Thursday, June 01, 2023

I spent many of my elementary school years trying to be viewed as the favorite student in the eyes of my teachers, however, the feeling of wanting to be favorite has completely escaped me as an adult. I’m always excited to learn I am not the preferred parent. Each of my kids has gone through a “Daddy!” phase in the early years (although one of my older children never graduated from this), and it is always a welcoming break for me from the incessant barrage of “Mommy!!.” It is even better with a younger child.

“Let me change your diaper!” I say, chasing my toddler around.

“No! Daddy!” screams my youngest son. And a huge smile crosses my face as I hand off the giant mess to my unsuspecting husband. The same conversation ensues with almost everything.

Time for bed? Daddy!

You need a bath! Daddy should do it!

Let me get you dressed. Daddy……!

The Daddy-phase is every mom’s dreams. We no longer have to nag our husbands to help out with the children; they just nag for us, and it’s harder for the father to say no. “He wants you!” I add in, for good measure. “He missed you today!” And it’s hard to resist changing a dirty diaper when it is cloaked in love.

This phase also has some drawbacks; namely when my husband leaves the house for work or shul or the gym, and the Daddy-phase child is left behind (he is kind enough to take the child along on errands). I have a picture of my oldest daughter (when she was 18 months), her face streaked with tears, as she stood by the front door, trying to pry it open because my husband went to take out the garbage on a blustery winter night. Instead of attempting to make her feel better, I snapped some pictures of the tantrum, so that my husband could see what I had to go through every time he leaves the house. It’s not like I could do anything to comfort her, anyway. I could never “become daddy,” and so I’d never be good enough, and I figured he’d return momentarily to reverse her cries.

Our two-year-old was deep into the daddy-phase before Pesach, and I was so excited that I would get a break from him over the holiday, because my husband was off, and he spends every second of the day attached to me. They could sit together on the airplane, and I could enjoy more adult activities with my older kids (or nap?), instead of just doling out lollipops and blowing his nose. I could sleep late and they could play together early every morning when he’d wake up. I wouldn’t have to touch a diaper for 10 days!

But the phase came to an abrupt end when my son saw how available my husband had become, and I quickly resumed my role as the tree for my tree-hugging child. Even worse was that he didn’t sleep for several nights due to an illness, and I was the lucky one nominated to push him around the hotel grounds at all hours of the night, (although my husband did take a few turns).

While I enjoyed our time together as a family, I was excited to go home so that my husband could return to work and so that I could go back to being the hated parent. I set my alarm early one morning, after our return, to have quiet time to do this writing, and about five minutes later, there is crying from the crib. Happily, my son is curled up in bed with my husband, and I am enjoying a few moments of coveted silence, the perks of being the least-favorite. I hope it lasts…

Sarah Abenaim is a writer living in Teaneck. She can be reached at [email protected]


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