I’m jealous of my husband and his connection to our three year old. Sometimes I feel like a third wheel (I know it is normal; I Googled it). Nonetheless, I feel like a jerk for feeling jealous of my husband for having such an incredible bond with our energetic, spirited toddler. Three years old is such a fun age! Benjamin can express himself. He can open doors. He can lock doors. He can climb on top of a plastic organizer box and turn the light on in the living room. And oh yeah, he can work the Kindle Fire better than I can. And as I write this, I hear him say to his daddy, “I have your keys. I want to go in your car,” as keys jangle and more toddler murmurs come out.
Benjamin is very attached to his father.
I was on the receiving end of this affection when I was breastfeeding. Mama was what consoled him. And all I wanted was a little time for myself. Just a minute to go to the bathroom alone. Now, I could go to the next town over and use the restroom at the mall and perhaps my son would not notice I was gone, as long as Daddy was there.
Now he reaches for Daddy, sits on Daddy’s lap, plays with Daddy, wants to be with Daddy all the time. He is a daddy’s boy. (Now Ben and Daddy are playing spaceships. Daddy with Buzz Light Year and the Rocketship and Ben with the Star Wars X-Wing and Luke Skywalker. They are engaged in their own vocabulary of play, zooming around the galaxy. In fact, I was referred to as the Mommy Nebula, as my husband hid Buzz’s spaceship behind me. Ben came giggling along with Luke Skywalker in hand.
Most of the time, I sit back and grin from this bond they share. This language they only understand, played so easily and organically. I try to play like Daddy does and my play missions seem forced and well, dumb. Daddy’s play language is filled with intricate expressions only a grown up boy could articulate. Mostly, I am grateful, full, and happy about it. It is just those tiny (sometimes big) moments when I get completely rejected. “I don’t like you. Go away. I want Daddy.” Ouch, punch to the mom gut.
I thought this might be because I recently went back to work. I started a part-time job at the end of March. My brother-in-law (Uncle Tim) and in-laws (Grammy and Pa) watch Ben while I am at work. Three weeks before I started working, I tapered the lengths of my excursions out of the house. Ben would cry hysterically for me when I left him in the house with my brother-in-law. I felt so bad leaving him and so elated once I was gone. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. My first few trips were to the library where I basked in the silence and worked on research for a book.
Then I would miss him after an hour. I started with one hour, then two, and then three, increasing the time every day until I reached the hours I would be gone when I returned to work part-time. My brother-in-law said Ben would cry for a little bit and then he would be fine. Eventually he didn’t cry anymore.
When we first started this process, I only wished that the crying would stop. Then it did, and I kind of (OK — completely) wished he would miss me that much again.
Eventually, after many monologues of self-doubt and insecurity about my choices of returning to work, I realized that this was just part of the process. Just part of parenting. It. just. was. It was normal for him to feel comfortable with my brother-in-law and my in-laws. He was in good hands and loving arms. But still, I wanted them to be my arms.
This parenthood thing throws me for loops at every turn, just when I think I have it figured out — the reset button is hit. Learn all over again.
Ben says, “Pick me up Daddy. Pick me up.” He settles in up on his daddy’s hip with a view from top of the world.
I marvel at this sometimes. The way Ben looks when he is up on his daddy’s hip, long three-year-old legs dangling. Ben beams; he is proud. The two of them are symbiotic. Their hearts wrapped around each other, visible from the outside.
As a mother, my heart is a vine and it reaches with invisible twines that wrap around my son’s. I feel this tug at each turn. Ben though, is sitting on top of his daddy’s shoulders, snipping the vine, letting go in some ways. I coil the string, and wrap it safely up for the next time he will need me. He does. He will. I will wait.
In the meantime, I have a little more free time. I should be writing instead of watching, with my green eyes. In fact, I had time after work this past Friday to stop and gaze at the flowers. There is a field of pink, red, and white poppies near my exit for work. I stopped at took some photos. This is something I would not have been able to do had I been in the car with my son, as it was near the highway.
Mostly, my eyes are aglow with love and adoration for both my boys. I may envy their magic, but I appreciate the warmth of the fire from the sidelines.
What else can I do? This is a normal stage for children and I appreciate my son has such a loving daddy. And I appreciate that I have such a loving husband. I’m lucky.