05/06/2015 07:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Mother's Delicate Balancing Act

Meredith Hale

Recently, my daughter had a half-day of school due to parent-teacher conferences. I was excited to have her home on a beautiful April day, the kind of day we'd been dreaming about all winter, as we'd shivered at the bus stop in down jackets, carefully avoiding the ice. I had it all planned out: while my toddler napped, my daughter and I would color the sidewalk, blow bubbles, and laugh together in the sunshine.

You know what they say about the best-laid plans.

My toddler, excited his big sister was home, refused to nap. And so our twosome became a threesome. I tried desperately to find activities we could all enjoy, from running around the yard to playing hide and seek. But the same thing happened that always does: outside, where rocks and trees beckon little people to climb and explore, I ended up spending all my time following around my toddler. While my daughter was pretending to be a princess, being chased by an evil Mommy witch, I was desperately trying to pull my 2-year-old off a rock he had scaled. While she was hiding, waiting to be found, I was chasing a toddler venturing too close to the street.

Before long, my daughter stormed off, her arms folded and a frown on her face. When I asked what was wrong, she replied, "Nothing." But I knew what the problem was.

The problem was three feet tall and mostly covered in peanut butter.


As an only child, juggling between children is foreign to me. Growing up, I had my parents' undivided attention. I never had to watch a "baby show" on TV when I had outgrown it, or restart a card game because my little brother was chewing on the cards. And yet, this is my daughter's daily reality. Whenever the three of us are together, somehow my toddler hoards all of Mommy's attention. And as hard as I try to include her, I feel my daughter slipping away in a cloud of unspoken resentment. Every time I tell her to "hold on" or "just give Mommy a minute," while I remove a pebble from my son's mouth, I feel my heart break for her.

And, just a little, for me too.

Because as badly as she wants to hold on to me, I want to hold on to her. As she enters the world of reading independently, drop-off playdates and -- gasp! -- first grade, I watch her childhood slipping away before my eyes. And as much as I want to savor each moment, I'm distracted -- by diaper changes, by child locks little hands somehow pried open, by the day-to-day demands of life with a 2-year-old. And I miss my daughter every day.

That's not to say the three of us don't share wonderful moments as well. Like when my son hugs his sister tight,and she whispers, "I love you, too." Or when they invent games together. Or when we all laugh about some silly song Mommy made up, and before long no one can remember the joke, but no one can stop laughing either.

For my part, I try to set aside special Mommy-daughter time -- when we go out for ice cream, or play laser tag or even just run errands together. But life gets busy, and between swim classes, birthday parties, and other obligations, somehow there's never enough time for all I want to do together. And so our little threesome soldiers on, with competition and hurt feelings quietly shadowing our daily fun. But I'm optimistic. My little girl may be growing up... but not before we have a few more Mommy-daughter ice cream dates. Because nothing heals a broken heart like rainbow sprinkles.

This post originally appeared on the blog Mommy A to Z. Follow Mommy A to Z on Facebook and Twitter.