I haven’t known how to write about this. Several months ago, Gavin began calling me Jill rather than Mom. It coincided with his father’s remarriage and an insistence in that household of name changes all round. Given the fact that he was under pressure, and being called Jill is not a big deal to me, I didn’t mind much. When I’d ask him about it, he’d skirt the issue, and I didn’t press. Finally, after a few weeks, he said, “I gave all your mom to Kaci, and now you’re just Jill.” And I swear to you, he’d kicked me right in the belly. I said something hollow and sad, and made it to my room before I started crying.
Here is what I know:
1. The title never matters; the important thing is your relationship.
2. He didn’t intend to hurt my feelings.
3. It’s hard to share a child. And we’re better at it than the mean.
4. Parental roles are morphing. Our lingo has fallen behind.
5. I am blessed with him.
At his parent/teacher conference this morning, while his teacher gushed about his delight with the world, and his kindness, and his descriptive sentences, I had that familiar burn. He made me a mother. He did it. He restored my belief in grace and magic. My wonder. What’s in a name, after all?
5 thoughts on “Mothers of boys”
When I was six or so, I took to calling my parents by their first names. They had names, after all, right? Didn’t everyone else call them as much?
I was not a baby. I was equal. I sat on the hump in the back seat, and stuck my head in between them and their conversations. I wanted to be part of the threesome, the decisions, the team. To me, then, this meant that I use their names. I’ll be honest: it broke my mother’s heart.
But I remember thinking that “Mom” and “Dad” didn’t mean anything. “Karen” and “Eric” — those words were like secrets. Close and powerful.
The thing that finally healed me about this was Mary very calmly explaining that it is a compliment. That he is naming me as myself. That the name that could fit anyone is not specific enough.
I’ve stumbled upon a story he has of himself. Of his life. I admire that. Even when it hurt me, I admired that he could say it. That he is strong enough now to separate himself from each of us.
I love your story, Shelly. It’s beautiful, and comforting.
Oh, I know that kind of kick in the gut. My sons do not have a stepmother, but every time I go to an open house at the elementary school, one of my children has either a drawing or a fill-in-the-blank sentence about their home/family. There have been drawings of a dad with three boys or a sentence that reads “I have four people in my family.” Then the moms I’ve known for years happen upon my child’s drawing on the wall or his little paper with the sentences, and, ugh…
Sharing a child is indeed a challenge, but we have to remember that we are not doing things “traditionally” therefore cannot put traditional expectations or assumptions upon our children.
It’s funny we’re still trying to figure out what traditional looks like.
I think what Mary said is very true, that he is naming you in that way. And it’s kind of an extraordinary compliment.