I was first called "Mommy" on my 28th birthday. I had already been a mother for over three years, but my oldest child had a moderate speech delay that kept him on the toddlerish "ma-ma" longer than is probably typical. But on that day, my birthday, my preschooler suddently piped up with a heartfelt "Mommy!" What an amazing birthday gift, I thought to myself. I was relieved at his improving speech patterns, of course, but more than that, I felt I had joined a revered club. I was somebody's mommy.
Boy, was I ever.
That was August of 2000. In addition to my "mommy"-saying preschooler, I had a lightning-fast 18-month old toddler who never met a surface he didn't try to jump off of. When I wasn't wrangling him off the furniture, I was dashing to the bathroom, sick as could be from the third little person growing in my belly.
I built spectacular Thomas the Tank Engine tracks. I could change a diaper in the dark in under 30 seconds. I could nurse a baby in a moving car without ever unbuckling him (don't ask). I went to playgroups, library story times, and I was never more than three feet from a box of wet wipes.
I was Mommy.
I wonder how many times I heard that word? Mommy, I'm scared. Mommy, I'm hurt. Mommy, he hit me. Mommy, it's my turn. Mommy, what's that? Mommy, how does it work? Mommy, I'm hungry. Mommy, I want that. Mommy, I don't want that. Can I, Mommy, please, please, please, pleeeeease? Mommy, watch this. Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy.
It was beautiful to me, most of the time, except on the exhausting days when I wished everybody could develop laryngitis all at once. I could hear it and know instantly who was saying it, what he needed, and precisely where in the house he could be found.
Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy. Hubs and I would hear it from the backseat on long car trips. He would look at me in amazement. "Do they always say your name that much?" he asked. I nodded.
And then, shockingly, just around the time the firstborn suddenly shifted to "Mom", the surprise fourth child arrived to add her voice.
Mommy, mommy, mommy. It was my music. My theme song. The soundtrack of a season that has followed me until this, the approaching summer of my 41st birthday.
"I need to ask you something," my youngest child said to me last week. She was very serious. I sat down.
"I think I'm one of the last of the second graders to say 'mommy'," she explained. She paused pensively. "Would you mind if I just called you 'mom' now?"
It is touching to me that she would ask. I guess she needed to make it official, with a pronouncement. She's her mother's daughter, after all.
I smiled and shrugged. "Call me whatever you want," I told her. "I'll come running."
She kissed me and hopped up, off to the next thing. But I sat for a second more, mentally placing a bookend. I guess that's that.
It's funny how the little things are sometimes so big. It's just a name, a word I've heard so many thousands of times it's a wonder I could hear it at all. But that's the job, isn't it? We are what they need us to be, and their name for us reflects that.
Call me whatever you want. I'll come running.
Thank you for my sweet mommy years, kids. Thank you for letting me love you and comfort you like only a mommy can. Thank you for growing up into people who can cut their own meat and wipe their own nose.
I love these days.