Sophie nearly made me cry yesterday.
I know, I know, not a hugely manly thing to admit, but hey, it’s the 21st century and we can be honest about our feelings.
And, unfortunately, it wasn’t tears of enjoyment – the kind that roll down your face in a delighted sort of way.
No, it was that crushing sense of rejection that came from nowhere and only lasted for a moment, but it hit home.
Let me explain.
Now she’s two, she’s learning to push the boundaries and assert her independence in the time-honoured way that only two year olds can.
Don’t get me wrong – she’s a fabulous, friendly and happy little soul most of the time. We feel utterly blessed to be her parents and love spending as much time as possible with her.
But, for some reason, she has these moments where she turns and yesterday, at the end of nursery, was one of those times.
My wife had picked up her on Monday and Tuesday and Sophie had been a bit difficult about leaving and getting in the car. Normally, I collect her on those days so I guess she’d been a bit unsettled. Anyway, for once, I was able to pick her up this Wednesday and was really excited about it.
Earlier that day, she’d waved me off with such gusto and love that I’d gone to work feeling really privileged to have her in my life and thanking God for her.
However, when I dared to be the one who showed up for her nursery, that gusto and love had been replaced by anger and frustration that I wasn’t Mummy, to the point that Sophie cowered in the corner away from me and refused to come over as she normally would.
It was so weird.
While the staff jokingly jibed me about not being Mummy while simultaneously seeking to reassure me she had been OK all day, I had to try and extricate a screaming toddler from the nursery and carry her out, while she wriggled and squirmed as if her life depended upon it.
They wanted me to sign three forms on my way out (a perfectly normal request, only not today).
I tried to chat with Sophie outside the room but even the promise of a “baby cino” couldn’t snap her out of it. I bundled her into the car seat, closed the door and drove home quickly, tacitly ignoring the shrieks from behind.
Once we got inside the house, a bit of time with her comfort blanket in front of the first bit of Finding Nemo – the really comforting bit where one fish gets eaten, another gets kidnapped away from home and then they survive the brutal and merciless shark attack! – and she was back to normal.
After what had been an intense day at work, and a load of late nights, the relief I felt when she snapped back into her usual happy self was immense.
I don’t know what it was that made emotional. The sound of my daughter in pain, the thought that somehow I was responsible for it, the inability to get her to come round – it could have been any of them.
And yet, I guess the sagest thing to remember in such situations is the wise words of one of the nursery managers as Sophie and I left, her lobbed onto my shoulder and fighting for supremacy: “She’s just being two years old. It shows she’s progressing naturally.”