The first sound that was close to a word that my son made was da. He would repeat it all the time, dadadada. I tried to get him to say ma. Mamamama. But it took a while. We read that the da sound is easier than the ma sound and that’s why it often comes first.
I spent a good deal of time wondering if the sound associated with father comes first in other languages, too. I’ll admit it really annoyed me. I had carried this child inside of me. My life was completely devoted to him. I expected to be his first word. I needed it more than I wanted to admit to anyone.
When he finally said ma and then when he began to associate it with me, I felt the word in my bones. This is who I was: Ma. Mama. Mamamamama. And then I was mummy (which is my preference) but now I am mom or mommy. And that’s okay, too. So long as I am known as the one who loves you.
I don’t know what my first word was and there is no one left to ask. My mother has been dead for fourteen years and she has missed all of the most important moments of my life. I am never going to stop loving her and I’m never going to stop being angry at her for leaving me. Of course, death wasn’t the first time she left me. She had left me and come back, left me and come back, left me and come back, so many other times.
What I knew was that I was not her first choice and yet she always expected to be my first choice. And she was. As a child, my love was so powerful that I believe I would have given my life up to save her life. I realize now that this is not the way the parent-child relationship is supposed to go. This is reversed. I must have also realized that as a young woman when I broke away for her.
It was painful for both of us but I needed to save myself. When I left is when I believe she finally loved me the way I had wanted to be loved all those years, but by then I had moved on.
By then, my first choice was me.
What I am saying here is that Mother’s Day is a complicated day for many people. For some of us, it is a day of mourning and yet we might feel forced to celebrate something that was traumatic for us. We might feel we need to pretend that our relationship with our mother was easy-going. We might want to say, my mother was my best friend, when we know that this is a lie.
Now, a mother myself, my child is my first choice. He will be until the day I die. I need not be his though. I want him to choose himself. As such, I don’t feel like I need a day to celebrate my own motherhood. I am not defined by it. It is the most important part of me, but it is not who I am.
It is not who my mother was either. She had lived before her children. She had lived.
I keep telling myself these things about her: that she was a human being, that she didn’t need to be everything to me, that she was damaged and I need to accept her for that. And yet, I am angry that she didn’t love me the way I needed to be loved. I am angry about the choices she made and what those choices did to me. I am angry. I also really love her and admire the strong survivor she was. I am in awe of all that she lived through and that she lived. I am grateful for all that she taught me.
She was a human being singular from me. She was once a young woman, hopeful, in love. Before her children. Before she was ma, mama, mum. She was a human being deserving of happiness. She was a human being deserving of love.
She was flawed, as we all are.
On Mother’s Day, I am choosing to celebrate love in all its many forms. I am accepting the love that is offered me by my son as a gift and not as a right or as something I am owed. He loves me because I give him a reason to love me. It is not something he has to do simply because I gave birth to him.
What I know now is that his first word was a sound without meaning yet. It was a sound and not a word. We were connected without that sound. We had been one and were in the process of becoming these two separate people again.
Every day I accept the love my son offers me. Every day I am grateful for it and realize how lucky I am to have him.
To those who are wanting, I am holding out my hand to you. I am offering you the love you need. Take it.
Be brave. Be brave. Accept that you are enough. You are enough.