Heather wrote yesterday about how close she and Annie have grown of late, and something happened a couple days ago that really drove that point home. Annie was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for me to prepare her dinner, when she suddenly said, “I like Mama more than you.” I stopped dead in my tracks.
“What did you say?”
“I like Mama more than you.”
I just stared at Annie, undoubtedly looking like I’d been sucker punched in the gut. Perhaps because of this, Annie corrected herself and said, “I like Mama and you.” I nodded and went back to preparing her food, but couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said.
I knew, of course, that I should just forget about it, especially since Annie is only three and probably didn’t even know what she was saying. Furthermore, it isn’t a competition, I told myself, and there’s no mistaking that Annie loves me – she showers me with hugs and kisses all day long, cries whenever I leave the house, and snuggles up to me on the couch every chance she gets. Heck, she won’t even let me go to the bathroom without talking to me through the door the entire time.
I knew, too, that Annie had begun to identify with Heather as a woman. She loves to watch Heather put on dresses (and to look through her clothes in our closet), she studies Heather as she applies her makeup, and she insists on helping Heather comb her long hair. It’s very sweet to see the bond she and Heather are forging as women.
I also told myself to toughen up because Annie will undoubtedly say something far worse to me some day. Somewhere down the line Annie will utter “I hate you,” or even that old chestnut, “I wish you were dead!” Yup, I am in for a lot worse and need to toughen up.
Even though I knew all of this…
…it still hurt.
There’s part of me that’s really happy that Annie and Heather have grown so close. For the longest time Heather fretted that Annie preferred me to her, and I told her not to worry, her time would come. Now that it’s here, though, I’m coming to understand just how hard it is to be second best.
That’s the gift of having 2 parents Mike! Annie will likely bounce back and forth between you. I’d put money on you being the favorite again at some point during her early teen years. What a great Dad you are!
Linda Miller says:
As the mother of 14 year old daughter, my husband and I joke about how often that changed. Our daughter went back and forth every few months. Some days now, we’re lucky if she likes either one of us. Then there are the days that still melt your heart.
Kids are a fickle bunch eh?
My best friend’s little boy (6) told me the other day that I was much better than his Mum. Mind you I had just let him play Plants vs Zombies on my IPhone…
The line my husband created during the first of those phases became his mantra for a bit: “Chopped liver is still a meat” …:)
That’s a great line!
Oh, Mike. Sorry you’ve been on the receiving end of this stage (god; I hope it’s a stage!).
My daughter did a similar thing to me when she was three (is this a three thing?): said she loved Daddy more. So I asked her why, and she talked about the fun things he does with her.
[As the one who does much of the grunt work and therefore has less time/patience for fun at times], I was faintly chagrined — but asked her to think about the things I do for or with her — the fun things *and* the work-related things. She seemed to get that — and so I explained that maybe she loved each of us differently, not more or less. Kind of hope that does the trick! (and in your case, even if not — you’ve got a son who’ll hopefully follow you around in a few years!)
My sister said that exact thing at Annie’s age. She turned 22 yesterday and is super close to our Dad. It’s totally a stage … but a painful stage for sure!
She’s also learning about cause and effect and how the things she says effect the people around her. If she says/does A people laugh; If she says/does B people praise her; If she says/does C people get angry. She’s testing reactions and storing the results to inform her actions later.
It’s all natural. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult!
Hugs Mike!! I said that to my mom when I was little and I’ve never lived it down! We joke about it now, but just know that toddlers are fickle little beasts, but you KNOW she still loves you, regardless of what she says. She just loves you guys differently, because you have different relationships. still, it’s a punch to the gut, eh?
Daddy is favorite right now at our house. He works from home and I’m gone all day so they get lots of time together. I’m happy she can be home with him, these days are priceless. At the same time, I’m also sad I don’t get to spend it with her as well. Oh well, like some of the others said, someday she won’t like either of us. I’m sure Annie is just sensing the new baby coming and trying to soak up all the Mommy time she can.
I’m a single parent of 2 boys and they have both have gone through these phases as well. I noticed that it usually happened at times when they were feeling a little insecure about their relationship with their dad. We hold on a little tighter to things we feel like we may lose, right? But even though I understood where it was coming from, it still stung. I know there are many variables at play for Annie but from what I have read she is such a perceptive little thing and already questioning how the baby’s arrival is going to change her relationship with Heather. Given that she is anticipating this change along with the timing of just beginning to develop a different kind of bond with Heather, that statement from her seems so natural. As always, I am impressed with her ability to express herself. And, I can guarantee that the pendulum will swing your way again many more times to come.
