You have a baby. You survive the shock of that first year. You
slowly accept your new world order. Then it happens. Your child
finally says "Mama." Video cameras are pulled out. There is an
entry made in the baby book. Grandma is called.
And if you are me, you immediately begin working with your child
on your preferred designations:
Blame Vicky Lawrence. Blame "Mama's Family." Blame the popular
expression "Baby Mama." I don't like the term "Mama." Never have,
never will. I would not like it in a box. I would not like it with
My Mama-sporting friends consider me snooty. One pal with
southern roots claims that "Mama" is the most endearing of all
maternal epithets. I argue back, insisting that it is one of the
easiest words in the dictionary to pronounce. It is practically a
child's excuse to not enunciate.
My friend rolls her eyes and fights the urge to slap me upside
the head. She is used to me by now.
My two older sons were successfully weaned off "Mama" early on.
I would be "Mommy." This would later evolve into "Mom." Yet my
4-year-old son, Joey, in an act of complete defiance, insists on
calling me "Mama." I correct him relentlessly:
JOEY: Mama, can I please have some juice?
JOEY: MAMA! Why aren't you listening?
ME: I didn't know you were talking to me.
JOEY: (Getting the gist): Oh, MAMA. You so funny. You are Danny
and Jack's "Mommy," but you are MY MAMA! Ha ha. Dat funny how you
didn't answer me. You are funnier than Mickey Mouse, MAMA.
Despite my continued efforts to get Joey to drop "Mama" from his
vernacular, he rejects all alternatives. His stubbornness is what
defines him. Here is a child who refused to eat for two days
because I would not buy him Cocoa Puffs. During potty training, he
sat on the toilet for 10 hours because he did not want to wear
underwear. Even as I tried coaxing him off with treats, he stayed
put. For 10 hours. For once in my mothering life, I caved. I am not
a caver. But I had essentially met my genetic match in terms of
I would never admit this to Joey himself, but it actually does
my heart proud.
So I suppose I should have expected my willful youngest child to
dig in on the whole Mama issue. Not willing to surrender, I cast
aside my standard "my-way-or-the-highway" approach. I opted to use
some of that "soft parenting" stuff that is all the rage:
Talk to your child.
Explain your reasons.
Don't just say "no."
I sat Joey down for our big heart-to-heart. I calmly described
how sometimes people just don't like certain words. I provided
examples of words he himself disliked: naptime, carrots, NO. A
light clicked on, and the world's most obstinate 4-year-old seemed
to understand. He nodded. He gave me a hug. Then he told me:
"OK, I won't you call you Mama anymore. I will call you
At last. Maybe all that touch-feely crap truly holds water?
As Joey turned and ran towards his LEGOs, he gleefully shouted
one parting sentence:
"I love you, MARIANNE WALSH!"
That's right. My youngest child now calls me by my first and
last name. He has taken to doing the same with my husband. Out in
public, you will hear Joey scream:
Marianne Walsh! I have to PEE!
Marianne Walsh! I got stuff in my NOSE!
Marianne Walsh! Why did you put me in timeout for an HOUR?
Sure, we get some strange looks, but I am chalking it up to "a
phase." I choose to believe he will outgrow this preference
eventually. And if he doesn't?
Well, it still beats "Mama."
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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