I apologize if you’ve read this elsewhere. I wrote a companion article to it and you can’t have one without the other. Sorry!
When I was younger I used to think about what it would be like to be a mother. I always knew it would happen one day, even when I wasn’t altogether sure that I wanted to be somebody’s wife. Back then I imagined that my first child would be a girl and that we would be madly in love with each other. There would be none of the mother/daughter angst I had with my own mother, no sir. We’d spend all of our time together painting each other’s toenails, doing each other’s hair and being bestest best friends.
I didn’t exactly get my wish. My first child turned out to be a boy, and while he does worship the ground I walk on we do not paint each others toenails. It took another seven years before I finally got my wish and had a girl to call my very own. Apparently my husband had his own ideas. He’s been plotting against me ever since Janey was born. When she was tiny and used to cry Mr. Rizzuto would run for the hills.“Can you take care of that?” he used to say. “I don’t want her to associate anything bad with me.”When that didn’t work he’d pretend that he was extremely busy with other things until I finally got up and dealt with her.
His plan was successful. Now Janey and her dad have a very exclusive mutual admiration society. My daughter is now 18 months old and for the last several months she’s been “talking.” Her vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds, but there is one word that she just doesn’t want to say: mama.
Naturally her first real word was “daddy,” or “da-ee,” as she puts it. Da-ee was used not only to address the man in question, but also in reference to anything happy or pleasant.
“Da-ee!” she’d say, pointing to the cookie jar.
“Da-ee!” she’d say when it was time for The Wiggles.
She even took to calling me da-ee. I guess she figured I’d know who she meant, so there was no point in learning a new word.
“Da-ee!” she’d say, holding her arms out to me.
“Mommy,” I’d tell her. “My name is mommy.”
“Oh, forget it,” I always ended up saying. I usually got tired of the game before she did.
“Why won’t she say my name?” I would ask my husband. “Doesn’t she like me?”
“I don’t know,” he’d answer, smirking. “’Daddy’ is easier to say than ‘mommy‘. Maybe ‘mommy’ is too hard. Why don’t you tell her to call you ‘mama’?
I decided to give it a try. Every time I picked her up I’d point to myself and say “mama.” I’d show her pictures of the two of us and say “mama.” Every sentence I spoke to the kid was punctuated with the word “mama.”
Eventually she learned a bunch of new words. Still, she refused to acknowledge me.
“Do you want some juice, Janey?” I’d ask.
“Joos!” she’d say.
“OK, but can you say ‘mama’?
“Joos,” she’d answer, holding her sippy cup.
“Shoos,” pointing to her feet.
“That’s right! Those are your shoes. Mama?”
“Daw,” pointing to Puppy R.
“Yes, Puppy is a dog. Mama?”
“Daw,” pointing to Noggin R.
“That’s right, Noggin is also a dog. Puppy is Noggin’s mama. Can you say mama?”
“Bay-bee,” pointing to herself.
“That’s right! You’re the baby. Mama?”
“Day,” pointing to her brother.
“Yep, that’s Damian. Mama?”
“Beep!” poking her belly button.
“Smart girl! Mama?”
“I’ll get your juice when you say ‘mama.’”
“Oh forget it!”
I started to give up hope. I resigned myself to the fact that she was going to be a daddy’s girl through and through. I told myself it wouldn’t be so bad, at least my son still thinks I walk on water. Besides, one day she’ll get her period and her dad will be nowhere to be found. She’ll be back.
Last week I had a really bad day at work. I came home angry and tired and headed straight for the shower. I was in the bathroom, dripping wet and mumbling to myself about polishing up my resume when a heard a little voice at the bottom of the stairs.
“What’s wrong baby?” my husband said.
I heard him scoop her up and walk up the stairs with her. The bathroom door opened and I stood there with a towel around me. Janey held out her arms.
“Who’s that?” said Mr. Rizzuto
“Mama,” said Janey, and wrapped herself around me.
I hugged her even harder.
“That’s right,” I said. “Mama.”
Now Janey calls me Mama all the time. In the morning she wakes up and says “Hi Mama!” I come home from work and she says “Hi Mama!” I’m thrilled to pieces. Isn’t she sweet?
The other morning I was dropping her off at the baby sitter’s when we ran into one of her contemporaries. They stood out on the sidewalk for a couple of minutes patting each other on the shoulders.
“Hi!” said the other baby.
“Hi Mama!” said Janey.
Isn’t she sweet.