By Audrey Hines McGill
My six-year-old son has newly christened me “Mom” instead of his usual “Mommy” lately. Somehow the fact that he will be turning 7 has deemed that the “y” is suddenly an unnecessary suffix of the name I’ve been known by since he first started talking. Though every milestone my youngest child reaches is exciting, left behind are discarded remnants of the familiar, and I feel an ever-increasing ache for the now unreachable past. My freshly minted name is just another reminder that a period of my life is changing and morphing into something else.
I’ve identified as a Mommy since the moment my first son was born almost 9 years ago. Echoes of that Mommy live in a jumbled heap in my memory—midnight dashes to bedrooms when they were sick; holding them close when nightmares would interrupt their peaceful slumber; and those frequent moments when they were hurt, frightened, or unsure of a new situation. The viselike grips of my hand and desperate whines of “Mommy” when that dreaded first day of Kindergarten arrived; cries of “Mommy” from far ends of the playground when they would fall from the monkey bars and my heart would stop beating for just a split second; screams of “Mommy” from grocery store aisles when a display was accidentally knocked over. And my favorite, “I love you, Mommy” whispered into the quiet stillness of the night as they were falling asleep.
And suddenly I look up and that Mommy has vanished, the only evidence of existence in hazy memories and fading photographs. A new person known as Mom is clumsily emerging in her place. This Mom is still a stranger to me, though I am quickly learning her role. “Can you help me, Mommy?” has been replaced with, “No Mom, I can do it by myself.” Instead of the sweetest “I love you, Mommy” sometimes screams of, “I hate you, Mom” are hurled like daggers into my heart.
But this Mom’s thoughts are not clouded by sleep deprivation, and a glass of wine (or two) can be enjoyed without worry of having to nurse soon. New Mom has children in school all day and can relish in a quiet house to work and write in. But this Mom sometimes confuses herself with Mommy and secretly follows her children to school just to make sure they get to their classrooms safe and sound. When there are stories of school shootings and violence, she has an urge to email the teachers just to make sure her kids are okay. Frequently, she envisions what this new Mom’s life might sound like: “Mom, I’d rather hang out with my friends,” “Mom, I passed my Driver’s Exam, can I borrow the car?” “Mom, I got into my first choice college but it’s on the other side of the country.” Or, “Mom, I’m in love and I’m getting married!”
And though the sadness that time cannot slow down sometimes threatens to overwhelm me, I feel a certain peace because this is the way it’s supposed to be. I am meant to help my boys grow and evolve into loving, moral, and engaging young men. I am supposed to foster their independence so they can make their way into the world with confidence and success. And I will grow and evolve too. My role will naturally shift from primary caretaker to a secondary support system. This mother warrior will eventually shed her armor because she will have taught her sons to wear their own. And then she will discover who she is all over again.
Audrey Hines McGill is a contributing writer and West Coast expat currently living in Northern Virginia. She is a busy mother to her two active boys and scattered wife to her understanding husband. She runs regularly because it’s cheaper than therapy and loves coffee so much she could write poetry about it. She is writing her way through life one paragraph and one cup of coffee at a time.
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