I’m used to my son preferring my wife. I’m okay with it. It has its perks. Besides, young boys often favor their mothers. It’s biology.
It’s not like my kid and I aren’t close. Yesterday I pretended to eat his face and this morning he told me he doesn’t like it when I breathe. We’re buds!
But as we navigate the threenage wasteland, Mom and Buried and I often have to resort to some good cop/bad cop parenting, which is pretty typical. Unfortunately I’m usually the bad cop.
No wonder he likes Mommy better.
If I were my kid, I’d prefer my wife too. She has soft skin, nice hair, and smells delicious. I have scruff, am going gray, and often sweat through my deodorant. Sometimes when I look in the mirror I wish I were a woman.
Part of the reason I’ve been thrust into the role of “bad cop” is pure coincidence – when one parent is laying down the law, it’s often useful to threaten the intervention of the other parent, and it just happens that lately I’ve been the hammer. Part of it is simply because, as a male, I have a scarier voice – when I get upset, boom goes the dynamite. When Mom and Buried gets upset, only dogs can hear her.
But part of it is also my personality. I’d love to blame Mom and Buried for making me the bad guy, by encouraging me to go into his bedroom and “be stern” with Detective Munch when he is resisting sleep, but that’s only after she’s done her best and needs the cavalry; it’s not her intention to put us in competition. She’s usually trying to get me to calm down, to remember he’s only three, and to not immediately play the “time out” card.
I get frustrated with my son more easily than my wife does, and I tend to shift to “you’re in trouble” mode a step or two before it’s really necessary. As a result, he is beginning to recognize my role as the disciplinarian, and I can sometimes see him fearing me because of it, and that makes me sad.
Disciplining toddlers isn’t easy. They don’t know enough to know better and it can be frustrating trying to communicate with them. It’s easy to revert to yelling, but aside from scaring them away from putting a knife in an electrical socket or running into the middle of the street, such tactics don’t accomplish much. At this age, it’s much more effective when you keep calm and explain things. It’s not easy to get through to someone who is sobbing in fear and just wants a hug. From Mommy.
I hate that my son already knows I’m the one who lays down the law and I hate that he calls for Mommy when he can sense he’s getting in trouble. I want to be the one to comfort him when he’s scared, not just the one who shuts down Monsters University because he didn’t clean up his toys.
I don’t mind being bad cop sometimes, it’s part of the job. I just don’t want my son to be scared of me.
Not until he’s a teenager.