first names

Lucas and I have been trying to refer to each other by our first names when talking to Raspberry, rather than the proverbial “Daddy” and “Mummy.”

Last week, we met up with a friend and her son. The kid, who’s several months older than Raspberry, has always referred to his parents by their first names. We have similar values and have certain shared modes of parenting, but the moniker thing is where we have differed. Picking up on the kid’s language, Raspberry called us by our first names a few times while we were all hanging out together. We don’t mind this one bit at all. To us, it’s not a sign of disrespect, but rather a sign of egalitarianism. I dislike the hierarchy that seems implicit in parenting. Lucas brought up an interesting point yesterday too — that it’s a bit odd to be referred to be your role, and that’s exactly what being a parent is. We just fell into the mainstream convention of Mummy and Daddy when Raspberry was born, perhaps because that was what was familiar to us. Although, I do remember vaguely discussing this issue a very long time ago. I think we both agreed that neither of us minded being called by our first names, but I’m not sure why we just went with convention anyway.

For me, almost three-and-a-half years along, I still find the concept of being somebody’s mother quite foreign. If something refers to me as “Raspberry’s mother/mum/mummy,” I still find that very weird, despite that fact that I’ve been “Mummy” to Raspberry for her whole life. I’m not sure why I can’t wrap my head around it. To me, I’m just the person who hangs out with and takes care of Raspberry, but in my head, I don’t have a label (such as “mother” or “parent”) for myself. [Similarly, I still can’t envision our collective of three under the heading of “family,” even after all this time. The first time I heard it, when we were leaving the hospital and a nurse referred to us as such, it just completely threw me off and it still does.] I think much of this is related to my still searching out my identity. Being a mother is obviously part of who I am, but at this moment, it’s hard to go beyond that, since I’ve been home with Raspberry for three years and this is what I do. It’s hard to be much else when she’s with me all the time — people see you as a mother and likely, as little else when you’ve got a kid with you. It bores me and makes me desperate to break out of the mould that others have cast for me and I’ve inadvertently cast for myself in choosing to stay home with Raspberry. I feel boxed into this identity and it makes me a anxious and uncomfortable. Which is perhaps why I’m more than willing for Raspberry to call me “Dawn” rather than “Mummy.”

But of course, old habits are hard to break, on both the adults’ and child’s part. Because Raspberry’s always been very attached to me, I’m still “Mummy” to her most of the time. Lucas is “Lucas” more often, especially when I’ve just referred to him as such seconds before. It takes quite a bit of awareness and effort for Lucas and I to break out of saying “Mummy” or “Daddy.” But it’s been a few days and I’m finding it a bit easier with repeated use. It sort of reminds me of when we decided to abandon/forego the terms “good girl” and “good job” when Raspberry was about a year old (incidentally, this is based on Alfie Kohn’s ideas of unconditional parenting: in a nutshell, tying a child’s behavior to their self-worth, whether they’re “good” or “bad” sets them up to behave for extrinsic rather than intrinsic rewards). It took a little bit for us to get away from saying “good job,” but we did (and now bristle whenever we hear the high-pitched, exaggerated voices of parents or nannies saying “good job/girl/boy”). But I digress. This will probably take us longer to get into, should we keep up with it, and I honestly don’t mind if we do. Raspberry says she doesn’t mind calling us either and we’re happy to go along with whatever works for her. We’ll see how this plays out.

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