A few nights ago, I was woken by the sound of my 21-month-old child calling my name.
“Mom! MOOOM! MAAAAAM!”
It was 1:30 in the morning. And he was really screaming, more than calling. “Mom! Mom! Mom! MAAAM!”
It was impressive really, the rhythms that he used. I was so proud of how loud he could be and how already he had out-grown the babyish “mommy” for the full on, “MOM!” My little guy is growing up.
After some Tylenol and rocking and several more minutes of shouting, he fell asleep. It was three in the morning. At five, it started all over again. “MOM! MOOOM! MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAAM!”
I remember when my daughter was an infant. I would wave toys in front of her as she looked at me unimpressed from the bouncy seat. What will her voice sound like? What will she say? I didn’t have long to find out. My daughter started speaking when she was about nine months old. Starting with “Hi, dada” and moving quickly onto, “Mo mo cookie!” and my personal favorite, “No, mom!”
In fact, she could scream at me in full sentences before she could walk. A feat, she finally mastered at 18 months old. Right after she learned to correctly identify a space shuttle and Venus. It took maybe a month of her talking before I instantly regretted ever wanting to hear what she had to say. As it turns out, all babies have to tell you is how you are failing and that they want more syrup and waffles, no pancakes! How could you even think that they wanted waffles?
Today, my friend Natalie reminded me that one of the first things my daughter said to her was, “Stop dancin! No dancin!” She said this as Natalie tried to dance with her.
Recently, my sister was lamenting that her daughter hasn’t quite gotten the hang of talking yet. My niece is very intelligent. She toddles around frowning and making small marks in notebooks. They are probably alien code, relating back to her home planet just how disappointing we all are as humans. She’s going to have her first book out at the age of four titled. “Sleep Train This! How to Break Your Parents and Win Supremacy of the Home.”
I told my sister that she doesn’t want to hear what her daughter has to say. Because, sure, while “I yub you.” Is really sweet to hear. You literally only hear it after giving them a fourth cookie and when you tell them you are out, they scream and probably say some sort of garbled version of “you are dead to me.”
I used to think that hearing the words “Mommy” would be some sort of sweet reward for the bloody nipples and eyeball quaking exhaustion, but I know I know–“Mommy” is one of the worst words in the English language. My kids weld “Mom” like a weapon. “MOM! YOU DID NOT BUY DA RIGHT COOKIES!” “Mom! Is dat on sale? Daddy said we should only buy fings on sale.” Or, just the classic: “Mommomomomomomomomomomomomom!”
I’ve been working on teaching my son to say charming things like, “I’m gun be two!” (right now he just holds up five fingers and says, “FREE!” So, I’m nailing it.) And I successfully trained my daughter to sing, “Julio get the stretch!” But its all paltry comfort compared to “MOM! I HAVEN’T HAD ANY SCREEN TIME YET TODAY!”
Because no one ever says, “Mom” without some sort of expectation. It’s never, “Mom! Let me do the dishes.” Or “Mom, I bought you some scotch!” It’s always “Mom, my brudder put germs in my tacos and I won’t eat it.”
I have been at Target without my children and heard a child shout “MOM!” and I’ve whipped around and said, “What!?” Other parents don’t even judge you for that. They just look at you enviously, because even though you are having parenting PTSD, you are alone with your latte. Sweet glorious freedom that it is.
I understand kids are just little. They have needs and their needs mostly include wanting to sniff your breath to see if you were eating all the chocolate. I get it. But I’m beginning to think it doesn’t end. Like in 15 years I’ll be fielding phone calls: “Mom, can you do my laundry? My hovercraft broke again can I have a new one?”
I met someone recently who calls her mom Terry. That’s her name, Terry. And I just thought how Terry might have had this whole thing figured out already. Good job, Terry.