My Daughter Favors Daddy And I Feel Rejected

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Growing up with two older brothers, I was always a bit of a tomboy, more interested in video games and soccer than shopping and makeup. I found my guy friends so much easier to deal with, so uncomplicated and way more forgiving. I looked forward to becoming an adult, mistaken in the belief that I could leave behind the drama and tears often associated with having girlfriends.

When it comes to raising girls, a small part of me feels anxious about whether I  have it in me to help them deal with what could be in store for them as they got older: I picture mean girls picking on them at every turn, making fun of their Snoopy backpacks or unique clothing choices. While I think my experiences with girl-on-girl cruelty are tame by today’s standards, I was also traumatized in my late 20s by a particularly dramatic falling out with my then best friend (we always had an overly competitive relationship).

I concluded early on that if I ever had kids, the ideal scenario for me would be to have two boys. So when my two daughters T. and R. were born, I couldn’t help but recall my earlier preference and think that some kind of cosmic joke was being played on me. Around the time my second one came along, T.’s personality was starting to emerge — and I was chagrined to find myself the “victim” of mean-girl behavior by my very own daughter.

From the moment she switched from eating-sleeping-pooping automaton to interactive baby, T. has shown a preference for my husband, G. When she turned 1, I went back to my hectic, all-consuming job as the executive director of a small film festival, which required my presence at meetings and events that took place in the evenings. So G. would often pick up T. from daycare, handle dinner and play with her ’til bedtime.

In other words, G. and T. spent a great deal of time together that year, and they bonded in a way that fills my heart with equal parts love and anxiety. It may have been because I was hormonal (I was pregnant with my second, after all), but that year I frequently harbored feelings of rejection, as though my husband and T. were best friends and I was the third wheel.

After R. was born and T.’s talking began to improve, her words often had the effect of hurting my feelings, however unintentional (like the countless times she called me “Dada”).

Since leaving my crazy job in 2009, I’ve had a lot more time for my girls but my relationship with T. can still be a bit of a roller coaster — Dada is still number one, and at age 4, T. is able to bluntly articulate her preference. What’s a perpetually insecure mother to do when her daughter says, “I don’t want you to put me to bed”? For one thing, I try to resist the urge to say, “Oh, yeah? Well, I don’t want to anyway!”

Of course, the fact that she hurt my feelings is forgotten about the very next day. We’re back to being buddies, as if nothing ever happened – just like in Grade 5.

(Photo: Hemera)