Playing Favorites

I want my 11-year-old to like me more than he likes my husband. I used to be his favorite. I was the only one who he would sit next to at meals, the only one he would cuddle up with on the couch, the only one who could tuck him in at night. But now things are changing.

I didn’t really notice the shift until a couple of days after my birthday. My birthday came and went with the usual fanfare. Typical gifts were received: books, kitchen tools, store-bought cards that my kids had never laid eyes on before they were asked to sign them. I was happy with my swag until…I walked into my husband’s office and noticed the adorable handmade Father’s day card propped up on his desk. I had forgotten about it. It wasn’t particularly fancy. On the contrary, it was just a 2”x3” folded piece of computer paper with a stick drawing on the front. But it was the sentiment that mattered. It read:

Happy Father’s Day.  You’re the Best Dad Ever!!!!! Thanks for everything you do for me!!! I love you!!!

What?!! What does my husband do for him, I wondered. He doesn’t put him to bed or cook him dinner or drive him everywhere or deal with his friends or teachers or homework—where was my thank you card?

Petty jealousy flared in me. I flashed back to the card that I had just received, days before, for my birthday. It was a drawing of a coffee cup that my 11-year-old had drawn, years before, which he unearthed from a stack of art supplies and other crumpled papers. He didn’t draw that for me, I thought. There was nothing new, or heartfelt or personal about it. It was signed: “Happy Birthday! Love, Me.” That’s it.

Where were my gushing sentiments?

But that’s not the least of it. For Father’s Day my 11-year-old also took $100.00 of his savings and bought my husband a Starbuck’s gift card and—yes, there’s more—went to the local bookstore and had a staff member help him select a book: The Little Red Book of Dad’s Wisdom. He did all of this without consulting me and without any of my help. And, he did all of this days in advance.

My recycled drawing was folded and signed the morning of my birthday, in my presence. I had dutifully turned away when I saw him scribbling his name that morning (so I wouldn’t ruin the surprise, of course).  I smiled at the time, thinking, “that’s so sweet, a homemade card”. Ha! I want something bigger and more special.

I was actually taken aback by my crazed response to the Father’s Day card. Wasn’t I the one who had tried to encourage my 11-year-old to be more affectionate with his father? I would see the wounded look on my husband’s face when our youngest would burst into tears at the prospect of being put to bed by his father if I was out for the night.

But secretly I reveled in it. He was mine – all mine. There is nothing like the total adoration of your child to make you weak in the knees. When your kids are little and they look at you like you are the only thing on the planet that matters – well, there is nothing like that feeling.

And I want it back.

My husband tried to tell me this shift was because our son just loves me so much that he has a hard time expressing his feelings, but I don’t buy it. I think that my youngest has figured out how to work the system. He knows who is going to turn a blind eye when he rolls a eight pound medicine ball down the stairs and dents the wall or when the dinner dishes don’t quite make it anywhere near the sink let alone the dishwasher.  He knows that his antics will be met with a laugh and a shake of the head from my husband but a lecture and potential grounding from me.

Who would you favor?

So, in order to receive the attention and affection that I so rightly deserve, I decided on a new tactic. At dinner, I casually mentioned that my husband would not be at our son’s soccer game this weekend…again! While my husband tried to change the subject  (and our son glared at him) I also reminded our son that my husband missed his Back to School night last week and would miss his half-birthday cake this week (yes, we have half a cake on half birthdays). Ha! Who’s the favorite now?!

Petty? Sure, but it worked. I’ll let you know how it goes…

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