When I poke my head in his bedroom, my son is rubbing his eyes and yawning. He smiles a sunny gapless grin at me—all teeth still present and accounted for, at nearly 6 years old—and announces that today he's going to have "oat bunches" cereal.
"I want to try it because that's what Daddy likes," he tells me.
I spend a brief moment thinking about how he's never been remotely interested in what I eat for breakfast, then I let it go. It would be stupid to be hurt by something so silly, right? Right.
Especially when there are so many other stupid things to be hurt by. Like how whenever he accomplishes some new thing, he can't stop talking about how Daddy is going to be so proud of him. ("I'm proud of you too," I say. "Yeah ..." he replies distractedly. "Can we call Daddy now?") How he wants to dress like his dad, be good at everything his dad is good at, grow up to have a job exactly like his dad. He's absolutely obsessed with just-Daddy-and-me activities like fishing, camping, shooting BB guns, and building things together in the shop.
I am, of course, incredibly happy that my boys have such a wonderful relationship with their father. My husband is awesome, no doubt about it. He's fun, he's loving, he has cool hobbies that appeal to small boys.
It's just ... oh, I've always been second fiddle. Always. And I believe I've mostly made my peace with that, but the older the boys get, the more I feel like I've been settled into some sort of spectacularly lame role that I can't seem to break out of. One where I am forever the nag, the killjoy, the one whose approval isn't worth caring about as much because I'm just not as important.
I'm the one who hovers, making helpless Marge Simpson noises, when the boys are taking turns to see who can more efficiently break their ankle by leaping off a set of rain-slick steps. I force reluctant children to briefly abandon their play so I can smear them with sunscreen. I grouch and grump a thousand times a day to stop jumping on the couch, finish your lunch, clean up your room, turn the noise down to a dull roar, stop hitting each other, TV time is over, yes you DO have to go pee before we leave ... and on and on it goes.
Maybe that's just the hat most moms have to wear, but the thing is, I have other hats, too, and I don't know if my kids see them, or care that they're there. Did you know, I want to say, that I have a job too? That I'm strong and athletic and funny and creative and hard-working and sometimes I'm even maybe a little bit awesome? That I'm good at things that have absolutely fuck-all to do with making your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?
Why don't you ever want to be like me, is what I sometimes think.
My boys love me. I know this. We are a happy, tight-knit little family, and I am so grateful for what I have. Still, I have a secret fear that my relationship with my boys will never be as strong as the one they have with their father. That even though I'm the one at home with them, the big bonding moments are always centered around Daddy. That I'm not doing as much as I could to make them proud and respectful of me—of the woman I am, not just the mother figure.
Do any of you ever struggle with similar feelings?