When I don't move quickly enough, she orders, "Get up! Papa coming!"
Papa has arrived. My time as the sun, stars and moon in the eyes of my daughter has ended. George is now the desired partner for the block building party.
Intellectually, I know three things about this recent shift in familial relations. First, it's hilarious to see a nineteen month old engage in exclusionary behavior worthy of a Mean Girl. Second, watching Claire and George play together is a beautiful thing. He doesn't treat her like a baby; she's his equal. I've never seen two people make more meaningful towers of blocks together. Third, I know that this kind of early triangulation is a hallmark of individuation, a process through which all children must go. I'm glad that Claire feels safe enough in our relationship to reject me without fear that I will abandon her.
My visceral reaction is a different story, though: "What am I, chopped liver, here?" I find myself on the outside, not a part of their exclusive, little club. I feel a little sorry for myself too…"Nobody likes me, not even my daughter." Then, I start to question my interpersonal skills, "She's right. I need to be more fun, like George." Now, I'm acting like an insecure teenager who's trying to figure out how to please a boy or get those Mean Girls to like me.
But I'm not a teenager anymore, I'm a mom. So I remind myself that, if I were Claire, I'd probably prefer to play with George too. And, really, I don't need to change. The next time Claire bumps her head or needs a hug, I'm sure she'll seek out mama. She's smart to play to our strengths.
Plus, Claire's cosmos clearly contains room for both of us. And so much more.