Words mean different things to different people. For instance, “marzipan” to me is an almondy confection. To my husband, it’s the name for everyone whose given name he can’t remember. “You know…Marzipan.”
While we’ve heard quite a few alarming words and creative strings of expletives, the word that caught me by surprise was “mommy.”
I never thought about how complex that word could be. How much it could hold and not hold. Birth mommy, foster mommy, adoptive mommy. It’s a lot more complicated than most first words.
We decided to let the kids take the lead on this one.
So when three foster kids who lived with us for six months began calling me mommy, I went along. And when they moved into an adoptive home and called someone else mommy, I followed suit.
But now, as we care for a purely delightful just-turned-three-year old for four days (while his long-term foster mom attends a funeral), and he bursts into my arms singing “mommy!” I’m taken aback. This little fella with the most contagious laugh you’ve ever heard, has an amazing foster mommy. Who loves him and delights in him and is making plans to adopt him.
And yet, to him, “mommy” describes whichever woman is caring for him at the time. It is not an exclusive term. He has many mommies. And doesn’t even know that that is not the way it is for everyone.
That mommies are meant to last for more than four days.