Photo by David Zellaby
Around noon on the day after Mel took Norah’s toys away, I sent Mel a text that read, “How’s Norah doing without toys? Does she hate you?”
I was hopeful when I sent the text.
Mel replied, “She doing just fine. In fact, she hasn’t had one fit this morning.”
I will admit, that I was a little surprised by this response. It was my assumption that Norah, my sweet little Norah, was going to wake up, stretch her little arms above her head, look around her room, realize that all her babies were gone, and flip her shit. In my mind, I saw her sprawled out on the floor, like I’d seen her do a million times, screaming and kicking and crying. I assumed that I’d get a text from Mel sometime in the mid-morning reading, “Norah is really on one today. I’m trying hard not to kill her.”
But… I got none of that.
It had to be just a matter of time, I thought. Perhaps sometime in the mid-afternoon I would find out that Norah cracked, which caused Mel to crack. I had it all planned out. I would come home from work to find Norah in her room, freaking out, screaming about how much she hated her mother. Mel would be in the kitchen, getting ready to pull her hair out. And I would walk into the garage, grab Norah’s boxes of toys, and solve the problem in a Jolly Old Saint Nick sort of way… Ho Ho Ho.
And once Norah saw that I was the one who brought back her babies, she would wrap her arms around me, give me a huge kiss, and say, “I only love daddy.”
Finally, I would be her favorite.
I came home and the living room was the cleanest I’d ever seen it during that time of day in months. Toy babies swaddled in blankets and towels didn’t line the sofa like some low budget foster home. There weren’t four or five princess dresses lying on the floor. And Norah, well, she was in a great mood.
She ran to the door, gave me a big hug, and said, “I love you daddy.” Then she went into the living room and started dancing while humming music.
I looked at Mel with confusion.
“She’s been like this all day,” Mel said. “It’s the craziest thing. It makes me wish I’d taken her toys away a long time ago.”
“Are you sure she doesn’t hate you?” I asked.
Mel shrugged. “I almost get the impression that she loves me more. She's been really snuggly today, and she keeps telling me that I’m a good mommy.”
“Perhaps she’s delusional with grief.” I said.
“I can live with that if it means she’s not screaming.”
Later that night I was getting Norah ready for bed. I told her that she needed to brush her teeth, and she said, “No. I don’t have to brush my teeth.”
We started arguing. I had to chase her down the hall a few times. This was all standard. But what was unusual was after I caught up with her, forced the toothbrush into her hand, and she said, “You’re just a mean daddy. I only love Mommy!”
I said, “Really, Norah? I’m not the one who took all your toys away.”
She sat silent for a moment. She looked me in the face for some time; obviously she was deep in thought. I assumed that I’d gotten to her. That she was starting to realize that I was, indeed, the cool parent. The better parent.
At least equal to, or maybe even better than, mommy.
I may have just become the favorite.
Instead Norah looked me in the face and cried, “Mommy! I only love mommy! You’re a mean daddy.”
Obviously Mel could do anything to Norah and she’d still love her more than me. She could lock Norah in the attic and feed her buckets of fish heads, and she’d probably draw still draw pictures of Mel and her holding hands at the park.
In moments like this, I wonder what I’ve done to deserve this. Am I really that mean of a dad? I mean, I’m trying. Each night I read Norah a story. I get up with her in the night. I take her out on daddy daughter dates. I let her comb my hair, as painful as that can be. I tell her that I love her everyday. And even though I really wanted to put her up on Amazon after she kicked me in the crotch because I made strap her own shoes, I only put her in her room for ten minutes.
Perhaps I’m a pushover. Maybe I need to be meaner and take things away like Mel did? Perhaps I need to be a jackass of a dad so she will feel like she needs to earn my love. But I’m not that kind of guy, and I don’t think I can force myself to be. Perhaps it’s a genetic thing. Maybe little girls are meant to love their moms more, regardless. But what about all those daddy’s girls? Why didn’t we have one of those?
It’s all very frustrating.
A few moments later Mel walked by and said, “Norah, please do what daddy says.”
She looked up at her mother, then at me, and then placed the toothbrush in her mouth.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley