When a toddler preferences one parent

Master X has had a preference for Mr A for a while, but with the birth of our new baby Miss E, he has lately become much worse. An example is when it is at shower time with me when Master X will lose his head and I have to physically take him to the shower. It is a terrible experience and just as traumatic for him as it is for me. This attitude extends to bedtime or any time when Master X is left alone with me, or when Mr A needs to do something regular, like taking a shower himself.

We used to laugh it off, but it is becoming worse and more deeply entrenched in everyday activities. I know that I slacked off being his parent while I was pregnant as I was so big that I found it too hard to read to him, lift him or lay for the long periods of cuddle time that it takes to put him to sleep each night. I know that this is in part due to my deep laziness, but also in part that it could not be helped. I was bordering on obese during the pregnancy and this did not assist my ability to play or be a ‘normal’ mum like I was so that most of the (okay, all of the) parenting duties went to Mr A.

Last night I had to chase Master X around the house to get him undressed, which could have been perceived as a game if it were not for his high pitched screams of ‘no mummy! no!’ and tears streaming down his face. The sound of his shrill cry was pain to my ears and I felt deflated and unloved. The horror continued while I picked him up from under his arm pits and carried him to the shower and placed him in. He hung his head low under the stream of warm water and howled to his toes. I managed to soap him up and then rinse before lifting his heavy 16 kilogram body into the bathtub. Usually this action relaxes him and he enjoys his bath but last night he went to the back corner and continued to hang his head and cry.

And he stayed this way for a good ten minutes before deciding to get out of the bath. He occasionally made his way to me for a brief cuddle but would always return to this position.

I stayed in the bath enjoying it’s relaxing water while listening to the sound of Master X’s wailing for dad as he lay on the cold tiles next to the locked door. I felt a little guilty but mainly angry at my little 2 year old who refused to spend any time with me in love, instead choosing to unleash a torrent of upset every night when we have a bath or go to bed together. I eventually relented and slowly exited the bath careful not to move too quickly as I am still quite overweight after the pregnancy meaning that I am not quite as mobile as I think that I am thus prone easier to simple injuries such as a slipping on the tiles. I wrapped my son in a towel and tried to comfort him as I had done in the bath earlier.

I am finding this change in our relationship to be the hardest thing about having Miss E. Master X sees Miss E as ‘mummy’s baby’ and will screech ‘no daddy, no’ every time Mr A moves to comfort a crying Miss E or pay any attention to her. I am sure that Mr A is finding this difficult also as the parenting of our head strong son is being largely dealt with by him as Master X rarely pays me any attention except to try and play Mr A against me in decisions such as those about food (no, you can’t have a fourth apple). I guess we can’t all be the main parent to all our kids, but it hurts when they no longer see you as necessary to their circle of trust. I am now sitting on the same side as extended family, only to be considered if there is something to be gained directly that others cannot provide like dad is on the toilet and Master X wants to read a book, or in the case of the fourth apple. Perhaps I just need to come to terms with it, but dang it is hard. Parenting is always changing and I feel like a piece of my heart has turned against me.

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