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The Joys of Being the Second Favorite Parent

There I was sitting at the table after finishing the cheeseburger my father-in-law made for me, while my 1-year-old daughter Addie sat on his lap as she played with a new toy he had given her.

I had become accustomed to being Addie’s fail-safe parent. A little bump on the head and she’d look around for me. An accidental fall to the floor would send her lunging into my arms. I cherished those moments of being Addie’s favorite and I silently hoped I would always be her favorite.

Then, while sitting on my father-in-law’s lap, Addie had one of those moments where she lost control and starting uncontrollably sobbing. I don’t remember what caused the meltdown, but my father-in-law quickly handed Addie to Casey and from there Addie lunged for me—just as she should have.

That was really the last time I remember being Addie’s favorite.  Shortly after that time, Addie shifted allegiances to Casey and she has never shifted back. Since then I’ve always been the back-up parent: the parent Addie has to stay with when Casey is not at home.

Casey and I have had joking conversations about what caused the shift in allegiance. I’ve always theorized that Addie started liking Casey better because she was the first one to let Addie try ice cream, which quickly became Addie’s favorite thing in the world — second only to her mother.

Still, this was a pretty tough transition for me. I’ve always tried to tell myself that she’s just a kid and it’s natural to prefer the parent who spends the most time with her, but it’s not always that easy. I would be lying if I said that it never got to me. Just the other day while driving to gymnastics, Addie said, “I wish I had a step-dad.” When I explained that meant I would have to live in a different home and that her mom would be living with someone else, she said, “That’s fine.”

Talk about a punch to the gut.

That’s not the first time Addie has said something like that either. One time when she was crying on the stairs because Casey had to leave for a photo shoot, I asked Addie why she was crying. She said, “Because Mom is leaving me.” “But that means you get to hang out with me,” I said. “I don’t want to hang out with you, I want my mom,” she cried in response. I asked her why I couldn’t be a temporary replacement for her mom and she said, “Because you’re all scratchy and hairy, and mom’s all soft and silky smooth.”

There’s no competing with that.  My wife sometimes wonders if I have the opposite of male pattern baldness and she’s constantly reminding me that I have calluses all over my hands.  (Shhh, lawyers can get calluses on their hands too.)

Another time while we were in Utah last year for a wedding, Addie told me, “You made a mistake by having me.”  I asked her what she meant and she said, “Kids are tough, you could have let mom have me with someone else and then you could go out and play with your friends all day.”  Wow, I thought. Did that really just happen? I explained to her that choosing to have her was the best decision I had ever made.

But there are also those moments that remind me that Addie is just a kid and she doesn’t always understand how her words affect other people.  She has called me on the phone on more than one occasion sobbing because I forgot to give her a hug goodbye. She also leaves me notes in random places on a daily basis just to tell me that she loves me.  Just a few weekends ago, before she and Casey left for their trip to Chicago, Addie had left me a note to comfort me in case I got scared while they were gone.

It is moments like those that remind me that I may not be Addie’s favorite parent, but I’m her dad and that means I’m irreplaceable in her mind and her heart.

Read more about my family on Moosh in Indy or follow me on Twitter!

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More on Dadding:

The Legal Mumbo Jumbo Behind the Supreme Court’s Decision to Uphold Obamacare

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10 Parenting Decisions My Wife and I Fight About the Most

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