I hear the cry of “Mom!” in my house more often than I hear the telephone and doorbell combined. This is what happens when you have elementary-school age children. The semi-feral cry of “MOM!” can preface anything from “He hit me!” to “Am I done practicing piano?” to “Where ARE you?” If only their eyes worked as well as their mouths.
I hear “Mom” all the time from my second grade boy and my third grade boy. Which is why, I suppose, I shouldn’t have been shocked when I heard it yesterday from a new mouth: that of my not-even-2-year-old daughter.
“MOM!” G yelled (we are not yet masters of ‘inside voice’), in contrast to her usual “Mommy!” She was proud of herself, I could see, and she was savoring the taste of a new, “grown-up” word on her tongue.
But that’s a promotion I don’t want.
See, I’m a big fan of the appellation, “Mommy.” There’s a pure sweetness inherent in a small person looking up at you, calling you “Mommy.” The word radiates innocence. It gives me the same feeling I get when I hold either of my daughter’s little hands in my own. Every time G says it, I feel like she is putting a crown on my head–even when it’s a whine. I never thought I’d be the mother of a little girl, much less soon-to-be three little girls.
Having those little girls eased my pain when my boys hit second grade and decided to ditch “Mommy” for “Mom.” And it was painful.
No one warned me about how insidious second grade is for boys. First, you can’t kiss the kid goodbye anymore when you drop him off at school — at least not within view of his peers. Then, the kid starts referring to you as “Mom.” This is because there are suddenly ‘cool kids’ in second grade (who to me look just as dorky as the non-cool kids, but what do I know?) who have determined that it is babyish to call your mother “Mommy.”
And because of these random jerky children, I lost my title, my handholding prerogative and about 90% of my ability to kiss my boys in public in one fell second grade swoop. I was consoled, however, by the fact that I still had little girls who would call me “Mommy.”
A child’s relationship with “Mommy,” you see, is simpler, and sweeter, than their relationship with “Mom.” “Mommy!” is what a child calls out in the dark when they wake up from a nightmare, confident that the person who knows how to fix everything will come in and make the bad dreams go away. “Mommy” is a foundational rock of existence.
The relationship with “Mom” is different. Someone who calls their mother “Mom” has a will of their own, and more of a defined sense of self. There will be depth, and love, to the relationship, of course, but there will also be arguments, and slammed doors, and battles of will.
“Mom” is inevitable, I know, with the passage of time. I’m just not ready for it from the little ones. Not yet.
“Hi, hon,” I said to her. “You call me ‘Mommy,’” okay?
“Okay, Mommy,” she says.
The time of “Mom” will come. But not today.