What Do You Do When Your Kid Plays Favourites With Your Parents?
By Jayani Perera
Photo by © gallanandhika.psty/Twenty20
May 3, 2018
My daughter would screech, "Go away Seeya!" as her grandfather entered the room. She'd follow it with a deadpanned stare that appeared to say, “Don’t even think of touching my Lego!”
A moment later, she'd squeal, “Grandma!” and ran to embrace my mother, leaving me to face the awkwardness. I'd close my eyes and wonder why I topped my coffee with cream instead of Baileys that morning.
This was several years ago when my daughter was just a bit older than one.
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I have no idea how it started, but like so many parenting moments that crop up seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly this was a thing and it began consuming my brain. It became such a regular occurrence, and my dad seemed saddened by these little incidents as they came up.
Interestingly though, when my dad wasn’t around, my daughter would react differently. She'd ask about him and babble to him on the phone. It seemed like his wow factor only faded in person when golden grandma was around.
You see, my mother got on the ground and played and she was interested in what my daughter was interested in. This is different from how my dad showed affection — he was more likely to shower my daughter with little trinkets and have her favourite cashew and coconut snack stocked.
It became such a regular occurrence, and my dad seemed saddened by these little incidents as they came up.
I spent some sleepless nights debating how to address the situation (why not be productive while dealing with yet another sleep regression). Even at that early stage of motherhood, I had learned fast that when I’d go deep into the whys and hows of something my kid did, Occum’s razor often prevailed. I knew my dad had done nothing to provoke this and considered that it was possibly just my daughter testing the waters. I decided to step back and react less. Gradually, I noticed a change, but not just in my daughter.
My daughter remained fairly consistent as she began to grow up, but the whole granddaughter-grandfather interaction had become more of a game to her. She would begin giggling when she tried to maintain her icy grill, and pretend not to see him. Meanwhile she'd be trying to get his attention, walking into rooms with him in them just to play these charades. As the next couple of years went by, things continued to change even more.
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But what also changed was that my dad began interacting with my daughter in a different way. As my daughter got older, picking up more skills along the way, I noticed they had begun to actually do things together. People interact differently with babies than they do toddlers or bigger kids, and for some, interacting with them at one stage is easier than at another. For my dad, while his affection never changed, it was how he showed it that did. And my daughter began becoming more interested in this Seeya, who could colour with her, loved to draw and paint, and tell her tall tails of a distant country far away where he grew up.
As I’ve learned is often the case with parenting, at the moment they're happening, issues can feel all-consuming. But things change so quickly with kids, because they're always learning and testing out different and newly acquired skills. I've since learned that it's worth taking a wait-and-see approach sometimes to assess if an issue even is an issue at all — give it a few months, to start.
Now when the grandparents visit, there are still grandma fan girl moments. But seconds later, once my daughter has caught her breath, she’ll run over to my dad with her latest art project in hand to share with him.
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