Published: Alameda Sun, Thursday, February 23, 2006
If you are a mother, then you have heard these words, or some adaptation of the term of endearment, at least a million times in your career so far. That’s if your child can speak. If your little one has not yet turned audible sounds into meaningful language, then I know from past experience that you are longing for and certainly will bless the day when it arrives. The first few times—maybe the first hundred or so—that you hear your children call you “Mom” or “Mommy” is like listening to a beautiful song written just for you.
I am here to warn you that like the hit song that gets played to death and you can’t change the radio station fast enough at the sound of the first few chords, you may end up wishing you were “Dad.” Oh, were it so easy just to push a button to change the kid talk radio station that never has any dead air.
When my three girls were very young and adorable, they called me “Mama.” Oh, the sheer delight of the sound! It was great when they were toddlers and I could recount the latest cute kid story to family and friends. But when did it turn into an intolerable incantation that sounds like chalk on a chalkboard?
“Mom. Mom. Mom.” Could it be that it happens mostly when I am preoccupied with the many other things I do in a day? When I am on the phone or trying to make a deadline? When I am dealing with one of the three and the other two want my attention at the same time?
As sweet as it can be, it’s a powerful word, too. When I was a teenager spending summers at the Jersey Shore, my best friend and I would stand on the boardwalk and scream “Mom!” for fun, to watch all of the women on the crowded beach jump up to respond at the ready. I think it’s an example of how much power kids know they have over “Mom.” Maybe it unnerves me so because I know that it’s my job to be able to respond readily to whatever may follow.
I suppose it’s better than “Ma” which is what my brothers and sisters called my mother growing up. She hated it. As we got older, we did it to tease her, to torment her and we succeeded. If she were alive today, I would beg for her forgiveness. I get it now.