3 under 3: Don’t you want me?

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  • Amy Condon is a mum to 3 kids, who are all under 3! Yes, you heard us right. Each week she tells us all about the ups and downs of bringing up 3 children so close in age. This week Amy talks about how she felt when one of her girls asked for Daddy instead of Mummy…

    ‘Your kids always manage to prove you wrong, don’t they? To make you realise that you don’t know quite as much about parenting as you thought. I’ve blogged a couple of times about how hard it can be to be needed. T shattered my soul with the simple statement: ‘I wanted you, but you weren’t there, so I cried.’ While M’s enthusiasm at seeing me at 1am wasn’t exactly what her bleary-eyed, mother needed. But this week, just when I should have been wanted, I wasn’t. And it broke my heart.

    We have a stomach bug. All three girls have been whining and clinging to me all day. When G and M were up in the night being sick, they both cuddled into me and sobbed, desperate to be snuggled straight back to sleep. But T was another matter. My tough little middle child resisted the bug for so many days, we thought she’d actually managed to avoid it. But when we were woken by whining and coughing at 5am, we knew the game was up and sprinted through just in time see her cover her bed.

    She was very brave as she waited for new pyjamas but her bed was soaked through to the mattress and, with M woken by the disturbance, I had no choice but to take her for an early feed while T snuggled up with her daddy in a nest of duvets on the floor.
    When T was struck again the next night, we actually managed to whip her up quick enough to get to the bathroom and, once the distress of throwing up was over, she was again very patient about getting cleaned up. We gave her loads of cuddles and put her back to bed. Maybe this tummy bug hasn’t been so bad after all…wrong. Within 10 minutes, T was whimpering again. I rushed through.

    ‘No!’ she sobbed. ‘I want Daddy.’

    She might as well have slapped me. ‘Mummy’s here, baby,’ I whispered, stroking her head. ‘Everything’s OK.’

    ‘No,’ she insisted. ‘Daddy. I want Daddy!’

    Defeated, I went to get him and crawled back into bed. I should have been delighted. I got to go back to sleep while he’d have to try to settle her. But I wasn’t delighted. I was devastated. I’m her mother. Aren’t I supposed to be the one she wants for comfort?

    T has always been my worst sleeper. Right from the time the twins were tiny, G would drop off in the baby swing or even mid-play, and ended up sleep training herself. But T always had to be rocked down, and teaching her to fall asleep in her cot was a torturous process of sitting in the bedroom, moving an agonisingly tiny bit further away each night. Even when I did finally get her out of the room, an illness would come along, and I’d have to start all over again. I trained her no fewer than three times. The key word there being ‘I’. I did the training. I was the one who sat there night after night. I was the one who eventually left the room. And I’m the one who hasn’t gone back. Her daddy, however, has been drawn back in.

    When M was little, I was, of course, the one who saw to her overnight, being the only one with the requisite, erm, equipment. But that meant if the twins were disturbed, their dad saw to them. And, in desperation, he’s been known to resort to sleeping between their beds to keep the peace. And T knows that. She knows she has a chance. It’s the same when we go into town. If I’m the only one there, the twins make only the most perfunctory attempt to get into the sweetie shop. With Daddy there, however, four big bright eyes suddenly turn adoringly upwards…until they each emerge with a little bag of jelly beans and a huge grin. It’s a daddy’s prerogative, I know. He doesn’t get to see them all the time like I do, and I love that he likes to treat them. Not being wanted for treats is one thing, though. Not being wanted for cuddles is far harder to take.

    My husband has been trying his best to talk me down. ‘Of course she needs you. She just wants me to sleep next to her again. It doesn’t mean anything…’

    But it did mean something to me. As hard as it can be to be wanted, the really hard part of motherhood is when they don’t want you. When they don’t need you. My little independent G has always been a tougher cookie, and now T is discovering she doesn’t always need Mummy either. So far M still comes to me for comfort above all others, but I know it won’t last forever. Of course, I don’t want it to. That would be a whole other kind of parenting problem. But letting go is hard. All the advice you get when you’re expecting prepares you for the constant demands, the relentless need to put someone else first. But what happens when you don’t have to anymore?

    I’ve been a full-time mum for three years and I’m not quite sure if I can remember what it was like before. I guess, though, like every other drama that having so many young children has brought, I’ll muddle through and figure it out. And maybe I’ll just learn to appreciate it when I get that unexpected extra bit of sleep.’

    Have your kids ever asked for your partner over you? Tell us about your children in our comments section below or on Facebook.

    Amy’s other blog posts…