At 4 in the morning Dylan started howling from his bedroom, the nagging sort of insistent cry that tells you there’s no hope in lying there waiting for him to fall back asleep. I poked JB (whose ability to snore peacefully through any and all distractions makes me feel like telling him that every single night for the last year I’ve been setting my alarm for 2 AM in order to lean across the bed and ask if he wants a BJ, and boy, too bad he never once took me up on it because here’s the bad news, it was only a year-long offer. 365 potential blow jobs, ignored. Bummer, dude) and asked him if he’d go in there, which he did. Silence descended, JB came back to bed, and I started to fall back asleep.

Then: blat, blat, blat. More complaints from Dylan, so I stumbled into my robe, went to his room, picked him up, and he LOST HIS FUCKING MIND.

He arched, he screamed, he pushed himself from me with both hands, he flung himself backwards, he squirmed and kicked me, he shrieked, he batted at my face, and finally, while I held on desperately and unleashed my entire soothing arsenal—the “Bear Went Over the Mountain” song, back pats, increased rocking chair cadence, and gentle up-and-down jiggles—he lunged forward and sunk his sharp teeth into my shoulder.

To my credit, I did not leap to my feet, shout “Motherfucker!”, and fling him out the window. I did, however, advise him in no uncertain terms that biting is not on my list of tolerable behaviors, and then I carried his furious little ass over to the crib and . . . well, let’s just say I didn’t place him on the mattress with my normal night-time care. Let’s just say it was less of a cautious Fabergé egg transfer, and more of an unceremonious dumping.

Back in bed, I stared blindly at the ceiling while Dylan did his level best to wake up our entire neighborhood. I told JB that I couldn’t go back in there, and I raged uselessly about the pain of being rejected (and BITTEN). The reason I’d woken JB up the first place is because Dylan had flipped out just the night before when I tried to comfort him, and the instant I’d handed him to JB, he’d relaxed, a nearly visible air of relief surrounding his small body.

Some of you may remember when I talked about Riley going through a very strong Daddy preference, which seemed to last forever. Dylan doesn’t seem to show favorites during the day, but this week I am definitely on his shit list when it comes to back-to-sleep soothings. And I know, it’s like, who cares, just have JB go in there at night, right? More sleep for me! But man, it doesn’t feel good. It feels downright shitty, even. When it comes to whatever comfort he needs when he wakes up—whether he’s scared, or uncomfortable, or just needs a little physical contact to get back to sleep—I want to be able to give that to him, you know?

While I was listening to Dylan crying and the reactionary anger was slowly seeping out of me, JB said he didn’t think he should go in. “I don’t want to . . . perpetuate anything,” he said, carefully. I waited a bit longer, then heaved a giant sigh and got out of bed. I went into Dylan’s room and reached in the crib and picked him up, and he burrowed into my chest. We sat in the rocking chair and he snuffled against me for a while, then fell asleep, curled in my arms.

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Shana
Shana
13 years ago

Linda, I wanted to tell you that I started reading your blog years ago, along with a bunch of other “well known” blog authors. Your blog is the only one I still read, and you are an amazing writer. I, like everyone else has said, hope you are in the midst of writing a book.

kristylynne
kristylynne
13 years ago

As a five-months-pregnant person, these kinds of stories strike fear into my heart. Not the daddy-bonding part, but the screaming in the middle of the night part. I am so not looking forward to that.

Ash
Ash
13 years ago

I’m pretty much safe as far as preferring daddy right now– good luck with that kiddo, he’s overseas for another 5 months… but some nights I sure do wish I had the option of backup.

jonniker
13 years ago

I think that was really sweet of JB, in a way. Right? Or no?

(Kristylynne: The middle of the night screaming is inevitable, but like anything else, it sucks, but in a weird way, it, uhhh, sounds worse than it actually is. True story.)

Swistle
13 years ago

OMG the biting. When one of my kids bit me, I….

I mean, this was a friend of mine, whose kid bit HER. And what SHE did was bite him back. She totally didn’t mean to: it was reflexive. But gosh, it was as satisfying as CAKE. I mean, for her.

Karl
Karl
13 years ago

Yeah, biting is one of those things that the best response is the instinctive one. Whatever that is. If you’ve stopped to think about it you’re on Plan B already.

I think every one of ours bit me at some point. I don’t remember what happened with the first couple. The last two got an instant whack, hard, and it never happened again. I felt real bad, both times, but it worked…

(and no, we didn’t make a habit of beating our kids!!!)

Brigid
13 years ago

One year of missed BJs is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time.
Sounds like you did a great job of comforting him. Mothering is a tough job.

