If you are a parent, I know this has happened to you in some form or another. If not, it will. Just wait.
I was sitting in my office yesterday, typing away, when Jack walked in and stood by me.
“I have a secret to tell you,” he said, “And I don’t want you to get mad.”
Thoughts scrolled through my mind, rapid fire: had I heard crystal shatter? No. Did the dog still have a tail? Yes. Had I consumed anything unidentified just because he asked me to? No. Is he too young to have committed a crime or surfed for online porn? Yes. I should be safe.
“You can tell me anything, and I’ll try not to get mad. What’s up?”
He leaned in conspiratorially. He looked left, then right (purely for drama; we were alone in the house) and whispered, “I love Daddy more than I love you.”
WHAT?!?!?!?! Did I really just hear what I think I heard??
This is what I said:
“That’s okay, honey. I will never tell you who to love or how much to love them (editorial note: unless you want to marry some bloodsucking tramp I despise). You can love Daddy as much as you want.”
Relieved, he ran out of the room to play.
But this is what I wanted to say:
“You little stinker! How dare you?!? I have been your constant companion since the day you were born. Even before you were born, you sucked the life out of me, given that I’m short and you were a giant baby. I walked tilted forward for nine months. Then you nursed around the clock until I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t even muster up the energy to cry.
I’ve spent the past six years trying to delight you. Remember how we would lie on our backs for hours looking at the clouds? Or how I’d stop on every single walk so you could examine anthills? Did I complain? No, sir, I did NOT complain! Did I yell at you when you refused to play soccer, even after you begged to be put on the team? When Daddy was so irritated that steam was coming out of his ears? No. No, Jack, I didn’t yell.
Who’s there for you every single day?? Who holds you when you cry, puts band aids on every tiny scrape you find on your body, slathers you with sunscreen so you won’t suffer a moment of discomfort?? Who allowed you to be a barnacle until you were at least five?? ME, damnit!! I de-seed your cucumbers, for God's sake. Do you think that’s fun?
When you make me breakfast, I eat it. That’s taking one for the team, Jack.
I kiss you and hug you and listen to you and talk to you every single afternoon. I read to you. I dance with you. I hold your hand and hoist you onto my lap. Every repetitive time you ask me to watch how fast you run, I do it. I play every game that starts with you asking me to guess some inane thing. I hold worms, Jack, and here’s a newsflash: I think worms are slimy and gross and I hate them, but I pick them up because you want me to.
So you love Daddy more? Well, that SUCKS, Jack. Just so you know.”
I didn’t say any of that. But clearly I thought it.
When Whit came home, I thought he’d understand that my feelings were sort of hurt. I thought he’d give me a hug and say, “Awww, don’t let that upset you. He’s just a kid. Wait five minutes and he’ll love you more. It's a compliment that he feels safe telling you the way he feels.”
I got a fist pump and a “Yeah, baby!!!”
They deserve each other.