I remember when each of my three boys said “mama” for the first time. Long before they were ready or able, I would watch with great anticipation as they pursed their apple-shaped lips, mumbling “mm-mmaa mm-mmaa mm-mmaa,” determined not to miss the first official utterance of my new moniker. It’s difficult to explain how one small word can produce such intense emotions.
It was like the day they said it they had truly claimed me as their One True Love.
As they grew, they got the hang of “Mama,” and eventually, “Mama” became “Mommy.”
Mama changed their diapers, nursed them, lay by their sides as they were falling asleep and came running when they woke calling for her deep in the night.
Mommy made them countless meals (that they refused to eat), took them to the library and the playground and their first days of school. With Mommy, they learned to read and to ride a bike. They took the bus to school and became more and more independent with Mommy close by their sides.
Honestly, I don’t even remember the first time, but at some point, on some ordinary day, it happened. Maybe my oldest couldn’t find one of his baseball cleats or his basketball jersey. Perhaps my middle guy wanted a ride to a friend’s house or permission to ride around the block. And there it was—suddenly, I wasn’t Mommy anymore. I had become Mom.
I never really thought too much about it until recently. My youngest child, a full five and a half years younger than his next oldest brother, fully understands and embraces his role as the Sayer of Cute and Clever Things and wistfully says “I love you, Mommy” at many unexpected moments throughout the day. I now know that, far too soon, when he tells me he loves me, it will be in the offhand way of a preteen or the embarrassed rush of a teenage boy, and Mommy will not be the name he chooses with which to address me. I will be Mom to him as well.
It’s coming. Soon. My job title and description will change once more.
Where once Mommy kept him within arm’s reach so she could tend to his every need, Mom will now take a step back and let him learn things for himself, let him succeed and fail and learn and grow and become who he is meant to be in this world. She’ll still be there, but she’ll just be standing a little farther back.
Being their Mom is lovely. It’s an honor I will always cherish. I will be Mom to my boys for the rest of our lives. But a part of me will always miss being their Mommy.
So, for now, when my youngest whispers those words—”I love you, Mommy”—I stop. I listen well. I let the words wash over me, sink in and hydrate my soul. I wrap him in my arms and tell him, “Mommy loves you too.”