When their third grade teacher commented on how sweet she thought it was that my kids still called my husband and me “Daddy” and “Mommy” I took note. When several fourth grade teachers noted it a year later, I took note again. Our kids will turn 11-years-old this summer, and still they call me “Mommy” or “Mama” and my husband “Daddy”.
I can only say it delights me.
I distinctly remember when a friend of mine, another triplet mom whose kids are two years older than mine, told me to prepare for the switch from “Mommy” to “Mom”. Her kids were five-years-old and I was shocked that preschoolers might have already stopped using the name a new mom rejoices to hear. I was even more shocked the mom had allowed it.
At age four, my kids started preschool. Those first weeks were full of conversations about transitions—how to adjust to new schedules, new routines, and new influences. I gathered my little ducklings around me in a huddle early in the year and kneeled down so we were face-to-face. I looked each of them in the eye so they knew this was important. Then I shared with them wisdom about the ways of the preschool world.
“Kiddos, when you go to school, you’re going to find out that some families don’t do things the way we do them in our home.”
Three pairs of eyes looked at me questioningly as my adoring girls and their sweet brother hung on every word. Could they even possibly imagine what such a statement might mean? What other way was there to do things, besides how we did them in our home?
“You may have already heard some of your classmates. When some of them talk to their parents, they call them ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ not ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’.”
Three heads nodded slowly in assent. Yes, this was in fact what they had seen. It was beginning to sink in.
“In our family, Daddy and I still want you to call us ‘Daddy’ and ‘Mommy’. You guys aren’t old enough for ‘Dad’ and ‘Mom’. Those are names to be used by older kids—a long time from now, for you.”
“Okay, Mommy,” echoed three times, a harmony in my ears, and that was that. My kids were prepared.
And to this day, they have dutifully stayed the course. My husband and I are “Daddy” and “Mommy” and it is a joy, still, to hear those precious monikers. Sometimes I’m “Mama” which I find equally endearing, but even now, no longer with any prompting from me, I can tell that only “Mommy” and “Daddy” seem right. When one of our kids has a slip of the tongue and only “Mom” or “Dad” slips out, there is a noted silence, almost an unspoken awkwardness in the air. The names don’t seem quite right—not yet. Our kids mostly refer to us as “my mom” and “my dad” when they talk with their friends or classmates, but by name, we are not yet there.
It is remarkably special to me to have maintained these precious names over the years. It reminds me there is much to a name and that echoes of the quality and kind of our relationships can be found in how we address one another. I take delight in calling my kids by pet names or family nicknames. Similarly, “Mommy” and “Daddy” suggest an intimacy and indeed a certain child-likeness we have strived to preserve in our kids.
They are navigating childhood in a rapidly changing world. Conversations once reserved for adult ears only are now blasted across cable channels, marketed to children, and taught in schools. How sweet it is to me that while the rest of fourth grade has long since grown up beyond the childlike dependency on parents that “Mommy” and “Daddy” imply, our kids remain solidly rooted, in fact and in name, in the childhood that is still theirs for the time being.
I know we will not be “Mommy” and “Daddy” forever. In fact, at times now, the names sound striking even to me, coming from the mouths of kids old enough to cook scrambled eggs or walk unsupervised to the park. I do not wish to keep my kids unnecessarily young. But in a cultural moment that encourages kids to grow up so quickly, I feel blessed that my older children feel comfortable using these names that no one else has ever been allowed to use. I know “Mommy” will one day disappear. I hope the intimacy it points to never does.