I'm at a crowded pub with a kids play area when suddenly I hear my three year old crying. He has fallen off the climbing frame. I rush over to scoop him into my arms. To my alarm he starts fighting me off. Instead of soothing him, my embrace is actually making him cry even harder. People are starting to stare at us.
"Let me go," he screams. "I want my Daddy." More screaming ensues and I have to reassure one woman that he is in fact my son. My six year old daughter even chips in; "He does it all the time; he just likes Daddy more." No kidding.
Right now in our house Daddy can do no wrong. As far as my son is concerned, he is literally a kind of god. That day, as soon as he was in Daddy's arms the crying stopped. If Daddy is around then my son wants him to do everything. And while I'm happy to miss out on the occasional bottom wipe, I am finding it harder than I thought I would to casually brush this off with thoughts of 'getting a break' and 'the pressure being off'.
I mind that he basically 'prefers' my husband to me. I don't want to mind, and part of me knows that it is childish to mind, but I'm afraid I do all the same. And I mean this with no malice towards my husband.
I'm the lucky one who gets to work part time and be with the kids more. And when my husband is away my son and I get on like a house on fire. But then the minute Daddy is home, it is like I have been unceremoniously dumped. And yes I have noticed on more than one occasion that my son looks for a reaction when he says he wants 'Daddy to do it'. Most of the time we just ignore his protests and get on regardless but it doesn't always work that way.
Just the other night there was a 20 minute tantrum (from him, not me) when it transpired that I was going to be reading him stories and not Daddy. Full on tears, kicking and grunting. I was crying too because I felt such a failure. Still, eventually I wiped my tears and starting reading his favourite book 'The Highway Rat' out loud and he finally chilled out and couldn't resist joining me on the sofa. Of course within about two minutes he had forgotten what he had even been so cross about and was a total joy. I tried to be equally as jolly.
So why have I fallen from favour?
"At around two to three years old, children start to have clear gender specific sensitivities," explains psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley. "Whilst not the only reason this could be why a child briefly selects one parent over another. It is part of realising you are like someone else and want to learn how to be like them. Equally they may select the other gender to look at the differences. It is all part of them exploring the world. The intensity varies with different children."
For Sarah, 37, a mother of two from Norwich it has caused some difficulty with her two year old son. "I get 'where Daddy?' from 7.15am until 7pm every day when my husband comes home. He will pretty much put himself to bed without a story if it's only Mummy available to read one."
"One evening, my daughter and I were coming down with horrid colds, so she went to bed at 6.15 and I tried to get my son to sit and listen to a story but he kicked up such a stink that I actually gave up. In the end I got into bed myself and he went to the landing, pulled the blind back and stood there for 45 minutes muttering 'me wait Daddy' until his car pulled in."
But Sarah also acknowledges that her daughter went through a similar stage when she was around two. "That time it was all about me and she wouldn't let my husband do anything."
Amanda, 36, a nutritionist from Surrey has extreme Daddy-mania with her middle son. "My eldest has always been a Mummy's boy but my middle son has even asked me to sit inside for a meal while he has lunch outside with his Daddy before.
"Once I was talking about a pregnant friend when my son proudly announced 'well I came out of Daddy's tummy!' He was absolutely devastated when I put him right. It can be hard to deal with."
Dr Wheatley says trying to remain positive is the best policy. "Try to think of it as one parent being selected, not another rejected," she explains. "You have to ride along with it because it will pass. Sometimes the language a child uses can seem harsh but it is just they don't have the vocabulary to express it in a more subtle way."
In terms of practical advice, trying to prepare a child can help on some level; "Have a conversation with both parents together and the child and try to come up with a framework that might work for the child. So for example, Mummy reads stories in the week and Daddy at the weekend (call them red and yellow days if they are too young to explain days of the week). Or Daddy gets the child dressed and Mummy does the putting to bed at night. Preparing and planning can help take some of the tension away and help the child feel more in control.
But ultimately, as Dr Wheatley says; "Try not to take it personally!"
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