Sarah
Sarah
13 years ago

Ugh. That is a bad feeling. It is hard when someone that so recently needed you for everything suddenly turns on you. I think I understand that it takes some of that, “I am the Mom and know what to do” power away. And, it hurts your feelings. I am so glad he snuggled on the second try to soothe the nerves he hit. I totally get you on this post, just having trouble expressing myself!

Julie
13 years ago

What Shana said. I don’t read any of those assholes anymore.

This post is lovely and sad. Full marks for aborted defenstration.

I feel a little different concerning Ben’s obvious preference for Paul. During the most intense flares of Charlie’s barnacle phase, I found it pretty stressful that only my presence would do in any given situation. It’s a relief — a guilty one, but an honest one — not to be going through that just now with Ben. The pendulum will swing, but, man, am I not in any hurry to drag it on over toward me.

Suzy Voices
13 years ago

I bit my mom when I was 2, and she bit me back. I never bit again!

Kelsey
13 years ago

I actually bit Harper back the first time she bit me as well. She was well into age two, and I asked if she knew what it felt like when someone bit you. She said no, so I bit the end of her finger gently until I could see the feeling register on her face – she never bit me again… But not all two year olds are that reasonable, obviously, it was just a good day for us. When I told my husband that story he thought I was insane, and yet, it worked.

My son, a month or two younger than Dylan, has a super strong Daddy preference – he tries to hurl himself from my arms and through the door whenever my husband leaves. I try not to take it personally, but it does suck sometimes.

Tina
Tina
13 years ago

It could very well be night terrors which both of my kids went through at that age. They act feral, and most of the time do not want to be comforted at all…until they snap out of it. Hopefully, it passes for you asap!

Mommie Pie
13 years ago

This very thing strikes fear in my heart. I am petrified of not being the preferred one. Of not being able to soothe my son with my touch or voice or smell or just by plain being there. People always tell you, babies bond with their mothers. They prefer their mothers instantly and forever…people are full of shit!

Cara
13 years ago

Oh, honey. I can’t even imagine. (No kids yet; I’m sure I’ll find out some day.) Points to you for not throwing him out the window.

squandra
squandra
13 years ago

Aw, JB! I like that, too. Of course … I don’t have kids. :) You guys are neat, though.

Lesley
Lesley
13 years ago

Some day, the little feller will be bitten in the shoulder at 3 am by his own offspring. It’s not much of a consolation, but something you can to look forward to.

Sarah Lena
13 years ago

I’m with the sleep terror comment. Tony flat-out looks to be wide awake, but is uncontrollable and inconsolable. He arches, flails, and generally tries to force us into baby-cide.

We eventually learned to NOT pick him up when he’s in a terror (they get confused, since they’re in a dream-state) and just let it pass on its own.

It sucks, cause all you want to do is make it better, but leaving them alone is the best you can do. SUCKS.

willikat
13 years ago

Aw, that must have super sucked.

Dylan seems like he’s sorry. :)Isn’t there an age up until kids do not understand the difference between dreams and real life–and it’s like… FIVE or older? Maybe he was confused and freaking out over a nightmare.

Mama Bub
13 years ago

We are in the throes of a hardcore daddy preference, and it is SHITTY. Ride Daddy’s shoulders, Hold Daddy’s hand, Daddy read stories, Daddy, Daddy, DADDY.

And I am ever so mature, muttering things like, “If you had to rely on your father’s nipples for nourishment you would have STARVED! What do you think about THAT?!” and “Where was your daddy, when you came into this world? Oh, that’s right, he was standing nearby, not having his special parts permanently rearranged.

But mostly, I just cry and hope the tide changes at some point.

Hilary
13 years ago

So I read your post this afternoon, and tonight when I was putting my 14 month old son down for the night, he bit me! I was like, damn, you read All & Sundry too?

But seriously, he then had the gall to start screaming because I told him “No” sharply. Babies, man.

kali
13 years ago

My darling daughter went through a phase of ‘Daddy Only’ and I held onto my sanity because…HE got night duty for a few months.

Our dear son had the whole gamut of sleep walking and confusions/disorientation terror, that took a lot of special handling. He grew out of it (mostly) but it was a difficult time!

Victoria
13 years ago

Ohhh…

Olivia
Olivia
13 years ago

Oh man…my nephew once bit my sister WHILE HE WAS BREAST-FEEDING. Like, purposefully bit her. Hard. (he breastfed forever…he must’ve been like 16 mos at the time) Probably needless to say, she unceremoniously dumped him from her lap on the floor and he learned never to do that again.

Melodee
13 years ago

You captured that so beautifully.

Glad I stopped by!

