“Hi, mommy!” Jai shrieked in a completely clear and high-pitched musical note. “Mommy! Hi! Hiiiii! Mommy! Mommmmmyyyy…!”
The hubs and I had not long dragged our suitcases into the house after five days away in what has been gloried as our most relaxing trip as a couple ever, even beating out our honeymoon. Jrue was laying in our bed and happily dove off as soon as I peeked around the corner playfully to surprise him. It was expected that he’d be overwhelmingly delighted by our return, and we weren’t let down in the least. We then looked around for Jai and found her deposited in her toddler bed, fully exhausted and comically uncaring that she hadn’t seen us around for a while. We submitted to her scheduled nap, which I am thankful for, because I would not have received such a jovial parade if we had had to endure irritability after prematurely waking her due to our own excitement.
I soon had a leg covered by a Jrue, whose head reaches my belly button, and the other leg wrapped by a thrilled Jai, equally as pleased to see me. Jrue, always my shadow, wore his joy for mommy on a sleeve.
All of his sleeves…even shirts with no sleeves.
Jai, in contrast, held quite the awe-inspiring preference for daddy. This arrangement worked well; the two of us had a kid each, and there were usually no questions as to who reached for whoever’s hand when we went into grocery stores.
It also ensured that there would not be a #3 kid in this life.
While we were away on vacation, however, Jai had learned how to enunciate “mommy” in the cutest, emotional drawl, along with a host of other familiar phrases: “milk,” “tablet,” “Jrue,” and her aunt’s name. Jai had even picked up our pet name for her and repeated, “Hi, mama! Hi, mama! Hi, baby!” after me as I greeted her. She had developed conversationally that much that fast, and I stared in enchantment and clapped my approvals.
I thought that was it for maturation: that my newly-two-year-old had merely acquired the skills to fix her lips and mouth to coordinate the formulation of the sounds needed to get my attention. It was precious enough. She had mastered chanting “Daddy” since about six months old, and I heard enough of Jrue’s attention-seeking commandments minute-to-minute that I didn’t miss hearing my baby girl refer to me as anything but a grunt.
But, that wasn’t just it: From that day forward, Jai’s normal daddy-centric preference was turned on to…me? In the mornings, she runs to me while shrieking, “Hi, mommy!” down the hallway. Sometimes, she ignores daddy and I have to remind her to say “good morning” to everyone. She seeks me out for refills and snacks. She wants mommy to sing and mommy to review ABCs. She loves bedtime reading and making faces. When I tell her to ask her father, she will burst into loud, dramatic tears, as if I have royally rejected her. With Jrue nearly constantly behind me, she is usually behind him, the two of them following so closely, like ducklings, that I have to, again, watch who’s nearby to avoid collisions when I make abrupt turns.
It’s strange to be “favorited” by everyone in the house. I’m like Homecoming Queen around these parts.
A Homecoming Queen with a perpetually tilted crown.
Regarding the suddenness of Jai’s endorsement, “Parents Magazine” writer Allison Pennell gave some insight when she wrote, “Playing favorites is actually a sign of emotional and cognitive growth. It helps your child explore relationships and intimacy, exercise her decision-making skills, and assert her independence. . .In fact, when your child plays favorites, it’s a sign that he feels close to you.” (Pennell, “When One Parent Is Favored”)
The writer continues. “He’s showing that he has the ability to develop special relationships with individuals — and that he realizes that spending time alone with one parent means he gets undivided attention.” (Pennell, “When One Parent Is Favored”)
I love the individual showing of unconditional love from my babies, no doubt. Jai seems entirely subconsciously compelled to find me. It’s an active process now that takes some juggling with two sets of needs and an infinite amount of wants. I usually have to obtain the assistance of my husband, particularly when one child is screaming from a room and I’m wrist-deep in diaper changing.
But I also know that Jrue has made me a better mother and wife and woman. I am a better person, a better human being, because of him. I figure it time I stepped up as Jai’s role model because, for whatever reason, she will not, or cannot yet, leave me by myself. They need me as much as I need them. This is weighty and powerful and ordained. And all mine to bear, especially if only temporary.
There could be worse things.
Pennell, Allison. “When One Parent Is Favored.” Parents Magazine, n.d., https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/favoring-one-parent/. Accessed Jun. 10, 2018.