A few days ago, my eldest daughter left her carefree childhood days behind to enter her tumultuous teenage years. The tween years were trying. The endless eye rolls, the heavy stomping, the slamming of doors, the unexpected tears, the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. It was bittersweet. I watched the child my daughter once was slowly disappear, leaving me with this new person who no longer called me Mommy, but Mom.
In all of the changes, this is what stopped my heart. The first time I heard it, I looked around, wondering who said that. No one in my house called me Mom. I shrugged it off until I watched that word come out of my daughter’s mouth, meant for me. I felt like it was a word bullet, hitting me directly in my chest. Stopping my heart, halting my breath. Mom. Was I now Mom?
It may just be a word, but it was more than that for me. It was leaving behind not only Mommy, but the little person that once called me that. It was closing that chapter, twelve years of arduous work and interminable joy. Mommy bounced off her tongue the way her baby curls would bob up and down as she ran. Mommy had a childhood softness and need that wrapped my identity tight, like her pink cast in the summer of her third year. I knew who Mommy was, Mommy was me.
Mom, I had not met her yet. Would Mom be curt and cutting as the word sounds? Or would Mom be the same no matter what is thrown at her, a parental palindrome? Would Mom carry softness in the center, like the letter o, flanked by consistency and stability? Would Mom still have Mommy tucked inside of her, only now more grown up?
I don’t have the answers because I’m still getting used to Mom. I’m getting used to the fact that Mom has a teenager. A beautifully smart, creative, and witty teenager whose response to why she changed my name was, “Mom, I think it would look weird if I, a person taller than you, was calling you Mommy. Think of it as a nickname. You’re still Mommy inside, you’ll always be Mommy. Just like I’m always your baby.”
Point taken, ruminated, and received. Just like I’ve watched this child grow into a young woman, I’ve grown right alongside her. That’s the tricky nature of motherhood, allowing for growth while savoring the present. Not only in our children, but ourselves. Encouraging them to find themselves and expand into independence, while we tend to our own selves and get to know who we are in the present. Even if that means leaving a piece of ourselves, Mommy if you will, behind and openly embracing our new selves. Mom.