I don’t know when it happened…after all, every nursing baby belongs to Mommy…but at some point, and it was very early in her life, Julianna transferred her primary allegiance to Daddy.
Daddy has a way with her. He could always get her to go to sleep when she was a baby; these days she does things for him that I despair of accomplishing. There are times when I feel jealous of the bond between them, and times when, even though I know better, I try to force my way into the moment. Children can sense needy adults, and they run screaming in the opposite direction.
But the relationship between a parent and a child is always evolving, and sometimes I get my own share of Julianna’s adoration. In the last few days before Nicholas was born, Julianna and I had one of those times. That last day, when I put her down for nap at her grandparents’ house and headed home without her…well, I knew what she was too little to know—that the next time I saw her, everything would be different.
Since then, I’ve been on her bad list. Always making her walk, sign, sit on the toilet, feed herself with a spoon…and there’s always that baby hanging around, whining and getting all Mommy’s cuddles. (Well, not all. In the languages of love, Mommy is a very touch-y person. There’s lots of “loving touch” in our house. Mostly in the form of tickles, chews, and kisses.) Julianna adores that baby, but darn it, he’s always got first dibs on Mommy’s attention!
So it has been a beautiful thing, recently, to find her gravitating toward me. To recognize her emerging interests—flowers, plants and trees (although they also intimidate her). To see her start to develop a gender identity, and to glory in femininity with her—to see her take interest in helping me bake, and put on makeup, and choose pretty clothes to wear. To have her pat my lap to get up and sit, to have her lean forward begging for hugs and kisses (this child is most definitely NOT a “loving touch” girl. She still won’t hold Alex’s hand, even when she needs support!). To horse play with her at nap and bedtime, to read to her, to make her laugh—omigosh, I’ve never heard such a magical sound as Julianna’s giggle, heart and soul and body thrown into it with reckless abandon. It’s addictive.
Like most changes, this one went unnoticed for a while. And it was several days longer before I decided what had caused the shift.
Part of it is that I went away for a week in July, and my absence taught her to appreciate my presence. But I think the main thing is the change in Nicholas. At five months old, he is no longer a newborn or infant; he has entered the “baby” stage, which is slightly less all-encompassing. He’s beginning to settle into a routine, if not a schedule. Nursing is less frequent. He interacts more, which means that he’s not in my arms every second. So instead of nap time being a frantic twenty minutes in which books and kisses are perfunctory, rushed through before the baby has to have my complete attention, it’s becoming one of the best times of the day, sometimes lasting forty minutes or longer.
It’s nice for a whole lot of reasons. But chief among them is the change in our relationship. I’ve always known that she needs me, but it’s nice to feel that she knows it, too.
Then again, maybe she’s just figured out that the girls are outnumbered now, so we’ve gotta stick together.