Q. My daughter, who is almost 2, is very attached to my husband. When she's sick, she wants her father. When she wants to be held, she wants her father. When she's being put to bed, she wants her father.
I drop her off at day care in the morning, and Daddy is the one who picks her up and is home with her and my son (age 6) for about one hour before I get home.
I used to be the one who put her to bed, which didn't go well. I asked my husband to start doing it because it seemed as though I was always doing the "bad" things (such as dropping her at day care) while he was doing the "good" things (such as picking her up). Well, she goes to bed just fine for Daddy.
I'm beginning to think that somewhere along the line I did something wrong to make her want her father so much. Overall, I spend just as much time with her as my husband -- if not more. Although I'm happy that my husband has his little girl, I would like her to be mine as well. Is this behavior normal?
A. Your jealousy is certainly normal. I call the situation you describe "gatekeeping," and it is very common. All adults who care deeply about a child are likely to "gatekeep" and try to win the child's affections. Parents will gatekeep with each other. Child-care providers and parents will feel jealous of one another. Teachers are likely to "blame" parents for anything that goes wrong with the child.
Your husband is probably so attached to your daughter that he tends to keep her to himself. She loves it, of course, and that's normal. She's lucky to have a devoted father, but you are bound to be jealous. This doesn't mean you've done anything wrong, and I hope you can take your daughter's "preference" less personally.
To deepen your relationship with her, why not plan to spend some time alone with her every weekend? Talk about it all week. You'll feel better, and she may begin to show you that she looks forward to it, too.
Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Dr. Brazelton regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.