Monday, June 7, 2010

The Definition Of "Mama"

When I was pregnant with Jacob, I couldn't get over how uncomfortable I was with the word "mom." I didn't exactly like the word and I was not at all excited for it to be associated with me. Although I loved my own mom, I wasn't ready to be considered a "mom." To me the word meant frumpy, naggy, old and the very opposite of cool (think SNL's "mom jeans" skit.)

I disliked the name so much I even considered having my own kid call me something else. But that didn't work. In my mind and for reasons I cannot explain to you now, "mama" and all the other alternatives seemed even worse than "mom." Still, I couldn't fathom what it would be like to have someone call me "mom." The thought left a strange taste in my mouth.

Now, almost 2 years later, hearing the words "mama" come out of my son's mouth is up there with my top most favorite things in the world. I swear to you, there is no sweeter sound than hearing Jacob call me "mama." Whether he walks up to me for no particular reason, cheerfully exclaiming, "Hi Mama!" Or whether he is crying my name after a fall or in protest of his bed time. I especially love when he reaches his hands up to me and says "Mama, hold you!" It melts my heart every time.

I didn't love it overnight though. I had to grow into the name about as much as I had to grow into the role. When my son was a newborn and someone would hand him to me saying, "he wants his mama," I would internally recoil. (Not at my son, just at the word). "Really? Do I look like a mama? Because I don't feel like someone who would be called a mama." It wasn't until my son started to talk and refer to me as "mama" that I started to warm to the word. The way he said it just dripped with babycheek-pinching sweetness (oh my gosh, yes, I became one of those people who pinches their kid's cheeks- help!).

Recently, my husband shared with me how much he loves when Jacob looks at him and says, "Da-da!" And I knew exactly what he was talking about. Maybe hearing your child call you "mama" or "dada" is so pleasant because it conveys a sense of belonging, connection or attachment. Maybe it evidences that special bond that only a parent can truly have with another human being: the bond of creation or the bond of sharing the same flesh as another person (but I'm sure non-biological parents feel the same way). Maybe it has to do with an instinct, ownership or a feeling of pride. Or maybe it just has to do with the cuteness that radiates from every square milimeter of my kid's skin surface area (that's the closest I will ever come to doing math on this blog).

All I know is that whatever IT is, IT is so very strong. I could be dead set not to let my son have another cookie. I can be firmly planted in my decision not to let him watch Elmo. I could be determined not rush and pick him up and baby him each time that he falls down. But all he has to do is reach for me and cry "mama" and the game is over, I'm powerless. Clearly, I will not be the disciplinarian in this family.


Shantelle said...

Awww I know exactly what you mean. Mine still doesn't quite know that I am Mama, but she definitely knows Dada and it's so sweet. Sometimes I think she might be figuring out I'm Mama, but it's usually just using the word for fun.

I'm sure it will be great until they are 3 or 4 and it's MAMA! MAMA! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOOOOOOOOM!

LEO said...

I felt the exact same way when I was pregnant and do now too! Nothing melts my heart more than hearing that word from Timmy!