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Friday, July 1, 2011

Changing relationships with your kids: After the new addition

One of life's only true constants is change. I don't know who first became aware of that fact, but it's true.

This morning I realized how quickly those changes can come when my 2-year-old daughter sneaked up into bed with us and lay on top of me spread eagle for 20 minutes sucking her thumb.

This may not seem like an alert to change, but for me it was. Though my daughter will always find time to play with me, wrestle or build forts, cuddling has always been Mommy's domain. During family prayers, she sits on Mommy's lap. When she gets an "owie," she runs to Mommy. When she falls off the back of the couch right after we told her not to climb on the back of the couch, Mommy gets a cuddle buddy until its better.

This one has thrown a wrench in family workings. For me,
that has meant two other kids that love me a lot more for
coming home after work.
But since the arrival of our third child, I've noticed a change that's come over her. No longer does she arch her back in protest if I pick her up and cuddle her. Now she almost always chooses my lap for prayers - voluntarily. And this morning I got blissful wake-up cuddles with my beautiful daughter, even though Mommy was readily available, albeit less responsive. When I left for work, she cried. A month ago she would barely acknowledge me as I was leaving.

Now to the psychology of the matter. Since Baby's arrival, Mommy has been pretty wrapped up in feeding, changing and just plain holding the little girl, who often fusses because, well, she can't do ANYTHING for herself. This has left the kids more to their own devices, for better or worse. But when Daddy comes home, suddenly they've got someone there who isn't providing immediate care for someone completely helpless. Not that that means I don't ever have all three at once. Just last night I was sitting on our big, comfy chair while holding my youngest while my wife planned out a coming vacation. Soon my daughter came walking up with a book and made space on my lap so I could read to her. When my 3-year-old got the memo I was reading, he bee-lined it for my lap too, all but squishing the newborn between them on my chest. I literally had to find creative ways of holding the weight of the older kids off the youngest one while reading. I often used my reading arm to subtly push them away from the baby. Good times.

I guess my point is that sometimes it feels like your kids love you a lot more than other times. It's OK. It's natural. They'll come around. Just keep showing love and eventually it will be returned, even if it comes when the child makes it to adulthood. And the best part: When it hasn't always been that way, it feels so much better when your sweet little daughter cuddles into you for 20 minutes when she could have had her Mommy.

That is what parenting is all about.

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