Why do you have to look after me some days? My daughter asks me. I want Daddy to look after me for ALL the days. I'm a little bit taken aback. Well, I say It's is Mummy's job AND Daddy's job to look after you. We are the grownups in the house and you and Blue are the children. And she says, all matter of fact, But I don't want you to live in this house. I want to live with just Daddy and you and Blue can go and live in a different house.
|This is how being with daddy makes her feel.|
Cue heartbreak. Not just because of the words, but because she is looking at me sideways to see how I'm taking it, like a tiny little three-year-old Mean Girl. I surprise myself by bursting into tears, suddenly and uncontrollably, noisily and messily, like a balloon bursting or a dam bursting. Saltwater is gushing out of me and Jay comes home a few minutes later to find me howling on the sofa and Pink watching TV, unconcerned.
You don't have to tell me I overreacted; I know I overreacted. It was just so... unexpected. I did not see it coming; not at all. Pink is crazy about her Daddy, but I would also say that Pink and I are pretty tight. I regain control and Jay tells Pink that Daddy loves Mummy, and Mummy and Daddy both love you, and you will not make yourself more popular with Daddy by being mean to Mummy. We put them to bed.
What should I have said to her? Crying wasn't the right response, but what would have been? What would I say if it happened again? Twenty four hours later, I have the chance to find out when she has another go. She looks at me seriously and says But I really do want you to go and live in a different house, Mummy. Matter-of-fact, again. I'm prepared, this time, and I say I'm staying in this house with you, Pink, because I love you and it's my job to look after you.
And score one to Mummy! I think. Calm, positive, affirming and yet firm. Who could not want to live in the same house as a mother like that? Nobody, that's who. And then: But I don't really LOVE you, Mummy, she says. I only love Daddy. As if that settles it.
What am I supposed to do with this? I have no idea. Is there attachment stuff going on? I don't know. There could be. The way she has started to push me away verbally certainly sounds like it. And frankly, her behaviour lately has been a bit like something from the before section in The Connected Child. But... it just doesn't fit. It doesn't really fit with how she has always been. I don't think this is trauma, I think this is something else. I'm not saying there isn't any stuff there for her - of course there is - but this feels different. It feels like fairly secure little girl trying to see what she can get away with. And it feels like she's been reading Freud, is what it feels like. I love that she loves her father, but could we please leave out the part where she resents her mother?
I'm surprised by how hurt I am by all of this.
I keep reminding myself: She is three.
She is not my friend.
She is three.
She is my daughter.
She is three.
I can't let myself get sucked into her crazy. I can't let her push my buttons. If I'm going to cry about this, it has to be after she has gone to bed. Which will be at seven o'clock, because:
She is three.
I walk her downstairs after helping her to get dressed. She reaches up and puts her smooth and tiny hand in mine. She grins at me and pads down the stairs and we do her favourite puzzle before bed. I want to say you do love me, Pink, I know you do but for once I'm smart enough to keep my mouth shut.
Forget attachment parenting; I think I need to start practising detachment parenting with this girl. I need to remember this relationship is not reciprocal. I have let myself get into too much of an easy rhythm with her. Attachment-wise, she has always been my easy one. She is so precious to me, and she knows it.
And it makes me think: what am I doing with my life? How can I give so much love to a person who will calmly look at me and tell me she doesn't want it?
Some days I really hate parenthood.
But I guess this is the way it has to be, this asymmetrical love. This is the only way that families can ever really work. It's my job to love her. It's not really her job to love me.
I know this in my head, but sometimes my heart is slow to catch up.