You do things your way, America. I do things mine.
The term “mommy” has its place. My toddler calls me Mommy, because she is two, and she can’t speak any better.
But “mommy” ends with the toddler years in my house. “Mommy” is lovely in the mouth of a baby, a delightful descant to the family symphony. In the mouth of the older child, however, it becomes unsettlingly cute and saccharine, like an anime bunny. Thus, “mommy” cheapens my relationship with my older children. To these, I am not merely food and warmth and vague comfort, neither am I their cuddly little friend. I am their queen, their mother. I have been given to rule them in the most affixing of ways: by sacrificing everything of myself for their sakes. The substance of my flesh, the best of my mind, my treasure, my blood, my life—paltry though it all may be, it is what I have to give in exchange for their health and growth and success. It may be my joy to pick up such a cross, but it is not cute and toothsome. Pain is not nuzzly. Sacrifice is not sweet. If Christ carrying His cross through the streets of Jerusalem cannot be called cuddly, then let us greet our lesser crosses befittingly.
Older children can understand without trying that it is good for their lady to retain certain dignity, because and in spite of her toils. Of their own accord, my older children address me as Mother (or Mom, when they’re in a rush). They are given to speak to me as those who have been given much and from whom much is expected, in proper tongue, without sputtering, grunting, or gasping. Even the beasts caress their young and receive the spit from their mouths. But we are men, and we are given to a higher affection: to speak; to name; to crown our beloveds with honor they cannot grasp for themselves; to remind one another of how grandly we are collectively loved.
There is no time to waste on childhood without end. Rather, in the fullness of time, a child is weaned from “mommy” to the solid, enduring presence of his mother, who becomes for him a source of wisdom and, if he is lucky, beauty—things that are far more nourishing than milk anyway.*
*I invoke luck because while I know I’ve been given the capacity for mothering, its expression depends a great deal on how much sleep I’ve gotten this year.