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When Your Kids Don’t Want You

pouting-kid-photoEvery Sunday morning, around 7 a.m., my husband and son head off to McDonald’s. I am not allowed to come with them, because I’ve asked. Though when Max, 10, comes home, he readily tells me what went down, literally, which is usually something like two cups of oatmeal, two breakfast burritos, one yogurt parfait and a chocolate milk. And that’s just him.

Really, I don’t mind that I’m not invited. For one, who-can-eat-a-bigger-breakfast showdowns are not my thing. And for another, I can totally accept that my kids don’t always want Mommy. It’s kinda freeing, actually. My daughter, who’s 8, similarly gravitates to my husband for certain things.

Of course, every family has its own I want Mommy!/I want Daddy! dynamics. Here’s the basic breakdown at our house:

The kids only want Daddy when…

• They need someone to buy them totally frivolous stuff at Target or Toys ‘R Us.

• They are about to make a particularly loud fart or burp and would like to share it with a kindred spirit. Few others in their lives are impressed by the size of their poops.

• They would like to practice their latest karate move and/or jump all over someone’s belly just for fun.

• They wander into our room at 5:30 a.m. and would like a parent to rise and shine; odds are in favor of Marshmallow Daddy.

• They need validation that I am being too strict, especially when Mean Mommy says, “No ice-cream before dinner!”

• They want someone to root with them for the home team.

• They want to go on a joy ride in the car… that might just end at Target/Cold Stone Creamery.

• They need someone to figure out TV/Tivo/DVD/Xbox stuff (I know, such a cliché).

And the kids only want Mommy when…

• They get hurt.

• They’re in a new situation, like the first day of school or visiting someone’s house.

• They can’t find another roll of t.p./their left shoe/the neon Rainbow Loom rubberbands/their school form that’s due today/their favorite shirt/their right shoe/you get the picture.

• They need a special snack. Daddy never remembers to cut off crusts.

• They’re bored and desperate for a playdate. Mommy the Concierge to the rescue!

• They’ve made some fabulous creation and require acknowledgment of their brilliant design and color choices.

• They want someone to lie next to them as they fall asleep.

But either Mommy or Daddy will do when…

• They would like pancakes for breakfast.

• Their toy needs new batteries.

• They have a really great knock-knock joke to tell. Or twenty. None of which make any sense.

• They require help with homework.

• They’re ready for a bedtime story.

• They need a hug.

When the kids were younger, it used to get to me that they only wanted to share certain things with my husband. I wanted to be their go-to parent…well, other then when they shared impressive bodily functions and woke us up early. I mean, it wasn’t like I was competing with him for Most Devoted Parent or anything, but I felt a little badly when they didn’t want or need me—and, if I’m being honest, a little pleased when they only wanted me. Over the years, though, I came to understand that trying to be everything to my kids was impossible, not to mention stressful. I remember one particular moment of realization a few years ago: A good friend and I had a rare lunch out, and she was complaining how her husband spent a fair amount of time on Sundays golfing. All I could think was how lucky I was to have a dedicated, hands-on partner who was wonderful with the kids and—bonus for them!—could fart and burp on command.

Ultimately, it’s all good. I know now that my kids aren’t playing favorites; they’re just spreading the love (and materialism and whining)—around. Smart, eh?

Image source: Flickr/Owen Mathias

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