One day you are cuddling your beautiful newborn, soaking in the newness of this little life and dreaming of the future as you envision all those chapters in the parenting manuals and the very next minute you are hit in the gut as your preschooler throws you a curveball and calls you ….DUDE!
Blind-sighted and in shock you double take and wonder where exactly the chapter on transitioning from Mamma, Mommy, Mom to Dude is in that parenting manual.
How did you go from being your child’s adored, number one Mommy to just another Dude?
So, here it is ….the missing chapter in your parenting 101 books…
The transition from Mamma to Mommy
I remember when Hamish first started to talk, I really hoped his first word would be Mamma because let’s be real, I grew this beautiful baby for 9 months and he came out looking exactly like his dad so the least he could do is yell out a Mamma before giving dad a Dadda…right?
Alas, I joined the hundreds of other moms whose kids call daddy first.
But that first, sweet, angelic Mamma was like music to my ears and it became our first way of understanding each other.
Me whispering lullabies as he slept assuring him his mamma would keep him safe and calling out to him asking him if he was joining Mamma to go play, do shopping, clap hands or go for a walk. A reassuring tone as I reminded him throughout the day that his Mamma was running a bath, would be back soon, or just that she loved him with all her heart.
His screams of delight as he saw me in the morning and his calls to remind me he needed my attention. His cries with a heartsore Mamma if things got hard or if he got hurt and his clumsy “luff oo mamma” at bedtime to remind me that he loved me with all his heart.
We were happy. I was his Mamma and he had stolen my heart.
And without warning, something changed. One day my adorable toddler headed off to school, and this proud Mamma held her tears back as he waddled into his first classroom. That day he chattered and told his Mamma all about his fun day and his new friends and his teacher who sang colours with him.
A week later, as we climbed onboard our bus and headed home and as I listened to the events of his morning at school he looked up at me, bright blue eyes shining and said ” Mommy me got new friend”
Just like that my Mamma heart shattered a little. Teeny tiny moments of realization that in my little baby’s world, he was growing up. I had moved into a new category overnight and whilst he still loved his Mamma with all his heart , he was ready to explore, discover and create a bigger world around himself.
That night I cried in the bath. I wanted my Mamma boy to stay little. I wanted to cuddle him and hear the sweet sounds of Mamma again.
Being a veteran mom, I knew this time would come but my heart was completely unready to transition from Mamma to Mommy. I knew that his changing of my name only meant he needed me to grow to meet him in his development. That he needed a little more from his mamma.
Who is this Mom?
Slowly, I grew into Mommy. Over time I came to realise that Mommy was still called out in the same way Mamma had been. My little boy loved his Mommy with all his heart and needed only his Mommy if he was sad, anxious, unhappy or heartbroken.
We woke to morning cuddles with Mommy and long walks. Mommy and him played outside and found new bugs in the yard. We built playdough models and big brick towers and excitedly he would call his Mommy to come to see something or watch over him as he discovered new things.
By now my toddler was becoming a preschooler and he homeschooled with mommy.
I remember one day after a particularly trying day hearing Mommy every few seconds and just needing a few moments to myself, thinking I was going to change my name …..stop answering to the sound of Mommy.
The universe may have heard me that day or more realistically I may have taught my sweet little boy independence and given him the confidence to grow, and him knowing that I would love him with all my heart even if he did because he came home from school the one day and asked ” Mom can my friends come play”
Who exactly was this Mom he was calling?
In shock at hearing that Mommy was gone, my heart shattered just a little more.
My little baby wasn’t a little baby anymore. He was an inquisitive, confident, and social little boy busy learning the world around him to grow.
That night I cried in the bath. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to hear him sweetly call Mommy just one more time. The lump of tears grew bigger in my throat as I reminded myself that I’d done a good job raising a confident, independent, and loving little boy who knew his Mommy would love him even if he changed her name to mom.
Slowly over time, as with Mommy, I grew into my new title of Mom as I heard him call out to his friends ” My mom says you can play” ” My mom made the best cake” and more importantly as he cuddled me after his bedtime story and whispered ” I love you mom”
Slowly over time, he became more confident. He grew. His world got bigger but always he looked for Mom.
I understood. I knew that my new title meant that even if I wasn’t ready to let go a little he was.
He was ready to not always hold my hand when climbing down the stairs. He was ready to wave goodbye and play with a friend all day. He was ready to head off to school but he always knew that his mom was there if he called.
One night as we sat watching a movie and I reminded him that he had 5 minutes before bed he looked up at me and said ” Dude!”
I recoiled in shock. Who the hell is Dude?
I was prepared for Mommy and I knew I’d be Mom but who exactly is Dude?
My Mommy heart shattered in the realization that we had entered a new phase. A new area of growth and one I again was unprepared for. ( So much of parenting is being unprepared for a new phase or situation)
That night I sobbed huge tears in the bath. I don’t want to be my children’s friend. I am their mother. They only get one of me. They will have many friends throughout their lives.
The next day, we spoke and I explained that my Mommy heart doesn’t want to be called Dude. Hamish looked heartbroken: and said,” but Mom you are my Mom and my friend.”
And there it was ….the first real lessons in understanding boundaries and respecting others. How had we gotten to this point? My son is 5, not 15?
He no longer calls me Dude, unless we are both playing around and I’m happy being his mom.
I love hearing him explain to his friends with an exaggerated Dude or how he calls them over in his surfer style lazy drawn out Dude. I love hearing the shock in his voice as he speaks to his brothers with an eye Rolling Dude or how he refers to his sisters with a more gentle Dude but more importantly, I love to hear how he remembers to respect others by using their names. How he sets boundaries with the other people in his circle and how I know those lessons were first learnt by trying them on the one person who would love his heart forever….his mom.
As they grow
We are only 5 years into our journey together. We have a long way ahead on boundary testing and name calling.
He, like his siblings, will call me many things over the years. Each time, I’ll sit in my bath and cry as my heart shatters but each time I’ll love him, as I do his siblings, unconditionally, regardless of what he calls me, how hard it is to hear, how unprepared I am and because I know that it’s just a phase.
When it comes down to it my little boy will call his mom when he needs her, when he’s scared, when he’s sick, when he’s uncertain, when life gets too big. He will call his mom and share when he’s happy when he achieves and every so often when he remembers that he loves her with all his heart.
Moms …. that transition is real. It is inevitable. If we have taught our children well, encouraged independence and shown them enough love they will test us. They will push buttons and they will grow, gently guided by our words.
Regardless of if you are Mamma, Mommy or Mom …you won’t be ready for the last time they called you by a younger name. Your heart will shatter slowly each time, as you watch them grow but the three things we can give our children are :
Roots to come home to
And more importantly wings to soar.
So, enjoy the Mommy phase you are in right now.