I always wanted to hear the word, “Mommy” and know it was directed at me.
When I was a child, it was just me and my mother, “Mommie” as I call her, or as she sometimes signed her notes, “Mom E.” (Her name is Eileen.) And so to me, Mommie meant life, home, support. Love. It was where I got everything. When my mother calls today, I still call her Mommie, with a bounce in my voice.
It is a great word. I love the sound of it. I love how when you are in a public place and you hear children call for their mom, each mom knows which “Mommy” is directed at them.
The word carries several meanings. It can be filled with distress, amusement, joy. I have heard every emotion when my son calls for me with his Mommy!
When he experiments and calls me mom or mama, it does not feel right, like when a new friend calls me Rach. It seems off.
And so now that Mommy is my name, here’s what I have learned. It is a beautiful word, true, but two things have really taken me by surprise.
The first is how overwhelming it can be. At all hours coming at me.
“Moommmyyy!” At 3 in the morning.
“Mommy,” whispered in demands for more back rides.
“Mommy?” From his bed demanding water.
“Mommy!” He needs more snacks.
“Mommy?!” Did I hear him?
“Mommy!” He wants a show.
“Mommmmyyy … .” He wants everything and then everything again.
Sometimes, I admit, a break from hearing this name I so deeply desired would be nice.
The second thing, and what has been the most surprising, is that it is not the most powerful or the loveliest word in our house. For me, that word is “Daddy.”
I have been so taken by how much I love the sound of Daddy. Daddy was not a word in my childhood home other than talking about a man who had died way before his time. It was a sad word. It was spoken, we did not shy away from talking about him, but always with a slight pause right before. It did not roll off the tongue. There was nothing organic about it for me and when I heard someone else use the word nonchalantly while greeting or referring to their own father, I noticed and was jealous. When my mother remarried and he even went on to adopt me, becoming my father, he was never Daddy. For by then, I was too old to take on the term.
So now to hear Daddy screaming through my house on a daily basis is a pure delight. And not just because it is an unfamiliar term, but because my husband is quite the daddy.
“Where’s Daddy?” is a daily, often hourly, refrain.
“At work,” I respond.
“I want to wait for Daddy on the porch.”
And so we wait. And then he comes home and Benjamin squeals and runs and puts books out in his room to act as bases and plays baseball with his Daddy and then golf and then books and then trains and then more golf and then bedtime with Daddy as the special closing storyteller, until they are both exhausted.
This morning, when Jay went to take a shower, Benjamin kept trying the handle, fiddling with it, trying to get it to open, demanding, “Daddy! I want to come in. Daddy! Daaadddy!” And he didn’t stop. “Daddy!”
I was not jealous of this demand for the other parent. I was thrilled (first a little of the burden on me was lifted, but also because Benjamin imbues the word with such affection and wonder). And so I went and sat on the floor with him and waited. I remembered when I was younger when my father was still alive, and taking my pillow and my pink satin blanket and making a makeshift bed outside my parents’ bedroom, waiting for both of them to come out, with me there to greet the day. And as I waited, this time with my son for his father on the floor looking up from this angle, I was reminded of the awe children see in their parents. And to our son, right now, Mommy and Daddy are awesome. I know that will not last, so I am reveling in it just a bit.
The word Daddy, which was tinged with regret and history of a troubled man has been replaced for me by the word Daddy, one full of play and love and stability. I very clearly know that they are not the same men nor do they fulfill the same roles for me, but their names, Daddy, overlap now.
Mommy is the name I worked very hard to come to, but Daddy is the term that has the sweetest sound.
Rachel Zients Schinderman lives in Santa Monica with her family. She can be reached at Rachel@mommiebrain.com.