My 3-year-old son went through a stage where he was calling my husband and I by our first names.
I think all kids do this at some point, but it was getting a little embarrassing in public to have my toddler yelling after me, “Hey Mandy!” So one day I said, “James, did you know that you and your brother are the only people in the whole wide world who can call me Mommy? No one else can call me that. Everyone else can call me Mandy, but only you guys can call me Mommy.” That seemed to do the trick, for now at least. But as I was explaining this to him, I actually got choked up at the meaning behind those words.
I’ve had many titles in my life: daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, fiancé, wife, student, teacher, co-worker, boss, writer, pianist and more. I’ve also had lots of nicknames over the years. I’m “Peanut” to my dad, “Mandykins” to my mom, “Schmandy” to my mother-in-law (long story) and “Pookie” to my husband. Some of these things I still am, some I’m not, but currently I’m a mommy about 98.6 percent of my day.
Sometimes I feel like keeping count of how many times my children say “Mommy” in a day. It feels like a gazillion, and I only have two kids! How quickly we go from that euphoric joy of hearing our child say “mama” for the first time, to the fist-clenching, tongue-biting frustration of hearing it late into the night when bedtime is long past and exhaustion is kicking in. Then there’s the hurt when you hear it yelled at you in an angry outburst of “Mommy, go away!” How can one name bring on so many emotions?
For me, I think it’s the responsibility that comes with that name that makes it so emotional. Sure, being someone’s boss, or teacher, or wife all come with major responsibility, but there’s not someone depending on them for 100 percent of their needs. There is also training, hands-on experience and instruction manuals for most titles. But the day you become a mother, you’re in it for the long haul whether you feel competent enough or not. So of course there’s more emotional involvement with being called Mom — that name works the heart more than any other.
Elizabeth Stone said it best: “Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. “
So with my Mother’s Day flowers still brightening up my kitchen, and the sweet sound of my boys saying “Happy Mother’s Day” ringing in my ears, I’m going to strive to celebrate this name of mine more each day. Even when it brings on sorrow, or anxiety or frustration, I want to remember how lucky I am to have the name of mommy.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.