Saturday, April 22, 2017

Love bestowed and love denied: the toddler years



My husband Chuck held Junior, Everett and Cam constantly when they were babies. He fed them bottles. He slept with them on his chest all the time. (Seriously, the man logged more nap time than anyone.) He changed their diapers—sort of. He has this annoying habit of pretending to be grossed out by bad smells, so diaper time sounds like this:

"Oh God, it's—gaaaag—horrible, it's—gaaaagg, haaackkk—hand me a wipe I'm going to—gaaaag—omigod I'm going to throw—gaaaaggg, haaackkkk—up—gaaaaggg—oh, it's everywhere I'm really going to—haaaaack—vomit" 

and after listening to this overly dramatic gagging enough times I usually just grab the baby and shout, "Oh Jesus, give me the kid, I'll do it!" 

Even though Chuck was always hands-on—he was a stay-at-home dad with Junior, for Pete's sake— something tragic happened after the kids turned two. They suddenly wanted nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. If Junior caught me talking to Chuck he would scream, "Don't talk to him!"

Everett wouldn't let Chuck brush his teeth or put him to bed. Everett would stand at the top of the stairs and scream bloody murder if he even saw Chuck coming up the stairs at bedtime.

With both boys Chuck would try different tactics. He would tickle them or ignore them or try to make them laugh, but nothing worked. They would always run for me. Chuck would throw his hands up in the air and say, "I'm done" and skulk off. I was left holding a crying toddler, feeling like absolute scum.

I had hoped things might be different with Cam. Chuck never had a daddy's little girl; maybe Cam would be the one who preferred Chuck to me. I hoped and hoped and...

Myah. Nope. Nope. Triple nope. As Chuck puts it: "It's like he suddenly hates me."

Cam will actually point to Chuck and yell, "Not you!" If Chuck tries to sit next to Cam, Cam will climb off the couch and sit on the floor. It's kind of heart breaking. 

Junior and Everett are happy to come to the rescue. They jump into Chuck's arms and say, "Dad, we love you!" That makes it better, but it's still hard for Chuck. He knows that Cam is an affectionate child. Cam showers me with affection. He grabs my face and kisses my chin. He smooths my hair and coos "Muhma" as he gazes into my eyes.

I've never felt so loved by a toddler—and so guilty for it.

But I'm no newbie to this parenting gig. I know this is a phase. Just as it passed with Junior and Everett, it will pass with Cam, and soon enough Chuck will have three sons who are up his ass to go fishing and camping and video game buying.

And then where will I be? Huh? All alone, that's where.

THAT SOUNDS GLORIOUS.

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