Caroline doesn't ever want to go see Tyler anymore. He says that once she gets there, they have a great time, and I believe him. But I can't for the life of me get her to go to him when I drop her off at his place. The only way she will go is if he picks her up from daycare and I'm not there.
Yesterday, I was supposed to take her to him for an overnight visit. I told her we were going to daddy's house and she completely freaked. "No! I no want to go to daddy's! I no like daddy! I no like daddy! I want to go home! I stay here with mommy!" She has done this before and then once I got down there, she clung to me and refused to go with him. So I called Tyler and told him about it, and we decided that she would stay with me.
First of all, I'm sure she doesn't actually dislike him. She may not know him very well, because they don't see each other very often. He hasn't been nearly as present in her life as I have (and I'm not just talking about since he moved out), and she's only two. Of course she's going to prefer the parent who she spends 90-95% of her time with. But I know that it breaks his heart. How could it not?
It's hard for me to watch and must be even harder for him to hear. No one wants to hear your child say they don't like you. Especially a two year old who doesn't yet know how to lie.
Still, I don't know what to do. Neither of us wants to force her to go-- that seems cruel and counterproductive. But it will become a vicious cycle if she spends less and less time with him, and they grow further and further apart. So far, all we have come up with is to have Tyler always pick her up from daycare. But she's supposed to go with him for two periods of two weeks each this summer, while he's in North Dakota from the end of May through early September, and I worry about how that will go if she doesn't even want to be away from me for one night.
To be brutally honest, since that's kind of my specialty, the fact that she clearly prefers me makes me feel almost... triumphant. That's not too terrible to say, I hope. I'm only human. I've spent her entire short life devoting myself to her and raising her, while he has been mostly absent, and I am almost relieved to see that that fact hasn't escaped her. And I can't help but think, honestly, what does he expect? You can't spend that little time with a two year old and then be shocked when she doesn't know you that well. She calls you "daddy" because she thinks that's what your name is. She doesn't know what "daddy" is supposed to mean-- you are supposed to teach her that.
But, I have to stop myself from thinking those things, because again, it's all about what's best for her, and she needs him too... and he needs her. I want them to have as full of a relationship as possible, for all of our sakes. Including my own. Because it's hard enough to just be mom. I don't want to have to be dad, too.
I just don't know how to fix it.