One by one the second graders get off the bus and go to their Favorite Parent for a kiss, or a hug, or an arm around the shoulder before walking off two-by-two. My girl gets off the bus, stops short when she sees me, and then asks with confusion, “Why are you picking me up?”
“Because I have always picked you up from school.”
“Where’s the babysitter?”
“We have never had a babysitter. I have always picked you up.”
“Why can’t we get a babysitter?” she says taking off, running ahead of me.
I was once the Favorite Parent. It was a time when she was super needy and scared of the world.
It was great.
She was two and all she wanted to do was be with mommy. Every parting was like a slow-motion scene from a disaster movie – where the screaming child is ripped from its mother’s arms–
Nowadays, it’s like she’d rather see anybody but me. Nowadays, my husband is the Favorite Parent.
You know what’s particularly frustrating? When my daughter and I are having a very rough day. A day where she’s in and out of being sassy to me, moving up and waaay down to the very bottom of the Rainbow Behavior Chart–right down to the Angry Red Dot with the Very Sad Face. And then Daddy comes home from work: “Bayboo? Where’s my Bayboo?”
Well what about Meemoo? Meemoo is fun. Meemoo dances, Meemoo’s nice—
WHAT ABOUT MEEMOO, DAMN IT!
My daughter recently came to me and solemnly asked, “Are you and Daddy ever going to get divorced?”
“Oh honey,” I said, giving her a big reassuring hug, thinking it’s one of those things overheard on the playground. “You don’t have to worry about that. Daddy and I love each other very much. We’re never getting divorced.”
“Okay,” she said nodding. “But if you do, I want to live with Daddy.”
I know why I’m second best. I know that since I’m the one involved in the daily parenting grind, telling her–make your bed, go brush your teeth, get dressed, STOP jiggling my butt!–I’m the prime target for her frustration and anger.
I also know that I am her soft place to land. That she hurls these insults at me because she feels the safest with me. I heard these comforting words of “Non-Favorite” parenting wisdom somewhere and I hang on to them for dear life.
Occasionally, I get glimpses that the tide will maybe turn again one day and I’ll move up in my parenting status. For instance, once in a while, she’ll apologize after she yells at me and calls me “Stupid Mommy.”
Or, if she’s particularly nervous about trying something new she’ll ask, “Mommy, you’ll be there, right?” And then I’ll see her little body instantly relax as I say, “Of course, I will.”
No, it’s not fun being second best, but someone has to be. So maybe in five years… no, she’ll be a teenager and hate me.
Maybe in 15 years when she’s a resilient, independent, young woman, starting to make her way in the world, maybe then she’ll recognize and appreciate my parenting contribution.
Barbara Herel is a freelance writer and blogger, wife & mother, and a recovering middle child. (You bet she has some stories to tell.) You can find her work in oodles of places, including Scary Mommy, Parent Co., Adoptive Families, and on her storytelling site Every Family’s Got One (a story, that is). Say hello to her on Facebook and Twitter.