Most recently, my son has started to call me “mom” instead of “mama.” I can intellectualize his choice, understand that it’s the natural progression of things, but inside, it’s like a screw is tearing through its threads, and the fit is uncomfortable and tight.
I feel like I’m starting to go through a grieving process around this. Denial has seeped in. Perhaps it’s a mistake? But then, he’s now stressing the long middle vowel sound, like a deep moan. It’s the “o” and not the “a.” Not the last vowel sound.
No anger yet, but mostly some nostalgia and bittersweetness. Was it supposed to happen this soon? I didn’t think so. He’s on the cusp of turning six. Somehow, in my mind, I had thought this was the sort of thing a ten year old did. Not an almost six year old. Part of me says he’s still such a little guy, but the change in words reminds me that he is changing. Always changing.
My brain says that “mom” somehow means he needs me less. . . . but then I check myself and find he seems to need me just the same amount.
My brain says “mom” means he’s putting distance between us . . . but then he’s just as snuggly as ever. He’s just as tender and sometimes volatile, and all the same things. It’s just that one word.
My brain says, maybe I can talk him out of it. Re-teach him, keep him in the mama space for just a bit longer . . . but then, do I want to be *that* parent who squelches their kid, who has their kid lash out, dash out to parties, lie, just to create some space to grow?
I know I never needed to do that as a child or teenager. I had so much space to grow that there was no need to lie. I went to parties and told my parents. I didn’t tell them everything, but they usually knew where I was going.
And now him. I talk the talk about creating space, letting him individuate, differentiate, but when it comes down to it, can I actually walk the walk?
Each time he called me “Mom” today, I answered. I smiled. I felt the bitter and sweet. And then, I vowed - as I often do - to appreciate each moment with him. To put the phone down more and listen more. To play more and be playful more. To savor these minutes and hours and years like some precious one-bottle harvest of wine. And most of the time, I do pretty well.
I sometimes forget that the transition from child to adult is also my own transition. My son is growing up, but I am also growing as a parent. I learned how to bond, and now I am learning to let go. Sometimes he is the one crying, misunderstood, trying to figure it out. And right now, I am the one, crying, trying to figure it out. “Mom” instead of “Mama.” A new era and new growing pains of my own.