For most kids, there's no one quite like Mommy. Except for my son. For him, there's no one quite like Daddy.
When he wakes up in the middle of the night after having a nightmare, my 5-year-old son calls out, "Daaaaaddddyyy!" Recently, he woke up with a nightmare at my parents' house and hollered for my mom. Sometimes, it feels like he's the first kid in the history of the world to not ask for his mom when he's scared or upset or sick. But he doesn't. He's a major daddy's boy, and he always has been.
On top of that, he's never needed or wanted much snuggling from either my husband or me. He loves to play superheroes with my husband, and he likes to show me his artwork and tell me about the fantastical scenarios he dreams up. But he doesn't love to cuddle. Even as a newborn, he was most content being bounced in his baby seat, instead of being rocked in someone's arms or placed in a front carrier. He's independent.
My daughter, however, is a different story entirely. From the time she was placed on my chest as a still-sticky and warm newborn fresh from birth, she has adored me and no one but me. My baby prefers me over my husband and to be honest, I kind of love it.
Just minutes after my daughter's birth, I marveled at how calm she was lying tummy-down on my chest, wrapped in her receiving blanket. I didn't have to sing to her. I didn't need to bounce or jiggle her. I was just there for her, and somehow that was enough.
When my baby girl grew to be a few months old, she still loved for me to hold her, so I ditched the stroller and instead carted her around in the front carrier my son always rejected. At restaurants, I became used to squeezing into the booth with my daughter strapped to my chest. If she became fussy, I'd simply stand next to the table and sway as I conversed with my meal buddies.
As bad as it might sound, I came to relish the way my baby daughter could only be soothed by me.
The truth was, I loved being close to her as much as she loved being close to me. After parenting my son, who preferred his dad and could honestly take me or leave me, I ate up my daughter's attention. As bad as it might sound, I came to relish the way my baby daughter could only be soothed by me. When my husband held her, she'd inevitably reach for me and fuss until I took her. She still reaches for me when she's in my husband's arms, squirming and stretching to get out of his grasp and come back to me.
She has always loved to snuggle up next to him and rest, her tiny nose taking in his daddy smell. But when she falls and hurts herself, or isn't feeling well, or just when she wants me to hold her on my hip as I walk around the house, she reaches for me.
Of course, I could tell her no, that she doesn't always need to reach for me because her daddy will take good care of her. And then I could walk away and let them bond. But I don't. I love having a child that wants me the most.
My daughter is now almost 2 years old, and in many ways, she's also my mini-me. She looks just like I did when I was a child, down to her slightly crooked fringe of bangs and her gap-toothed smile. She also loves toting around a baby doll, just as I did when I was her age. Similarly, my son and husband have many of the same interests. They love action movies and tossing around a football and wrestling together. It makes sense to me that he prefers my husband to me: that's his buddy, just like our daughter is mine.
When she reaches for me, I'll reach back, and I'll accept her favoritism with open arms.
I'm not sure why my daughter prefers me over my husband. Maybe she doesn't like his scratchy stubble. Maybe it's because I am still breastfeeding her twice a day, or maybe it's because of the physical similarities we share.
Whatever her reasons, I realize they might be fleeting. I also know that I will allow myself to enjoy her affection while it lasts. I imagine we'll always be close, but I'm sure she will go through phases where she prefers my husband as she grows and changes. And I'll encourage their relationship to evolve, just as I expect my relationship with my son will evolve and continue to deepen.
For now, though, I will relish holding my daughter close and allow myself to inhale the last of her baby smell. When she reaches for me, I'll reach back, and I'll accept her favoritism with open arms.