Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jo v Mum

People who call their mothers mummy/mammy/mommy/mother etc are always a little alarmed to hear that my kids call me and their dad by our first names now. A little unsettled. Perhaps saddened. As if some great rift or gulf is widening between my children and me, as if they can never respect me or our maternal bond again because I allow them to see me as the person I am instead of just their mother? Or to see themselves as my equal? I'm not exactly sure what it is people are surprised by.

Here's the card I got today

It doesn't really resonate with me. Olivia sure as hell never called me Mammy. You can tell by the way it's spelled. But it's 'mammy' in her spelling book. I'm not sure how they decide on that. Personally I find it a wee bit condescending that they did. But maybe that's just me.

She started calling me Jo as she liked the fact that it sounded more grown up. It irritates her when me and Axl refer to each other as 'mum' and 'dad'. Which we only do in reference to each other, I hasten to add, not face to face. Your dinner's ready, daddy.  Shudder

See, I'm ok with that. She was so excited to show me this, talked about it for days. Phoned her dad and made plans about what to get. Told me all about the pictures and materials used. Spent two days telling me how she desperately wanted to show me already.

I lost Bodhi's mama a little earlier, because of his big sister. He likes calling me Jo. It feels right to him. He also likes sitting on my lap and sucking his thumb and rubbing my eyebrows and sticking his hand down my top for comfort. He likes me to kiss him better when he hurts himself, to give him a hug when he's sad, to sit beside him and let him hold my arm while he gets sleepy at bedtime. He likes me to make him food and admire his work and play with him. He tells me he loves me, he likes me, that I'm the best mum, that I'm beautiful! I don't feel any less bond with him or less his mother because he decided at three to stop calling me mum.

The other day Axl was getting ready for work and Bodhi wanted something from him. More tickles, more playfights, more being thrown on the bed, I think. In the midst of being tickled for asking, he called out, 'PLEEEASSE DADDY!!' in a pathetic voice, which was both hilarious and disturbing. I had him flagged as a master manipulator until he informed us it's what Peppa Pig says when she wants something (grr, I fucking hate Peppa Pig, she's a horrible role model). It was creepy and alarming more than cute though, I found.

For me, I stopped calling my parents mum and dad fairly early on. Mama changed to Mummy and then Mum due to peer conformity in school. Daddy changed to Dad and was just never very natural in the first place. Not comfortable, or right, I felt. I wanted that distance, that release from emotional roles I didn't know how to play. I don't think that's why my children have made the change, to be honest. Maybe it is in Olivia's case, and if so, so be it. Better for her. I'm certainly not going to force some filial subjugation on her if she wants to reject it and assert herself. I don't think she'll love or respect me more for doing that. I don't feel rejected.

In fact, adults who call their parents mum and dad - well, sure, lots do, but it feels a bit weird to me, to be honest. Plus, the worse the relationship, the weirder it seems to me. It's a tie I can't quite understand. And I'm the needy one, I know what a close relationship with my mother was, what I've lost in it. And I didn't need to keep calling her mum to have that.

Ulitmately, I don't think there's anything wrong with a child seeing their parent as the person they are, rather than just the parent shape they occupy. I've no problem being mum, far from it, and Olivia calls me it again sometimes these days. But I like that they like me being Jo. I like being Jo. I don't think there's anything to be sad about.


morgor said...

My 40 year old sister still calls my Mam, Mam.

My Dad calls her by her actual name though.

Jo said...

Sure, I mean, lots of people do, I'm sure it's the norm. I just don't think it should be so alarming when people do it differently.

mammydiaries said...

You know what? This is the first time I've actually seen a blog about this. Personally, I think that it's like a lot of other things in life. We do them without question because that's how it's "done," and because as a society we tend to like things to be right and wrong, good and bad (especially when it comes to parenting) we get a bit nervous when people do things different to the rest of the flock. Obviously what they are doing is wrong, because it's not hat we're doing and we are doing what's best for our children who we love more then life itself, and if it turns out that what they are doing is right, then where does that leave us? (If that makes any sense) I think it's just a question of first of all realizing that not everything is black and white and that sometimes, just because everyone's doing it, doesn't mean that its the best way to do things.

Jo said...

Well it's just a strange one. I know there's a lot in a name. It's just the idea that we're all losing something because the kids reject the moniker of 'mammy' or whatever seems a little strange. I mean, if they were calling me Bitchface it would be different, I know :)

Mwa said...

I think whatever makes you all happy is right for you.

With my parents, I stopped calling them mama and papa because I wanted some distance and because I needed to feel grown up. My dad likes it but my mum hates it so every time I say her name it feels like I'm stabbing her. But if I say mama it feels like I'm stabbing me. I end up saying all kinds of roundabout things just to avoid it now. Ick.

Geeks in Rome said...

This makes so much sense. i never really thought about it but it explains why my mom and I migrated to pet names for each other.
Some how I started calling her Moosie and she started calling me Mousie. Being called a Moose sounds like a huge insult, but (cartoon) Moose are cute and kissable!! most of my siblings had nicknames for each other, too.

Maybe these pet names were a way to establish distance without crossing what I think is still considered taboo at least in my day -- calling yr parents by their first names.

But I still call my mom "Ma" which is kind of what everyone in our boon town calls their mothers.
I would never call her by her first name. I don't know why. It sounds too stiff and formal for me. I like that I am a privileged minority that can call her "Ma."

We were big on pet names in our family and I am continuing the trend. It starts with the cats and goes on to the kids, trying to make the silliest names: so ex. cats: flea bag, furr face etc..
each other: sweetie pie, pumpkin muffin, squishy bits...

Sorry they called you Mamy. Jo is a beautiful name. and it's not what they call you, but how :)
(which is mostly in a whiny tone of voice from the next room:)

morgor said...

I think most people like calling each other nicknames of some sort as it shows that you know them well.
I generally call my siblings and most of my friends by nicknames or of some sort.
Often degrading into foul insults in the case of male friends, but that's how we roll.
Calling people by their first names seems more formal, and I don't call anyone by their surname, not even my boss when i first met him.
Then again everyone is different.
Apparently in Korea, in the workplace, everyone refers to each other by professional title. "good morning Sales Manager" ugh!

Each to their own though eh!

laughykate said...

My mother hated being called 'Mum', which only kind of left 'Mother', which I could never get my head around. Everyone referred to her as 'The Mother'.

I started calling her 'Fruity' in my teens - and referring to her as 'The Fruitcake'. (She was nutty as a fruitcake).

All these years later she remains The Fruitcake.

Jo said...

Ha! The Fruitcake.

In Ireland, the head of the clan was known as 'The O'Brien' or whatever. And a colleague said her grandmother was christened 'The Dooley' (unrelated to their last name, I think) by her big brother when she was born. he always called her that, even in school, and therefore that was what she became, so she's now an octegenarian little Galway woman known as The Dooley :)

I was never a Mammy! Mum is fine, I miss being Momma a bit but they're having none of that.

I think Korea is a whole different kettle of fish, really.

Mwa, I know exactly what you mean. Exactly.