I mentioned we took the kid swimming. The first week went, ahem, swimmingly. The second week? Not so much.
The differentiating factor?
Daddy. Because I’m the second-favorite parent.
This time around it was Daddy who brought the little guy into the pool and it was Daddy who swirled him around in the water and it was Daddy who humiliated himself by being half-naked in public without the benefit of having gone to the gym more than three times over the past, I dunno, seven months and it was Daddy who had the pleasure of being emasculated by singing “if you’re happy and you know it…” over and over again.
And it was Daddy who got a face-full of screaming, the only remedy of which was the miraculous appearance and embrace of Mommy. And then it was Daddy that watched the rest of the swim session from the sidelines. Half-naked, cold and alone – except for my friend whose wife was also in the pool, and all the other dads who either through ignorance or wisdom chose to remain spectators. As I will be doing from now on, lest my son break my heart again with his clear disgust for my touch.
Obviously, he’s a baby. He doesn’t understand his own emotions, let alone mine or my wife’s (of course when it comes to women’s feelings, I’m just as clueless! Ba-dum cha!). And he definitely doesn’t realize the impact his clear preference for one parent or the other has on his mom and dad. Nor does he understand that Daddy hits a lot harder than Mommy and he’d do well to stay in line if he doesn’t want to find out*.
As of now, none of this is his fault. But after this weekend, I’m bracing myself for this becoming a bigger, i.e. an actual, issue down the line, and I’m not going to pretend it didn’t suck a little. Dude was not having a good time with Daddy in the pool, and while Mom and Buried tried to make me feel better after (“He wasn’t exactly having a blast when I got in with him either…”), it was clear which of us he preferred.
At this point, and I may be in denial, I suspect the person he prefers in the moment often comes down to boredom. I swear that by the end of the day, when I get home, he’s so excited just to see a new face that it’s all smiles and giggles until he hits the sack. (I mean, that’s also due to my comedic gifts; there’s a very good chance that I’m the funniest person he’ll ever meet in his entire life. I’m that talented.) But on the flipside, it’s also familiarity – he spends a lot more time with Mommy. Which is just a function of our lives, it happens. I’m not too concerned. Yet.
The fact is that, somewhere down the line, allegiances will be formed. One parent will be the good cop and one will be the bad, resentments will breed and tempers will fly and preferences will manifest and divorce will ultimately tear our family apart. It’s science.
Until then, I just hope that if my wife and I are ever dangling from a cliff and my son has to choose which of us to save he won’t base his decision on which of us he prefers to swim with.
*Obviously I never have and never will hit my son. It’s called a joke. I’m much more likely to lock him in a closet for extended periods of time. Because brain pain lasts longer.