“I don’t want you. I don’t want you. I don’t want you.”

It’s the phrase we fear in the deepest darkest pit of our psyches where junior high dates and first periods go to die. It’s the phrase that spills angst all over our best laid plans for autonomy.

Now put that on repeat and blast it on your biggest 80s boom box and you’ve got a sense of my current mental state. No woman is an island. But can you just send me to one until this storm passes?

You know that phrase “Daddy’s girl?” It’s cute, isn’t it? You picture a nightgown-ed daughter dancing on her Daddy’s feet and field trips to Home Depot for dollhouse supplies.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes for the Mommy in the Daddy’s girl trio:

My three-year-old kicks me in the sternum while I wrestle her into her pajamas while she screams, “I want Daddy to do it!”

“We have three kids, kiddo,” I say and dodge a foot. “That means, luck of the draw, you’ve got me tonight.”

Her response? A totally non-ironic kick to my uterus along her personalized c-section scar while she tries to scramble away.

I tap out at that point … just lay back onto the hardwood floor and watch her scissor kick in circles with her Paw Patrol pajama pants halfway up like a little old lady stuck in her pantyhose.

Here’s the thing. I love that she loves her dad. I love that they have a special bond and he “gets her” in all her stubborn toddlerness. I also get that this could very well be a phase – a phase that has lasted from birth to now, but here’s to keeping that hope alive. I also get that she is just a kid whose ability for empathy is slim to none.

I am the grownup. I remind myself of this by the hour when she cries for her dad while we eat lunch and she asks how many hours until he is home again. I remind myself again when she wants him to be the last one to kiss her at bedtime and again when he needs to be the first one to see her write her name and tie her shoes. We try so hard as parents not to play favorites. I just wish they would do the same.

I want her to want me.

I want that feeling of being chosen. I shouldn’t need it. Her twin brother loves everyone with an equanimity that even I can’t muster. And her older brother is the same. There is plenty of love to go around in our house. But when she runs around me to get to my husband when we come home from a date night, it’s going to sting.

I tell myself that I am not in middle school anymore and this has more to do with the fact that she averages approximately 10 more hours a day with me than him. I am the old toy and he will forever be the new. But man, those words “I don’t want you” leave a mark. I try not to let her see me get upset more than the obligatory “that hurts Mommy’s feelings, can you say you’re sorry?” with the best poker face I can summon.

But I have walked away to grab a Kleenex. I have locked onto my Headspace meditation app like it’s a personalized meeting with the Dalai Lama. And I have reached into my vault of affirmations and picked a few to carry me through:

“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” – Brene Brown

“I like you very much. Just as you are.” – Mark Darcy, “Bridget Jones’s Diary”

“Let it go.” – Elsa, “Frozen”

And it works most of the time. Because the truth is, I know exactly why she prefers her dad. It’s because I birthed a Mini Me. She is a mover and a shaker and the very strong yin to her twin’s easygoing yang. We are two waves crashing into each other more often than not. One day, if I’m lucky the tides will shift and we will roll together in easy harmony.

But for now, I’ll hug the dog a little longer than necessary and continue to take up the mantle of second place. Because that’s what moms do … we fill in the gaps. We are the mortar that holds the family together and everybody who’s anybody knows it.