I’m wondering if Annie is also asking you if you are going to do fun things with her after her brother comes like she did with Heather. Since Heather is the one giving birth and Annie sees the changes Heather is going through, maybe she just isn’t as concerned about you right now as a result. Keep your chin up, Mike. Pretty soon there will be one kid for each of you, and working that out is a whole new ball game. Have fun with everything that is to come. I truly mean that!
They switch back and forth. My 5 y/o told me the same thing a couple of weeks ago (I didn’t share it with my hubby). I am not sure if she has told him that she loves him more than me, but if she hasn’t yet, she will. And she has already said that she hates me, and I went OFF on her. To really make her hate me, you know? If she is gonna hate me, then she better have a damn good reason. It does sting and shock when they say it. But over time, you can just chalk it up to them being little psychopaths that only occasionally make sense. The acrobat will say the same thing one day, something to look forward to!
I completely sympathize with you. My daughter (age 5) tells me regularly that she loves her Daddy more than me. There’s no gut punching quite like it. I’m so sorry you’re having to feel this way. You’ll get through it. Your brain knows the real truth, hers just doesn’t quite yet know how to articulate her true feelings.
I’m actually very scared for this day. My daughter is 100% a mama’s girl and at nearly 20 months, always has been. There is never a time when she prefers my husband over me, and as sad as that makes me for him, I know that I don’t really *know* what that’s like or how difficult it must be for him. I also know that the day will come when she prefers him over me and I have no idea how I’ll cope with that.
Just be glad that Annie doesn’t (and hasn’t always!) scream when you take her away from Heather. Because that’s what my Annabel does and it’s heartbreaking in so many ways:( This parenting stuff can be so difficult sometimes and I’m positive I will NEVER have thick enough skin to be able to hear “I hate you” or worse, “I wish you were dead” without balling.
Our oldest just turned 8 and she has always been a Mommy’s girl. Only very recently has she asked to ride in Daddy’s car or do things with just him and her when the occasion presents itself. When she is hurt, though, she still comes to me. There are just some kids that don’t flip-flop. Our youngest daughter who just turned 3, on the other hand, does the flip-flop almost on an hourly basis. I often hear her tell me that I am not her friend anymore because she doesn’t like what I have told her. No rhyme or reason with that one. Our son who is 19 months likes Grandma best.
Charlene R says:
I know my daughter prefers her dad over me… and makes it painfully obvious – she skipped the movies with mom to go on a bike ride with dad…Just know Annie loves you just as much, she just likes her momma more right now!!!
My sweet little 4 year old told me “I just dont love you. I dont want to be your friend anymore”. Sure she was just mad that I would not give her a cookie, I know that…but boy did that hurt!
Ha! The “you’re not my friend anymore!” phase. When I taught kinder, every other kid used it as a tool to control other people’s behaviors. I used to tell the kids employing that “Aren’t you worried that [other kid] will find new friends and won’t want to be friends anymore when you’re ready to be friends again?”. A bit mean, perhaps, but it would make them change their tune fast.
Aww, kids say silly things without understand the weight of our emotional response. For years as a kid (although probably a bit older than Annie), I signed every card to my parents with “I love you more than you love me!” In my mind, that statement made perfect sense–I knew that my parents loved me to the end of the earth and back, so to express my feelings toward them I had to TOP that emotion! It took me YEARS to understand why they were always a little bit hurt by that statement–they, of course, thought I was suggesting that they didn’t love me enough!
totally get it. my son is seven and it’s already very difficult given his dad and i aren’t together but i know i’m second best … at least on certain measures. i’m nowhere near as fun and exciting and i don’t let him say all the words that would flow out of his mouth naturally otherwise so sometimes, i’m just kind of a jerk in his eyes. and, i’m sure it will get worse. but, i love him like no one else ever will and someday, he might just like me better. i figure so long as our kid likes one of us at any given point, we’re doing ok.
Ahhh Not to worry Mike it flips and flops all the time with my 2 daughters. But my son? Always was and is a Mama’s Boy. Be afraid!
Ugh! That is hard!! I hope you never have to hear any of those other dreaded things from Annie, though. I’m sure she will continue to flip-flop back & forth over time, but I also think that she will continue to love each of you whole-heartedly forever.