I know what you may be thinking – we all long for the day our precious little nugget looks up at us with adoring eyes and says their first word, and yes, we pretend to be ok with it when that first word is “Dada” (because after-all they’re REALLY just making sounds, not saying words or naming their favorite parent…right?!). But I’m not talking about first words.
It had been a particularly trying day full of work calls and video conferences, angry mommy voices and frustrating …. “Maaaamaaa. MAMA! MA MA!“
Muting my phone I turned quickly and said “Enough! Mama is on a call! SHHHHHHH!!!” The look on her face made me wince. She was sad. And it was my fault.
I stored that thought in the back of my mind as I heard my name being called on the other end of the phone. I’d address it after my meeting was done. I wanted to acknowledge what happened and apologize so we’d would be able to move forward with our day.
But I didn’t. My call ran late – right into nap time. We struggled through the rest of the day – both of us exhausted and short tempered.
I went to bed feeling pretty horrible about how I had treated my sweet girl. She was a sensitive little thing and I was worried I had bruised her little spirit. I told myself she would be fine – she was resilient and would forget by the next morning – she was only 18 months old after all.
…we all long for the day our precious little nugget looks up at us with adoring eyes and says their first word…
We woke up the next day with the sun, and Daddy brought my little girl to snuggle Mama while he fetched her morning cup of milk – our usual routine. Only today, she didn’t want to snuggle. “No! Go with Daddy!” She reached to him and as I handed her over a little piece of my heart broke. Had yesterday’s frustrations spilled over to this morning? Did she think I was upset with her? Had I made her truly sad? I told myself it was fine and she was just excited for some Daddy daughter time. I knew it had made him feel special and so I tried to brush it off and get on with our morning.
My husband returned minutes later and as I made the bed and he gathered his clothes for work, she ran around our bedroom, flinging books left and right, re-discovering her toys and chasing the poor dog. I smiled to myself. “She’ fine. My bouncy little bunny is perfectly content.” And then it happened.
“Mom! Look-at-dat! Mom! Whas-dat?!” She held up her lovey – a bunny she’d slept with every night of her 18 months on this Earth.
“WHAT?!” I said loudly. My eyes went big.
My husband turned and turned back on his way to shower. “What happened?” He asked sounding only mildly concerned.
“She just called me MOM! Like 4 times!” (I was exaggerating) “Bunny, can you call me Mama?” I wasn’t ready to be MOM.
“Mom. Mom!” Maybe she was messing with me…
My husband gave an uncomfortable little chuckle, trying to reassure me. “I’m sure she’s just doing it because she’s getting a rise out of you. Don’t worry she’ll get over it.”
He chuckled again and as he left the room said over his shoulder “Or not!”
My head started to spin. I wanted to stay Mama, and I wanted my little bunny to stay my little baby, not a Mom-calling-toddler-pre-teen!
I knew I was overreacting and that it didn’t mean she loved any me less, but daddy hadn’t turned into “Dad” overnight. And of course the nanny was still called by her name.
I convinced myself I had been too short with her, I hadn’t given her the attention she needed. I hadn’t committed to enough “floor time” or taken her to enough (read: “any”) play dates lately (you can throw the park in too). Would our relationship progress down a path she would look back on and think of as “I annoyed my mom – she was always too busy for me”? I didn’t want her to think that. She was and is my world. I work hard – really hard – so I can stay home with her half the week.
I wanted to stay Mama, and I wanted my little bunny to stay my little baby, not a Mom-calling-toddler-pre-teen!
I tried everything – I requested she call me Mama. I tried ignoring anything BUT Mama. I even tried turning the tables by calling her names other than her own. Nothing worked. Looking back now, it was I was being pretty ridiculous. Let’s be honest – I knew I was then, too.
That week I decided to recalibrate: the park, walks, puddle jumping, baking – any spare moment I had I spent in her world, trying to re-connect with her. I said “no” to more at work, and blocked my calendar each day for some special MAMA / Daughter time. She loved it. So did I.
“Mom” lasted for 6 days. 6. LONG. DAYS. In the end I’m pretty sure my husband was right – I was just experiencing some major #momguilt and she was just experimenting and entertained by my ridiculous reactions. One hard day does not a “Mom-calling-toddler-pre-teen” make. But, it gave me something valuable.
It gave me back the control I have over my own time.
Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to stay at home and dedicate 100% of our time to our little ones – I’m not. But we CAN make the choice to be as fully present as possible when we are with them.
I encourage you to put down your phone. Answer that client email in an hour. Shut down your computer (all the way! No sleep mode!). Grab your little ones and color on the living room floor. Paint. Make a fort. Dance in the kitchen and spin until you’re dizzy.
The bottom line is – recharge those Mama batteries by fully disconnecting from work – when you can – and connecting with your babe in a way that makes them happy. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or expensive. All they want is your attention. You’ll never feel bad about it. And if you do – just look at that sweet little face as they call you “Mama” tomorrow during morning snuggle time. Then come and find me. I’ll be singing the complete “Tangled” soundtrack at the top of my lungs to my 2 year old for the third time today while she runs screaming through the house chasing the poor dog, with a big fat smile on my face.
Mama & Coco