Donna
Donna
13 years ago

I’ll tell you that the first time my kids got a spank was when they bit me. Just one pop on the diapered ass, and the surprise was so much they never bit again. Seems like a little physical punishment is the only way to break a kid from continuing a physically painful act.
Eye for an eye, mano a mano, and all that stuff.
And trust me, the way you reacted by not being so gentle with him? That was why he was contrite when you went back in….and was snuggly because he really was sorry. Sorry that he was in trouble, and mommy was not pleased.
No matter what anyone says, there is a time and a place for a swat.

June
13 years ago

The biting sucks – I had it happen during breastfeeding a few times, and OW, mthrfkr OW OW OW. Broke the skin and everything – nothing like peering down at your bloody nipple through teary eyes. Husband just laughed – “Baby likes meat!” he chortled, gleefully. I was ready to throw them both out the window.

Our now-almost-15-mo-old has gone thru a few phases of Mommy Sucks (alternating with a handful of Daddy Sucks). It hurts the feelings, oh yes, but we just tell each other that babies aren’t rational creatures. And that parent preferences will probably continue for the next 20 years.

g~
g~
13 years ago

I totally identify with the outrageous anger bubbling over and then slowly draining away. I feel that all of the time with my kids but it seems particularly worse when something happens at night.

Christine
13 years ago

Oh man, such heartbreak. And dear GOD, I’m so going to use that on Tony, and we don’t even have any kids.

Christine
13 years ago

Oh man, such heartbreak. And dear GOD, I’m so going to use the BJ joke on Tony, and we don’t even have any kids.

Olivia
Olivia
13 years ago

My daughter is 4.5 months and I’m trying really hard not to get upset when she prefers daddy. They have a really close bond since he’s stayed at home with here since I went back to work when she was 3 weeks, and it is really beautiful.

I also know she and I still have a close bond thru nursing and co-sleeping, but man….when she’s crying while I’m holding her, but stops instantly when my husband takes her, it does hurt.

Eric's Mommy
13 years ago

Love the 2AM “BJ offer”, I am going to try that one on my Husband.

Shawna
Shawna
13 years ago

I have been bitten by both my kids while breastfeeding as babies and the instictive reaction is to rip them off my breast with a gasp followed by an angry NO! Maybe that meant that my daughter at least knew better than to bite when she was older because she hasn’t bitten me as a toddler and, at 3 1/2 I’m hoping it won’t be an issue in the future. I’ll have to see if her brother takes the same path since he’s still only 15 months.

Shawna
Shawna
13 years ago

Hmm… maybe I should have added that the instictive reaction is also to toss them away from me, but that impulse I stifled.

Emily
13 years ago

Again, I think we live the same life many miles apart! My younger son FREAKS out if I try to comfort him in the middle of the night and is all about Daddy. I try to make myself feel better by saying that at least I don’t have to get out of bed…but it never feels good to be rejected by one’s own baby!

Andrea
13 years ago

I’m totally stealing that BJ story.

And honestly, JB is a helluva man, recognizing that it would help things for you to go back in to Dylan. Usually at that time of night, I’m useless and can’t even form coherent words or sentences, let alone discern proper psychology of little angry buzzing toddlers. You picked a winner there, and I say he DESERVES a bj for that one.

I had an angry episode with my older child who is five the other night and I still feel bad about it. He cried in his room bemoaning my shittasticness and wishing for his daddy and his grandparents and anyone who’d ever been nice to him that wasn’t me all because I yelled at him (and not from a safe distance from him but right up in his face) to get out of his sister’s room for the umpteenth time while I tried to put her to sleep despite her angry kicks and bucking bronco routine when I tried to rock her to soothe her to sleep. I was frustrated with her and it wasn’t pretty, how I behaved. Unceremonious dumping? check. muttering under my breath about demon spawn? check. considering a sign that says, “Free to another home” with not even the ‘good’ qualification? Check. Check. Check. Would my husband have had as much trouble with them? Absolutely not. It’s just good for him that he wasn’t home for my wrath to branch out and slap at him too.

The good news? we’re all made up, and yesterday, my son told me no less than seven times that he loves me and gave me really good hugs. Good days and bad. Hopefully the bad stay infrequent.

She Likes Purple
13 years ago

My six-month old is already showing a daddy preference and although it’s futile, OBVIOUSLY, I find myself constantly reminding A BABY WHO CANNOT RETAIN INFORMATION about my labor and my vaginal tearing and … “you just think long and hard about which parent you like more, GOT THAT.”

I have no idea why THAT isn’t working and why he still lights up like a damn Christmas tree every time his dad walks near him and when I come near he’s all, “Oh you. Got any food for me?”

God. It sucks even now.

