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When my little boy was a baby I mostly embraced the role as his favourite parent. As a new mum there was nothing more reassuring for me than when my baby stopped crying just because I held him. It was also really convenient, he was breast fed and we were together all day every day with limited extra company at times. Knowing that he still wanted me, even when there were other people around just reassured me that I was doing an alright job.
Ok, there were a few times when it wasn't fun, like when I was up half the night, or my baby wanted me just as I started to eat dinner for the fifth day in a row. During those times I'd always say my baby needed more time with his dad. He needed to know his dad could comfort him and be caring as well as fun. I'd look for ways to break the reliance he had on me, but I'd always get back to embracing it.
As my baby grew into a little boy, I noticed our relationship started to change. He still wanted me, his mum, for comfort but he was letting others in more as well.
To start with it was great, we could go for a day out and I knew that he wouldn't be attached to me all day. I could go to the toilet in peace occasionally and even drink a hot coffee in a coffee shop while he sat with his dad. It felt like a newfound freedom, but when we went away last November, I began to resent the change in our relationship.
I hate to admit it, but on that holiday, I felt like I was there for convenience. We'd go for a walk and my little boy would always choose his dad to pick him up, at soft play he wasn't even bothered I was there despite climbing through some of the worst obstacles for him, I could have just sat with a coffee. They'd sit together, eat together, walk together and play together, all while I cooked, cleaned, packed and sorted our schedule. I felt like their assistant. I still had a nice time, it was a holiday after all, it was just difficult watching on when I so badly wanted to be in the fun, to be the chosen parent.
Despite the holiday struggle, the change in relationship between myself and my boy actually started to work well when we were back home. He was stuck with me all day anyway, so he couldn't refuse me being a part of his fun. Then after a day together, I could pass him across to his dad so I could cook, clean and hear myself think again. Having even that little bit of time apart made us appreciate each other more. I still got to have fun with him, but I got some space back too.
As lockdown reached us in the UK our dynamic started to change again, my boy now had his dad home, yes he's working, but try to explain that to a toddler. Quickly my days began to fill with shouts for 'da'. He needed to show daddy what socks he had on, that he'd taken his socks off, a cuddly toy, a sticker on his top, just anything he could think of. It didn't matter what I did, it wasn't me he wanted.
But we've worked with it because now, weeks into lockdown my little boy only has us, his parents, to rely on, and our recent challenges have helped me to appreciate the whole journey we're on. It was never the case that either parent needed to change their parenting style, to try to be anything different, our boy has known our best qualities all along. No amount of gifts, chocolate, hugs, laughs or time would change his favour either. Our children are just all different, they take comfort in different things and as they grow, or as their world changes, their needs change too.
I still hate that my little boy would much prefer to splash in the paddling pool on a hot day, or go for a fun walk with his dad, but he still wants me too. It might be for the exhausting things, like bedtime, when he's up in the night, or anytime that he's tired, but he still wants me. He's worked both of his parents out and knows exactly our strengths, and yes, I'm the soft and sensitive one.
So, I guess I'm lucky that my little boy doesn't have one favourite for now. Yes, I'd happily trade bedtimes for walks any day, bedtimes are a nightmare. I can't change it though, I'm better at cuddles than I am at piggybacks anyway. Our children will always like who they want, our relationships will always change as they grow, all we can do is support them along the way.