Friday, September 01, 2006

What's in a name

One of the issues same-sex parents have to deal with is what their kids will call them. It's a little easier for families with two fathers; with variations like Daddy and Papa, it's easy to come up with two distinct names. With moms, most variations use an 'm,' so it can be harder to find the right balance between easy-to-pronounce and easy-to-tell-apart.

Some solutions I've seen/heard:
- Mama and Mommy can work, although they're pretty close together.
- Mama plus first initial or first name. On L-Word, there's Mama B. and Mama T. (for Bette and Tina). In the book, Heather has Two Mommies, there's Mama Jane and Mama Kate.
- Families with a Jewish background (or one mom with this background) often use 'ima,' Hebrew for 'mom' for one of the moms and an English version for the other.
-The young son of one of my bosses in college called her "Mommy" and her partner "Meema." This is also a variation used in the comic strip "Dykes to Watch out for."
- I've also heard of families leaving it up for the kid, with the belief that they will figure something out and it will be quite apparent. This is what we ended up doing.

At first, we tried the Mama/Mommy route. This didn't last very long, as neither of us could quite remember to use them consistently. In fact I couldn't tell you right now which one I was.

My son started calling me 'Mama' fairly early on. Actually, it was more like 'mamamamamama.' The doctor told us this didn't count as a word since all babies make that noise, but he definitely used it when he wanted me specifically. This was also the doctor who scolded us when he didn't know his body parts at 18 months, although he could name many animals, along with the noises they made. Not our favorite doctor.

As he got a bit older, he changed what he called me, but again it was obvious who he meant. Similarly he developed a name for my wife. Given that his designations are fairly original, I can't share the exact terms here, but will use 'Mommy' and 'Meema" from this point on since they're similar to his terms.

I love to hear his little voice shout out "Meema" whenever I pick him up from preschool and am amused that his friends refer to me the same way. I also think about the fact that my names don't mark him out as mine. That is, my mommy-name is not traditional and he carries my wife's last name. When people hear our discussions of, "Let's go see Mommy," I wonder what they think our relationship is. Am I the aunt, babysitter, neighbor?

Now, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change his last name or what he calls me for anything; it's just part of my ponderings about the world around me. He carries my wife's last name, not our hyphenated names, on my insistence. I can't imagine being anyone but 'Meema.' And nothing can take away the knowledge that he is a part of me.


Her Bad Mother said...

WonderBaby calls me mama. Sometimes it's that string of ma-ma-ma-mas that your doctor derided, but it almost always directs to me.

And it thrills me. She's calling *me*, naming *me*. She could call me anything and I'd be thrilled.

Mouse said...

We eventually learned not to pay too much attention to that particular doctor when she was talking about development, because she was so by-the-book and stuck on precise definitions. We also avoided regular appointments with her (there were 3-4 other doctors in the practice, all of whom we liked pretty well).

I also like that I have a special name that marks me out so specifically. It's me and nobody else.