When I was growing up, it was an indicator of toff-dom if someone still called their mother ‘Mummy’ after the age of around six or so. We all called ours ‘Mum,’ without exception (unless we were being sarcastic, when it was: ‘Moth-errrr‘). Although the transition to Mum-ing was self-conscious, it made us feel a little bit more grown-up, this small claiming of independence.
But for some reason my now-sixteen-year-old son never got around to making the switch, and now, he says, ‘it’s too late.’ He is no toff, but for fear of being thought one by his friends, he finds creative ways to not address me directly in front of them. I don’t hold it against him; in private I am still Mummy.
I admit I didn’t suggest or encourage him to make the change, because it’s lovely being a mummy, isn’t it? Mummies feed and comfort, dress booboos and tell stories. It’s much harder to be a mum, to be the filter for the dirt and glamour of the world, both armourer and medic against its blows. To share, and show, and teach the ways of the human heart so that love, and beauty, and kindness send down their deep roots, protection against darkness.
To be a shaper of men.
My ten-year-old son echoes his brother, blithely, ‘It would sound weird. You’re Mummy, not Mum,’ but I’ve seen his friends look at him sidelong and I wonder how long it will be before he stops calling me anything at all. Perhaps I should take pity on them both, make them take this step away from me for their own sake.
Because I am their mum, of course I am, with all the glorious, terrifying responsibility that role carries, and it’s my privilege to escort them into manhood.
But I will always be Mummy, too: stroker of brows, soother of hurts, maker of hot chocolate and cookies.