In anticipation of becoming a mom, your head spins with worries and fears, often outrageous and far from realistic. You preoccupy your mind with hazards as broad as germs, SIDS or stairs. But nothing prepares you for reality. And never in my wildest imagination did I expect this: My son prefers dad.
My son is 19 months old. He is my doppelganger from head to toe. He makes me giddy with delight when I see him, and shake with anticipation when I'm away from him. But when you put him in a room with me and my husband, he runs for his daddy.
I nursed my son for the first 10 months of his life, and our bond was rock solid. For much of the first year, he clung to me and needed me. I even felt bad for my husband, that he did not have the same connection as we did. I don't know exactly what caused the change, but sometime after I stopped nursing and once he started walking, I saw his independence from me grow and his admiration for his father bloom.
And the evidence of his preference was fierce. Not only did my son say "dad" before "mama," but it was months later. Months of holding back tears as he cried out for "dad" whenever it was time to go to work. When my husband returned from work, it was more fanfare, with screams of joy and relief at his return. And in public, especially in front of family, it was humiliating. Comments about what I could be doing wrong and what I should be doing different made me red with embarrassment. It made me want to avoid family gatherings altogether.
My husband does things with our son that I don't do. My son watches his dad do yard work and gets to help, struggling to lift the full-sized rake and dig with the shovel. Sometimes he falls or hits his head, and that's OK. It's all part of the experience. Daddy let him climb rock walls, run around with big sticks and hold his tools while he's doing housework.
I'm the opposite. I run around trying to keep my son away from sharp objects, heavy tools and steep inclines. I feel like every other word out of mouth is "no," "don't" and "stop." Falling is not OK, and even a bruise on my watch is unacceptable. I anticipate the worst possible outcomes, and work backwards to ensure they never happen. I'm stressed out and overly cautious about everything.
Someone told me that babies are like dogs. They can smell fear. I don't know the validity of that statement, but I believe my son does sense my concerns. He certainly hears me voice them often enough. Does he also sense my self-doubt? My inept mothering skills? My certainty that I'm screwing everything up?
Things have gotten better over the last several months. I've tried to let go of my hover parenting style and let my son explore with more freedom. Falls and bruises still make me cringe but I try to hide my concern and roll with the punches, just like daddy does. My son is more inclined to turn to me when something's wrong, he needs help or just wants a hug.
When my husband and I are in the room together, my son still runs to daddy. But I've learned to accept it more now. I know I'll never be as carefree as dad, but that's alright. He will soon learn that for sympathy and compassion, I'm his girl. And if kisses don't help make a boo boo better, what good is his mom, anyway?
This post first appeared on Mommy Effect. Read more about Celeste and her journey through parenthood at http://andwhatamom.com