His first word was mama.
Actually, it was probably something more like mmm mmm mmm, but I totally knew what he meant. Soon, it became a clear ma ma with a cute little pause between the syllables. I loved hearing it.
I remember one time when he was six months old, his grandfather tried to hold him and carry him into another room to watch a football game. This decision was met with screams and tears. I took my baby back into my arms, and then, his little body filled with all the infant indignation he could muster, he looked right at his grandpa and shouted, “MA MA” as though to say, How dare you take me out of sight of my mommy, you crazy man? He put his head on my shoulder, patted my back with his tiny hand, and whispered “ma ma” to me next, reminding both he and I that this is where he belonged.
Ma ma soon turned into Mommy, which is my favorite word in the entire world… and that’s probably a good thing considering I hear it about a million times a day starting at 6:30 am.
It feels so good to be needed, to be loved so completely, to be honored with the title Mommy.
I remember watching the movie Father of the Bride and seeing Steve Martin see his daughter as a literal little girl. I’d heard older adults speak of their adult children and say things like, she’ll always be my baby. Before I became a parent, those things meant nothing to me. I thought, oh I can’t wait. I can’t wait to run and play and ride bikes together. I can’t wait to grow with him, to honor his stages of development.
And now, here we are and the stages are coming so fast… too fast; they are stacked on top of each other. It seems like every time I close my eyes, I open them to a different child.
It feels like yesterday when he was only our “two-bite baby” (we used to track his growth as a fetus by how many bites we thought it would take to eat him, like how they sell brownies…) He was just a gray and white swirl in an ultrasound picture, and now he’s running, talking about kindergarten, and trying to ride a bike with no training wheels.
I’m breathless from trying so hard to catch each moment, to see each new thing… Yes, I tell him, a hundred times a day, Mommy’s watching – and I am, I really really am –
and then… and then… this fetus, this newborn… calls for me from the backseat and says, “hey, mom.”
It went like this:
Kai: Hey, Mom
Me: What did you just call me?
Kai: Mom, it’s the first part of Mommy, I call you Mom sometimes now.
aaaaand that’s all I could hear because the rest was drowned out by the sound of my heart SHATTERING INTO A MILLION PIECES.
I know I’m technically his mother, even his mom. But, I’m his Mommy… there’s so much weight in that word, Mommy. He’s the only person in the world who can call me that. It’s his name for me; it’s who I see myself as now. Five years ago, I was Ava, just Ava. Now, I’m Ava+: I’m Kai’s mommy.
Moms make you dinner, buy you clothes, and drop you off at school.
Mommies are holders and kissers, boo boo healers, adventurers, puppet makers, night-night time story tellers, hand holders, and first loves.
I’m raising him to be independent. I’m raising him to be strong. I’m raising him to not need me so much, and that is harder than I could have ever imagined. It’s so hard to know that if I’ve done this job right that he will call me mom… I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
Inside I’m still ma ma, still mommy whispered in his sweet baby voice as he falls asleep holding my hand. But now, though I’m not ready, he is, and so I’m also his mom as he experiments with being a big boy, as he toys with independence.
Every night after he’s asleep I stare at the boy he has become: I see how tall and strong he is, how defined his chin looks, how big his hands are. And then, I do what I will do every single night that he lives with us, I lean in to kiss his forehead, stroke his hair… and then his mom whispers to him: my sweet baby, mommy loves you.