She's crying again. I immediately jump up to go comfort her, but I hold myself back, knowing that you want to be the one who puts her back to sleep this time.
But I know it probably won't work. The chances are, like, 80/20. Sometimes she'll settle back into sleep on your chest, but most of the time, I'm the one she's after. You can hear it in her cries as she yells, “Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma!” over and over.
You'll look at me and mouth, “Two minutes” as you bounce her softly, hoping that she will accept your efforts. She'll start to quiet a little bit and, just when you think you've won the battle, she stirs for some reason and it's “Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma!” all over again.
She only wants me.
I see you drop your head back, symbolically asking the gods what you've done wrong, why she doesn't want you, why she can't simply rest in your arms. There is a mixture of frustration and sadness written on your face as you finally pass her to me. She quiets almost immediately. I hear your sigh as you walk out of the room. I feel sad for you; I know it must feel not very nice to be rejected by our eight-month old. I know it hurts you.
But I want you to listen to me when I say this: one day, she will only want you.
I know you think it's not possible but you, being a man, have never dealt with the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship. You, my dear husband, have never felt the deep admiration that a little girl has for her dad.
I am aware that many women go on to have amazing relationships with their mothers as they get older; I personally have a good relationship with my mom. But even with the good relationships, there are weird, underlying issues.
Often, daughters find themselves just plain irritable and annoyed at the presence of their mothers, while mothers usually end up screaming at them and then can be found later, asking their glass of wine how they ended up this way.
I'm savoring this time. I'm savoring the time when my daughter doesn't think that she's more sophisticated than me, when I don't have to prove that I am still young or beautiful or relevant, when there is no weird, probably-has-an-evolutionary-reason competition between she and I. I'm savoring the time when we aren't fighting about what's appropriate to wear, or where she's going, or how everything is my fault, or god-knows-what-else about which we could be arguing (anything and everything is possible).
That's why these are my moments, these moments when she is crying and no one else is acceptable. I love these moments.
Because one day, she will only want you.
The relationship between a father and a daughter appears to be much friendlier than that of a mother and daughter. Little girls generally tend to naturally gravitate more toward their dads. And I do hope that you both have a really wonderful, lifelong relationship with each other, because I was cheated out of that with my own father. I only wish to see her have what I missed with him. I recognize that, probably in a few very short years, she will seem to love you more than she loves me, and I'm okay with that.
I have seen the way both little girls and grown women tout being a 'Daddy's Girl.' My own mother still seems to have an undying affection for my grandfather, placing him on a pedestal. Yet her relationship with my grandmother, while she loves her, is a terse one, built on snide remarks and talking behind each other's backs. Even when I was a child, I revered my father, and gave my mom hell, blaming her for their divorce. As I've gotten older, I've realized that my mom was a superhero for being a single mom and choosing to remove us from an unhealthy situation. But, just because I know now her amazing strength and love for me, it doesn't take away the years of war we waged.
So, this night, this cry, please let me have this time. This time that she wants me, loves me more than anything in the world. Try not to feel sad, and try not to take it personally.
Because one day, she will only want you.
And, when dad is her best friend and mom is her worst enemy, at least I will have these moments and memories on which to reflect. The truth of it all is that I am afraid. I am afraid that this tiny person who I love more than anything, who I carried for nine months, with whom I labored for thirty hours, who I continue to feed and comfort with my body nine months later, will never truly know my sacrifice and love. And I wouldn't blame her if that's the case. How could a child understand the love of a mother until she has children of her own?
We all have our roles, our places in time and relationships, to take care of or interject our influence. We all have our seasons. You will have yours. This one is mine.
Because I know, some day, she will only want you.