“I love you, mom,” my four-year-old daughter said with a sweet smile and a kiss as my husband and I were tucking her into bed. My own smile froze on my face and I kissed her perfunctorily before walking briskly out of her sweet bedroom. That’s when I began to cry. It might not seem like such a bit deal to others, but it was a big deal to me. Two missing letters and my heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest. Is my little girl already over calling me mommy and grown up enough to call me mom? Say it is not so.
Let me preface my story with a little background information. I’m a mom, yes, but I like to hear my kids call me mommy – not mom. Mom isn’t a bad word, but it’s not something I’m ready for. I’m not there. This is not the point in my life in which I am ready for that kind of ‘grown-up’ language from my sweet littles. Addison is 7, Ava is 4.5 and Carter and Charlotte are 18 months. Addison still calls me mommy at 7, and she will probably do so the rest of her life. She’s my sweet girl, my oldest, my first born; and I have a very special place in her heart. She considers me her best friend (something I love and hate at the same time; I don’t want to be her best friend, but I want her to want me to be her best friend if that makes any sense). She loves me so, wants me to be so proud of her and wants to spend so much time with me. I love every second of it.
Ava, well, she’s another story. Ava is my ‘middle’ child. She is the most like me. She looks just like me whereas the other three look just like my husband (and oh my goodness is he the most amazing father). Ava is precocious to an extent words cannot even describe. She cares not one little bit what others think of her. She’s honest, blunt and open. She doesn’t lie; she is straight up. If she does something, she will tell you without hesitation, accept her discipline and move on with an apology. But, you know, she won’t do the same thing twice if she’s disciplined.
She’s social, but she’s not always social. She has no problem playing by herself and telling her siblings she’s not interested in playing with them. She cannot be talked into anything she doesn’t want to do, and she’s wise beyond her years, a major pain in the rear end and the cutest kid that ever walked the planet. She makes us crazy at the same time she makes our hearts fill.
Carter is just like Ava and Addison; such a bossy, demanding little leader quick to smile and a bit mischievous but so sweet all at once. He’s got the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen, and an infectious desire to cuddle me and daddy. He loves to flirt, and he loves to ‘win’ at everything he does. Charlotte is sweet. She looks just like our oldest, but she could go either way in terms of her personality. She loves her twin brother, but she doesn’t always want him around. Sometimes she makes it clear she just wants to play on her own. She does not always want to cuddle, she does not always want to be sweet – but when she is, she is. She’s got a very judgmental expression in her eyes, and she’ not a huge fan of people (that’s my girl).
My kids call me mommy. Except that time that Ava called me mom not too long ago.
I cried. I did. I’m only 32-years-old. My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years and we have these gorgeous kids and we have this life that really just rocks, and we have these kids that keep us young and in shape and constantly on our toes. They’re not old enough to call us mom and dad.
When Ava called me mom, my heart broke. It was in that moment I realized that I’d never considered that I’d be anyone to them but mommy – doer of all things and taker-carer of the family. It hurt. It felt silly that it hurt, but it did. I knew I was justified in my feelings when my husband finished telling the girls goodnight, came into our master bedroom where I was crying, put his arms around me and just hugged me. He must have known how he’d feel if she called him ‘dad’ and he didn’t like the idea of that ever happening.
I poured myself an extra big glass of wine that night and my husband and I rocked on the front porch talking about how we ended up here 14 years after our relationship began, with kids that are growing up. Our oldest daughter is beginning to look like a big kid instead of a little girl. She rolled her eyes at her sister a few weeks before that and it made us realize she’s growing up. In one sentence she told us she’s super excited to lose one of her top teeth because she knows that the tooth fairy will give her $100 for it (this will be her first real experience with disappointment because the tooth fairy is not giving her $100 for it) and that she wonders sometimes if perhaps I am the tooth fairy. They’re growing up.
I spent the rest of that evening exiting the denial stage and learning to accept that my kids will not always call me mommy, being just a little bitter than our three girls will likely always call my husband daddy, and wondering how inappropriate it would be to put all my eggs in Carter’s basket and make him the world’s biggest mama’s boy just so I could feel some love (I won’t).
The next morning I sipped my coffee after my husband left and the kids slept, fully prepared for my little girl to come out of her bedroom and say, “Good morning, mom,” and kiss me. She didn’t. She called me mommy. It’s been a few weeks and she’s not yet called me mom again. My heart feels really good about that, but I know it will one day happen.
I don’t like it. I really don’t; but I also understand that it doesn’t mean anything. I know that when their classmates begin calling their parents ‘mom and dad’ rather than mommy and daddy, my kids might follow suit (well, not Ava; that kid is a leader). It doesn’t mean they love me any less. It just means they’re growing up. They might not need me as much anymore as they do now or did before, but they’ll always be my babies and I’ll always be their mommy. They’ll always want me to put my arms around them when they’re sick, when they’re hurt, sad, scared or upset; I’m their person. I always will be. I’m their mom(my). Two letters won’t change how much they love me or I love them.