The lockdown has brought about some unexpected changes in my household; I’ve finally learned to cook, and I have even managed to make a pretty tasty curry; we’ve gone from being dependent on our car to cycling instead; and my 10-year old has stopped calling me ‘mummy’.
No, she doesn’t call me ‘mum’ or ‘mamma’ either. She now calls me ‘Jenny’.
She still refers to her father as ‘Daddy’ so while out in the park this morning, she could be heard hollering to us from her bike,
‘Daddy and Jenny!’
I can’t tell you how strange that feels to me; it’s as if I’ve been demoted from mother to step-mother since the only other persons ever to call us ‘Daddy and Jenny’ are my grown-up stepsons.
At dinner the other night, the 13-year old asked her sister, ‘why have you started calling mummy “Jenny”?’
‘Oh, I like it, that’s all.’
‘Yeah, but why don’t you call Daddy by his name then?’ the older sister wondered.
‘No, that would be too weird, and besides, his name is too complicated!’
For those who don’t know my husband, suffice to say his name is four letters long and just as easy to say as my name.
My husband finds the whole thing rather funny, and teases me that it’s karma in action since I used to call my mother by her name when I was young. But that was different, I argue. It was Sweden in the seventies and eighties, we thought of ourselves as progressives, and I wasn’t the only kid in class to use my parents’ first names. With my father absent for much of my childhood, I grew up with my mum and step-dad and, not wishing to complicate relations further, I chose to call all three parents by their first names.
I never thought it strange that I called my mother by her name, but when my offspring started doing the same to me, it felt so wrong. I mean, I carried her in my womb for nine months, I suffered months of debilitating morning sickness and back-pain to have her, and once she was born, I tended to her every need, at the expense of my sleep and sanity. So the least the child could do is show some gratitude and respect, right?
I do wonder if there’s something passive-aggressive about my daughter’s decision to call me by my name, a punishment for the many times I’ve wronged her. Maybe it’s just her way of asserting her independence from me.
Or could it be my daughter’s way of acknowledging that I am not just a mother but a human being in my own right? For how many times, since the lockdown began, have I complained to my daughters and husband that I am more than a mother/wife/PA/cleaner/cook and emotional support animal?
I am ME!
Whatever the reason, I’ve countered by calling her by her middle name, but it’s not the same of course. Hoping it’s a passing phase and that eventually, she’ll start calling me some variation of ‘mummy’ again, I am trying not to let this semantic demotion affect me too much. Although sometimes I just can’t help myself and I let slip, a bit too loudly for it to pass off as a joke,
“But I am still your mother!”