The Day My Daughter Stopped Calling Me “Mommy”

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My 3-year-old daughter was having a blast playing in the bath. But our normal routine turned into a gut-wrenching moment when she turned to me and asked, “Can you get me some more toys, Mom?”

It was such a simple question, but one that rocked my little world of motherhood. My toddler, who’s called me Mommy for as long as she could speak, had just called me Mom.

Like any mother, I waited with excitement for her first milestones. I dutifully copied down each one in a journal and took a hundred pictures just to get the right one. And when she first called me Mommy, I realized that was it — the moment I didn’t even know I’d been waiting for. She was finally a big kid. It seemed like all the sleepless nights, mom guilt, and wondering if I was doing the right thing finally added up.

“Mommy” was the person she turned to when she woke up crying in the middle of the night, when she was hungry, or when she got a boo-boo. And being called Mom, even though it was something so small, made it seem like her autonomy was taking over. I knew it wasn’t exactly logical, but my perception of feeling needed immediately shifted. I saw the future play out before me and got my first real glimpse of her growing up.

After that first time, we’d make something of a joke out of it. When she’d call me Mom, I’d pretend like I couldn’t hear her until she called me Mommy. It would throw her into fits of giggles until she’d finally say, “Okay, okay, Mommy.”

And that was the thing I came to realize. I know who “Mommy” is. I’ve spent the last four years getting to know that aspect of myself. I’ve honed my patience, watched my love grow, and traversed the confusion that comes with new motherhood.

But “Mom?” I don’t know who that is or what the journey will be like to get there. It’s unknown territory, and quite frankly, it’s scary. These first four years have been a constant give and take, push and pull experience that’s shaped me more than anything else. And to think about embarking on a new path when I’m just now getting the hang of this one? Um, yikes.

The thing is, being a parent is a funny journey — a unique, but shared experience. The rights of motherhood are liberally bestowed from the first plus sign on the pregnancy test to the moment you hear their heartbeat on the sonogram. Motherhood claims you in different ways throughout every stage. There are no discrepancies along this journey. You’re just consumed with a love and passion — an obsession born of insane and intense joy.

And there are times you want nothing more than to just give up. Some days you want to toss in that dirty, milk-drenched, tear-stained towel that’s cleaned up way too many messes to count.

But then you see their face.

They may not look like you, but you see yourself in them. Maybe it’s the tip of their nose, their delicate ears, their stubbornness, or their refusal to fit in. And you think, “I want them to be better than me.” So you don’t give up.

Give in? Yeah. Probably. Sometimes often.

You give in to the pacification of the iPhone games, the drive thru, the toy they must have, or the glass of wine and Netflix binge you’re looking forward to after bedtime. But you’ll never give up. Because you’re their mountain mover. You are the vision they can’t see themselves, the listening ear, the chauffeur, the cheerleader, the tutor … the everything.

When I heard my daughter call me Mom, I wanted to give up. How could I come to terms with my shifting identity from Mommy to Mom?

Over the next few days, I reflected incessantly on why it bothered me so much. I knew it had nothing to do with her and everything to do with me. I slowly and painfully came to realize that as she grows, her view of me does, too.

I’m a mother, a friend, a comforter, a disciplinarian, and everything in between. And you know what? That’s okay. I see those similarities that form a major part of our bond. I love it, but at the same time I can separate myself enough to know that I want more for her. I want her to be better than me. So instead of giving up, I can give in at certain times.

The essence of motherhood lies in the heart — in the very spirit of our being. It’s laced like a drug in the blood that runs through our veins. So no matter whether they call you Mommy or Mom, you look at them and say, “I love you,” as if they could possibly comprehend the depth of those words from parent to child. It’s those very words that help you realize that motherhood does not lie in the name your child calls you, but in the heart.

I’m sure the journey ahead will be filled with more confusing moments, tears, and joy that I have yet to imagine. The role of “Mommy” has helped shaped me; but I can’t wait to see who “Mom” will turn out to be.

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