t know Riley and I’m not an expert, I am inclined to believe it will all get better, sweetie. I hope so.

Mary
14 years ago

I went through this with both my boys, and my daughter too. They all wanted Daddy more than me, even though I was home all the time. It got very bad with both boys right before the next baby came. I was complaining to my doctor about it, and she told me that she thinks pregnant women give off a scent or a hormone or something as the birth gets closer, that helps with the inevitable pushing away of the toddler so you can care for the new baby. She said it happened to her, and to most of her patients.

That made me feel better, and today, I am very close to all my kids, even the teenagers. We enjoy each other’s company tremendously. Dad is the one who does cool stuff like take them igloo building, but Mom provides the food and the transportation and the daily necessities. What things are like today don’t mean you and Riley won’t have a relationship, I really promise.

Mandi
Mandi
14 years ago

I can feel your pain coming through the screen. I am SO sorry for what you are dealing with right now.

Like everyone has said, this is a phase and it does pass. I have 4 kids, my oldest being my only son. When he turned 9 months old he jumped ship. He wanted daddy, he loved daddy, he wanted nothing to do with me. And it wasn’t just daddy, my sister, my mother and my husbands mother were all preferable to me. When he was about Riley’s age my MIL was at my house and my son ran into a wall and hit his head really hard. I instantly went into protective mommy mode and was all ‘Come here baby! You poor little……’ He looked at me and ran straight to my MIL. !!! She just looked at me like ‘I’M SORRY!!’ because she knew how much it hurt me.

He outgrew this stage and went into a new stage that I’m sure was equally frustrating, annoying, etc.

I promise!! It will get better. That probably doesn’t help ease the pain you are feeling right now. Maybe it does. Try not to think of yourself as failing him in any way. You seem to be doing a fantastic job parenting him, there isn’t much you could change to be ‘better’. Try not to feel so down on yourself. You are a good mom!

Hugs sweetie.

jonniker
14 years ago

This breaks my heart for you. I wish I could help.

m
m
14 years ago

Once, when I was very young (but older than Riley), I asked my mom if I could have a different daddy. I didn’t know then what that must have felt like for my dad, and Riley surely doesn’t know that he’s hurting you.
Sometimes it seems that there’s a “default” parent that a child knows will always love him, accept him, and give him attention whenever he comes around. For whatever reason, the other parent’s attention is perceived as something to be striven for, and is the “preferred” parent. Maybe because that parent works during the day while the other stays home with the child, or whatever.
Maybe this isn’t the case with your family, but regardless, it will pass, as everyone has said. Hang in.

Sunshyn
14 years ago

Around here, the kidlet wants NANAMAMA. Only NANA. We are SUPPOSED to split parenting duties. And Poppa is the man in the evening, when it’s playtime. But in the morning, when it’s all I can do to get myself out the door, he wants ME to get him ready for school. He’s not a morning person. At all. Just waking him up is apt to send him into full tantrum mode. And there he is screaming to my husband, “YOU GO AWAY!” Sigh. On the other hand, I smirk when he tells the Wicked Stepgrandmother to, “Leave me ALONE! I don’t LIKE you.” Because she deserves it, of course. I think the new baby will send Riley rushing to your side, proclaiming that you’re HIS mama. Dammit. I agree with someone up there that you should tell Riley he is hurting your feelings. The kidlet was mad at me on a morning that was a day he would be picked up by Wicked, and I said if he didn’t hug and kiss me good-bye, I would cry all weekend. He threw his arms around me at that. Yes, he’s five, but emotionally, he’s about three-and-a-half, so… Talk to the kid. You’d be surprised how much he knows and understands.

Samantha
Samantha
14 years ago

I want to commend you for being so honest. Sometimes the truth is not pretty, but we need to get it out in the open anyway.

My daughter was very attached to me, and acted like her father was the devil. It hurt him to the core. At one point, he told me that he thought of leaving us, so that we could go on without him, happy. It is not a great place to be.

I do have to tell you that Zoe outgrew that phase at about 3 years old. (Thank God)

I believe that the arrival of the newest family member will make you two closer.

I know it is hard to think about, but hang in there, it will get better!

Amy
Amy
14 years ago

We’re dealing with the same thing, only it’s her father that Button rejects on a consistent basis. I cannot fathom a reason for this, for all the same things that you already listed. And I know it hurts him deeply, even when he tries not to show it.
I’m torn on a daily basis about where to draw the line between reprimanding her for rude behavior (like shoving him away) and forcing her to display affection (which I don’t want to do).
Here’s hoping it will get better. Soon.

Rachel
14 years ago

My kids both went through a stage of rejecting me in favor of their dad, and I have some stories, like yours, whose sting has never left even though it’s been years (my daughter once wiped off my make-it-better kiss so that Daddy could do it instead — I think she was three; they used to fight over who had to hold my hand instead of his when we were crossing the street). And oh my gosh am I familiar with every single kind of reaction you mentioned, especially the “I gave up everything for you” sort.

I don’t know what makes kids act this way, but my suspicion (in our case, anyway) has been mostly that I am the Default Parent and Daddy is the Special Parent because he’s gone more than I am. Also, I think it’s just a biological THING that children identify more strongly with one parent than another sometimes. If it’s any comfort, it’s evened out now — they’re eight and eleven and are at least mature enough to hide their preference, anyway. :)

C
C
14 years ago

My daughter has pretty much always preferred her dad over me, and I go thru stages where I struggle with it. She’s going to be 11 and still loves her daddy to death, and now is old enough to really voice that preference from time to time (usually without meaning any vindictiveness towards me). It’s still tough, it still stings but like you mention, I’m so very glad she’s got a present/good dad in her life. I’d rather she prefer him ’till the day is done than to not have him in her life. (He and I are not together anymore, so what Swistle says above definitely rings true – I’m the primary and he’s, for the most part, fun dad.)

H
H
14 years ago

I’m the mother of two teenagers and all I can say is that when your children hurt your feelings, it is unbelievably painful and I can completely understand how you feel. They will hurt you again and again and it will cut like a knife. Kids go through stages and reach milestones which almost require them to reject their parents. It won’t always be fair, or even, or make sense but you’ve just got to keep remembering that they DO love you and they don’t mean it.

It sucks to go through it. Hugs to you.

Lesley
Lesley
14 years ago

Does he know it hurts me when he rejects me in favor of JB?

Although what he’s doing feels remarkably like rejection, Riley doesn’t perceive himself to be rejecting you. He’s unable to know that’s what he’s doing and he wouldn’t understand you perceiving it that way. At his age, he’s living purely in the moment, the universe revolves around him, and he’s almost completely egocentric. I know this must be hard but do not take it personally.

Riley is a very secure little boy because he his loved. As far as he is concerned, you and JB are omnipotent Gods who love him unconditionally. That is all he knows. He’s not worried about anyone’s feelings but his own because he has no need to be. Even when you look hurt and he perceives your hurt and wants you to be happy, his primary concern is still his own well being. Your being happy makes him content.

He’ll shift from this egocentric state soon enough, and I’m betting when that new baby is taking up all of your time, he’ll be jealously competing for your attention.

There are hundreds of sites like this one, that describe toddler rejection, and they may offer reason and comfort.

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