It's a delicate situation when your little one has eyes only for 'dada', as Dan Colasimone found out.
Mae, 15 months, toddles over to the framed wedding photo on the low shelf and points: “Dada.”
It’s a photo of my wife and me standing in bushland – you know, like we just happened to be hiking through the undergrowth on the way to our wedding.
I look pretty sharp, I must admit, but she’s stunning. Her long, dark hair tumbles over the shoulders of her white dress, which contrasts brilliantly with the lush green around it.
“Yes, dad’s there. Who else is in the photo, Mae?”
“Dad and who? Is mum there as well?”
And this sums up the state of things at the moment. Our daughter is obsessed with me (hi, I’m ‘dada’), and it’s pretty great. But it’s also an issue, as you can imagine.
My wife is impressively mature about it, but I can tell it’s starting to grate at her. If she’s first in to our daughter’s room when she wakes up, she’s greeted with a rather rude, “dada” as well.
When there are head bumps or knee grazes, dad is the one that baby wants. When I leave the house there is major drama. Tears and screaming … imploring, accusatory “dadas”.
Everything I do is entertaining and hilarious. I mean, I AM very funny, but the squeals of laughter that follow my crocodile impersonation are a little over the top.
This adulation is certainly not because I’m better at parenting than my wife. She’s the one who does the bulk of the heavy lifting – partly because she’s working less than me nowadays but mostly because she’s a better person. She always makes sure there are healthy, delicious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that outfits are washed and ready for the day and that the kid isn’t too cold or tired or needing a nappy change.
I’m like the super-sub off the bench. A luxury player who takes the field to claim the glory when my teammates are tired and running out of ideas.
Even though I am absolutely lapping up this whole being-worshipped-like-a-god thing, I am aware that it’s not entirely healthy if everything is about dad and nothing’s about mum. And it’s definitely not fair.
So, short of making the child hate me, what can I do about it?
Much of the dad-worship, I’ve surmised, comes down to the fact I am coming and going more than mum, due to me continuing full-time work while she transitions from maternity leave to part-time to full-time.
Mum is almost always around, so Mae doesn’t get a chance to miss her as much, and visa versa. So I’ve made even more of an effort than usual to take the baby off her hands for large chunks of the day, when our schedules allow for it, or course.
Making solo time for each other is something that I highly recommend anyway – for both parents – but it’s particularly important at the moment as my wife is starting to feel like a sideline act.
If mum has been out all morning, when she comes back in the afternoon she’s suddenly the star of the show again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in this case prevents my wife stabbing me in a jealous rage.
When I know she’s on her way home I’ll start to amp up the hype: “Hey … I think mum might be coming home soon, are you excited to see mum again??”
It also pays to glorify some of the little things she does. It’s easy for both me and the baby to take all the hard work for granted – the key is not to fall into that pattern.
“Ooh look at what mum has made for lunch! Avocado on toast AND SOME CHICKEN, what a tasty meal, thank you mum!” And so on. That’s probably going to come across as super condescending if anyone else happens to hear it, but hey, you are talking to an infant so you want to ham it up.
I think what takes the edge off this current obsession is that we both know it’s temporary. More often than not, mum has been the favourite. I know what it’s like to be the third wheel, having to work hard for a bit of attention while the kid follows my wife adoringly around the house. I had to spend three weeks overseas for work when the baby was quite small, and it took a whole lot of time and effort to win her over again when I got back.
And there’s no doubt the favourite will keep changing for, oh, about the next 20 years. There’s no point overthinking kids’ infatuations. Is there any logical reason why Kenneth the Koala is the toy she can’t live without one week, but then spends the next week forgotten under the bed while Dogger is the new soul mate? No, no there’s not.
So I’m enjoying the dad-love while it lasts, but I won’t be devastated when I’m left under the bed for a week to gather dust (metaphorically of course – if that actually happened I would be quite upset).
And while our baby isn’t showing mum the appreciation she deserves, it’s my job to double my efforts to let her know she’s doing great. Husband appreciation is nowhere near as good as baby adoration, but sometimes you have to take what you can get.
READ MORE FROM DAN COLASIMONE:
- 10 essential items and skills you need in your ‘dad tool kit’
- How to make sure your baby and dog become best mates
- 8 tips for weaponising your baby in social situations