I was always picked last or pretty close to it when it came time to picking dodge ball teams in elementary school. Generally, I was selected just before the kid who was eating his own boogers.
This could have been because I had zero athletic ability. It could have been I squealed and panicked during dodge ball (Who invented a game where you throw balls at one another anyways?) or it could have been because the team captains just didn’t like me. Whatever it was, it weighed on my little, 8-year-old heart. It hurt and it made me feel like less.
I had buried this feeling somewhere deep inside me, locked it away and forgot about it.
I made up for it in the game of life. I’ve been offered almost every job I’ve ever interviewed for, I’ve won every house I put in an offer on and, with hard work, I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of the things I wanted to do in life. I have been used to being picked first a lot in life and I liked it.
However, no one prepares you for the day your child will pick you last. I never imagined this awful feeling that I locked away would be dredged up as a parent. And let me tell you, it’s much worse than being picked last in dodge ball.
It’s heartbreaking and makes you want to cry when a 4-year-old doesn’t think you’re the most, bestest fun person ever anymore. Now double that hurt because instead of you, they pick your spouse.
“Daddddddy! Daddddy! Daddddy!”
Daddy? You mean that guy that didn’t grow you or put you to bed for the first three years of your life and the one who lets you eat popsicles for breakfast.
Yep, that guy. That’s the guy who my daughter always wants now.
Don’t get wrong. My husband is an amazing father. But like all things in life, I still like being picked first so it’s like a verbal dodge ball right at my heart whenever she says she wants him to play with her or put her to bed instead of me.
To be honest, it’s been happening for a while now but I’ve had an issue accepting it. It started slowly after my son was born and now a year later we are in full blown “daddy is the best” mode.
I wasn’t prepared for how tough this would be on me. Because I don’t get to play with her as much or get to put her to bed, I often miss our relationship and sometimes feel left out. Not only that, but I’m often still the one that ends up disciplining so she tends to get mad at on a regular basis. Just like in dodge ball, I somehow feel like less.
As I’ve been experiencing this loss of favoritism over the last few months, I’ve had to learn how to deal with it so I don’t project my hurt feelings onto either my daughter or spouse. Because when you realize you aren’t the favorite parent anymore, and you are the parent most often responsible for disciplining, you get a little resentful.
I’ve been doing a few things to try to re-establish our mother-daughter bond so I don’t feel left out of the game.
1. I try to schedule mommy-daughter time with her
Since a lot of my time in the last year has been consumed by her brother, and she picks daddy to play with, I try to schedule time where it can be just the two of us. Sometimes this just means we read or do an art project together. Other times this means that we go on mommy-daughter dates. It can be as simple as going to get some ice cream together or even just going to the park with just her. It’s important to me, and to her, that we get the time to reconnect.
We do usually need to leave the house in order to make it happen though. Otherwise there will be distractions at home with my son or with toys or the T.V. Going somewhere not only lets us both escape the house for a while, but it puts us on neutral ground with no interruptions.
2. I say, “Thank you,” to my husband
Since my husband does so much with her, I try to thank him for it. If it were up to him, he would hide in the corner with his computer games and never talk to anyone – including me. But it really isn’t up to him anymore because she needs him and the attention he gives her. She cherishes her time with him and I know that this will be vital for their relationship in the future as well as her relationship with men. However, that doesn’t mean he loves drawing My Little Ponies over and over again or playing Shopkins or kitchen, especially when he has worked all week and is running on empty from engaging with people all day long. So, I try to let him know I appreciate him and make a point of saying, “Thank you.”
3. Switch off the bedtime parenting duties
My daughter has always gone to bed early and is an early riser. My son likes to go to bed later and sleeps later too. This means they both end up going to bed somewhere between 7:30 and 8 p.m. I always end up putting my son to bed and my husband now always ends up putting my daughter to bed, which is a job that solely belonged to me before we had a second baby.
On the nights where their bedtimes don’t seem to coincide, I’ve been able to put my daughter to bed and I actually love it. We lay in her room and talk about our days – the good and the bad – and we talk and snuggle until she starts to drift off to sleep. As she has gotten older, I’ve grown to love this routine. It’s so nice to actually talk to her now and listen to her tell me about her life that I don’t get to see – school, friends at school, art projects she likes, etc. I love to hear how her mind is working and understand how she perceives things in her world.
This doesn’t happen often so I’ve recently asked my husband (last night) if we can start switching off at bedtime. Oddly enough, my son seems to sleep better when my husband puts him down and my daughter sleep better when I put her down. So, not only do I think this will benefit all of us in terms of sleep quality, but I also think this will help make our relationships with each of the kids feel a little more well-rounded.
I don’t know if she will ever consistently pick me first again, but I hope so. I know there will be times in life when the pendulum will swing and she will need me more than my husband. I’m looking forward to those peaks in our relationship, but in the meantime I’m trying to make sure that the valleys don’t go too deep.
While I hate that I am the parent picked last, I know that I can do these simple things to make sure our relationship stays positive and open. That way, even if she never picks me first again, she knows that I will always pick her.
This post was originally posted at TheEverydayMomLife.com on 8/22/16.
About Rachel Quenzer
Rachel Quenzer is the owner and main blogger for The Everyday Mom Life where she writes about mom experiences – the good and the bad. Her journey to motherhood did not go as expected and that gives her a unique view on the craziness that comes along with the job. She writes from the middle of a cornfield outside of Chicago where she lives with her kids, computer-nerd husband, and sweet, old dog. She is an occasional foodie, a wannabe runner and an animal lover. You can follow along with her on the blog, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.