Nancy
Nancy
13 years ago

When my daughter was about 4 years old she told me I was her second favorite parent. And if you think THAT didn’t hurt….but, now that she’s leaving for college in a week she concedes that she may just like us both the same.

Maria
Maria
13 years ago

This sounds exactly like a sleep terror phase that my 3 year old went through. This is scary and you feel hurt, but in no way this is a rejection of you. He is in semi-sleepwalking state and when you interact with him you almost become a part of his scary dream. So when he is fighting you like crazy he is fighting whatever monster he sees in his sleep who now picks him up and talks to him. The main thing is to ensure that he is somewhere safe where he can’t flung himself against sharp corner. It lasts for a few weeks/months and then goes way.

BellyGirl
13 years ago

What IS IT that renders men incapable of waking up to screaming babies? How is it POSSIBLE that they don’t hear it? My husband is the exact same way and it drives me out of my ever lovin mind.

Dawn
Dawn
13 years ago

My 2 year old does a similar thing only she wants no part of my husband. Since he’s the SAH parent I guess I thought she would cling to him but when we are out anywhere (as in not in our house) and I move 4 feet in any direction she reaches for me and her eyes start to water. My husbands at the point where he gets pissed but I think he just feels hurt (he claims it’s just annoying but I know him). Can’t say she’s ever bitten him though so yikes, sorry to hear that.

Nicole
13 years ago

Awesome post, as always.

My husband stays home with our 15 month old and I do everything in my power to “make-up” for not being there. Every weekday I work… and then rush straight home to spend as much time with my son as possible before he goes to bed. I am also the one who insists on comforting him in the middle of the night – No matter what time or how many times it takes. So thank fuck he prefers me… For now. The day he prefers my husband (or anyone else) is the day my heart will break. But maybe then I will get some much needed perspective on the whole thing and I’ll actually get a life. Because I know I used to have one – I just can’t recall where I left it.

dorrie
dorrie
13 years ago

Ohhhhh shit. The hardest part of parenting is sucking it up and going back to the baby/toddler/teenager and dealing with it, whatever “it” is. Especially if you have hurt feelings. It’s hard, but it really matters. Good job.

el-e-e
13 years ago

LOL at Swistle’s comment.

And I’m SO sorry, Linda. My KT’s been giving me fits in the morning, too. For no good reason. She has hit me in the face. (Little pumpkin. Ahem.) Hasn’t figured out biting yet, but time will tell.

Cookie
13 years ago

The screaming and wanting nothing do with you in the middle of the night is so hard. Luckily I haven’t had to go through that with Nick at night (Nick at Nite…), who often does it to my husband. However I often went through it with Gabe, and still do sometimes in the early mornings, even though he is now 4. My husband has always worked odd hours. Luckily you were rewarded with the cuddle, which is one of the best feelings ever.

Your writing is amazing and I always look forward to a new post from you. I know I will love reading whatever you get published.

Melissa
Melissa
13 years ago

I hear you, Linda. My little man has been having the same kind of shitfits at night. Someone mentioned the night terrors…interesting point but my son pulls the same stuff during the day. Who knows? So glad you got a good snuggle with him afterwards though.

Christy
Christy
13 years ago

After getting bitten, I always think about the women who are still breastfeeding children at this age.

MelissaLynn
MelissaLynn
13 years ago

The daddy thing sucks in situations like yours. I hated if for a long time, all three of my boys went to the “dark side” around the age of two. Lately it has been pretty awesome though. I will ask them, “Do you want to go to the grocery store with mom or help dad do yard work.” or “Do you want to help mom fold laundry or help Daddy vacuum.” The answer is always Dad. So I am able to get stuff done and kick back with a book and Daddy gets three little helpers! Also, I feel like doing a jig when our youngest yells for someone to come and help him wipe his butt and he always wants Dad! He he!

Brenna
13 years ago

I was also going to suggest “night terrors” or waking-trance or whatever the hell it is my kid occasionally does where she’s freaking out screaming and wanting nothing to do with not only me, but with any-damn-thing. I can tell she’s not really ‘there’ but it breaks my heart that I can’t soothe her. Though probably if she bit me I’d lose a little of that sympathy.

Erika
Erika
13 years ago

Our oldest child is now 14. When he was less than a year old, I was still in college. I worked part-time as well. Consequently, he was home with Dad a lot. One night just as I got home from work he started fussing because he had a fever. HE WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH ME!! I was too hurt. The very next day I quit my job. I felt like he was forgetting who I was or something. Silly, right?

Lorelei
Lorelei
13 years ago

I like that JB. Way to not perpetuate treating Mama like crap to get Daddy to walk through the door. That practice could come in handy when the boys are teens.

Safe travels!