As mothers, we go by many names. For whatever reason, instead of referring to myself as “Mom,” or “Mommy” when I’m with Lily, I’ve always called myself, “Mama.” I call myself that name, my mom (now known as “DiDi,”) calls me that, and several people at my place of employment affectionately refer to me as “Mama”. The only person who has not used that name is my 11-month-old daughter. She has gotten quite chatty in her recent days with a slew of baby gibberish starting to form words. We’ve heard her triumphantly yell, “HEY!” and “HI!” and the ever-popular, “Dada,” but never has she acknowledged the person who brought her into the world… until today.

I’m perhaps guilty of over-engaging with Lily when I’m home. That may sound silly, but some of it is likely my overcompensating for the guilt of barely seeing her during the work week. I want to make sure we have quality time together to play and learn, and I’m always conscious of just how many episodes of Sesame Street I’ve leaned on during our winter days at home. I want to make sure her time is balanced and meaningful. I guess I overdid it on the mom time because in the last few weeks especially, she’s become very whiny when we’re together and it’s sucking the fun out of anything we’re doing. Forget sitting down to enjoy some coffee while she plays alone, the girl won’t stand for it. She screams, cries, and reaches for me while I decide if I should ignore her or save her from playpen hell. She needs her mama. Right. I know, I know. I need to toughen up.

I’ve been incorporating more installments of solo play time while I tend to household items that I’ve put off. Today, she played happily in the living room while I cleaned up the kitchen and it worked perfectly. I walked back into the room, expecting her usual explosion of disappointment and desperation to be set free but instead she reached out to me to share the giant Lego block she was using and said, “MAMA!” Finally. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted to hear it. With that one word, I felt like we made a connection that will be one of many as we continue to grow together. I never knew that one word could mean so much.

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