Once upon a time, my child loved daddy more than mommy. It wasn’t the most pleasant “phase” of my parenting regime, but it was very insightful and I learned a lot from it.
Let’s talk about children! They are spectacular mini-adults who are fun, happy and easily amused little monsters. And while they don’t quite possess the same motor and verbal communication skills as their older counterparts, they are brilliant little people! They know how to get what they want and, like an octopus trying to get food that is trapped inside a glass bottle, will figure out which way to maneuver, manipulate, and mold a situation to be in their favor. If you think about it, they are pint-sized lawyers and business people with some mad negotiation skills!
But what happens when they discover the awesome power of emotional blackmail? And what happens when they discover said emotional blackmail works on mommy and daddy?
The Time My Child Loved Daddy More Than Mommy
Many years ago, in a land far away, I was a single mom raising my daughter in the tropical country of Malaysia. My mini-me was about two years old at the time, and one day around breakfast time, she asked for a cookie. My reply was simple, “Sure sweety, you can have a cookie, but only after you’ve eaten lunch.” This was not the answer she wanted to hear. Irritated, she looked up at me, opened her mouth and said, “Well I love daddy more than you.”
As an adult, I knew what she was doing and I knew that she probably didn’t mean it but it did catch me off guard….and it got me right in the feels. Where did she learn this “conditional” form of love and, more importantly, “does her daddy give her cookies for breakfast??” I was not happy but I didn’t know what to say so I pretended I didn’t hear anything (though my little heart was bruised).
Her father and I were filling for divorce, and while we didn’t agree on everything, we did agree that we would be cordial and friendly for the sake of our little. The next day, the same thing happened. She woke up and wanted a cookie for breakfast. Again, I told her the same answer as the day before and AGAIN, she fed me the line, “I love daddy more than you because he gives me cookies.” Being a stubborn Taurus, I refused to cave and give her a cookie: after all, I would be rewarding her for a behavior I didn’t particularly agree with. Regardless, her words cut straight through me. I didn’t understand why it bothered me so much, but it did. How could she love daddy more than she loved mommy??
A week or two later, I went to a talk on relationships and love given by a man named Master Dhyan Vimal (we are still in Malaysia at this point). After listening to him, I swear that the lecture was solely for me and no one else who attended. Again, his words got me straight in the feels.
He said, blessed are those who love rightly, for they do not need it back from others, nor do they expect it. In giving love, they themselves are filled. I finally understood why it bothered me so much: I was expecting her to love me as much as, if not MORE than, her father. My job as a mommy, friend, wife or girlfriend is, in the words of Rumi, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
The reason I felt hurt when she said she loved daddy more was because I loved her, and I expected her to love me back. My expectation caused me pain. She didn’t love me in the way I wanted to be loved, so it hurt. THAT was a barrier to love that I had: I felt that she should love me in a specific way. This isn’t love: it is business. Business is trading, bartering and exchanging services or gifts for something else. Master taught me this in his talk, and when I went home it stuck with me throughout the night.
The next morning, my lovely little one woke up and again, wanted a cookie for breakfast. I again told her she could have a cookie AFTER she had lunch, and AGAIN she, in her toddler-pitched irritated tone, told me that she loved daddy more than me. This time, it didn’t hurt at all. I looked her in her beautiful brown eyes and told her, “That’s OK sweety. Mommy loves you no matter what, you don’t have to love mommy back if you don’t want to.” And with that, tears welled up in her eyes, she hugged me and said, “Mommy I love you so much.” This scenario hasn’t happened again: at least not in my household. I can’t say the same for her father, though. I heard a story or two after that from him about her trying to get what she wants via emotional blackmail and it made me giggle a bit, I’ll be honest.
In summary, it is normal for children to try different methods, tactics, and routes in order to get what they want. If you turn them down, they will find another way and test it out. If that doesn’t work, they will keep puzzle-solving until they figure out the shortest, fastest route to getting what they want….JUST like their fellow adults. I can’t get mad at my daughter for doing this: she must have learned her mad problem-solving skills from somewhere, and she WILL need them later on in life (especially now that we have moved to Springfield, Mo). Instead, I shall applaud her investigative attempts and journeys in getting what she wants.
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