Remember the first time you were called “Mom?” It sounded so weird, right? Kind of like the first time you were introduced by your significant other as “my wife.” It took some getting used to. And wasn’t it even more exciting, and even a little disorienting, the first time your baby started calling out for “ma!” Usually, it was a weak cry for “maaaaa” when hungry or upset. Then a happy “ma ma ma!” with giggles and clapping hands. Gradually it turned into a heart-melting “Mommy” from my toddler. “Mommy? Can you read me a book?” Or the desperate, tearful “Mommy!” with arms outstretched when my pre-schooler was upset, and no one else would do.
Now that my kids are older, I’m just “Mom” or “Ma.” And like many things, I started taking something for granted that was originally earth-shattering.
In fact, I even started cringing a little bit when I heard my name. It was usually delivered in that high, whiny tone, “Mommmmmmm?” when one of my kids’ needed or wanted something. “Mommmmmmm? Can I have something to drink/ another snack/ a new toy?” Or else it was a loud, harsh “MOM!” when a child wanted to tell on another one: “MOM! He won’t leave me alone/ he’s touching me/ he keeps making weird noises!”
I started feeling like the family servant. I was supposed to come swooping in to feed, arbitrate, or get something for children who were becoming more than capable of doing these things independently.
I was becoming annoyed, frustrated, and even resentful every time I heard my name.
I’d think I don’t want to hear my name one more time, and I’d yell to my kids, “Figure it out for yourselves!” I’d half-jokingly tell my husband that I was going to change my name or move out. I didn’t want to hear “mom” called out anymore.
Until one afternoon, my dad called me from his cell phone while spending some one-on-one time with my 5-year-old. He asked if he could take my son to get a special treat (which turned out to be chocolate milk and a brownie), and when I said yes, I heard my son in the background yell out, “Thanks, Mom!” For some reason, it stopped me in my tracks. Maybe it was because I usually didn’t hear my kids on the phone and his little voice sounded so cute. Or maybe because I wasn’t expecting him to be on the line, and his voice was so excited when he said my name. Either way, I teared up thinking about how my son would be starting kindergarten soon and how I wouldn’t be hearing “Mom” called out nearly as much as it used to anymore.
At that moment, I realized my kids weren’t the only ones that needed an attitude adjustment sometimes. So did I.
How lucky was I to have kids that needed me and still thought I could fix all their problems? Yes, it was my job to teach them to become more independent and resilient. But why was I focusing only on the times my kids drove me crazy? Why wasn’t I also noticed when they called out my name in excitement? It was crazy how quickly my kids were growing up. And while it was part of my job to teach them to stop complaining and to figure out their problems on their own, it was my job to stop complaining too.