Wednesday, August 11, 2010

They Call Me Mommy -- Most Of The Time

By Kelly

I will never forget the first time it happened.

It was around 7:00 PM on a sunny summer evening. I asked Natalie, then two years old, to call her Daddy inside for dinner. She went to the window, looked out toward the lake and yelled, “Coh-ee! Dinner ready!”

It was as startling as it was funny. Up to that point, she had never called us anything but Mommy and Daddy. We didn’t even know she knew our real names.

But in hindsight, it made sense. Natalie had listened to us call each other Kelly and Corey. She called her baby brother Connor. Why not venture into the adult world of names and call Daddy what everyone else called him?

I was reminded of that episode last week when my current two-year-old, Teyla, started to issue requests to “Keddy.” I took me a few minutes to figure out what she was saying (I have an infant; that’s my excuse), but when I did, I laughed and said, “I’m not Kelly. I’m Mommy.”

“No,” she furrowed her tiny eyebrows at me, hands on her hips. “You Keddy.”

Since then, it’s become a daily routine. She calls me Mommy or Momma most of the time. Then, suddenly, she whips out the new skills and says, “I Te-ya. You Keddy.”

“Kelly is my name,” I counter, “but you call me Mommy.”

“No Mommy. Keddy.” She says firmly and walks away.

It’s an odd thing, now that I think about it. Only parents and grandparents are offered these tender titles that bespeak their life role. We don’t call our siblings Brother and Sister (unless we want to annoy them), and no one outside of rural Kentucky says Cousin John or Cousin Julie.

I don’t care if my kids occasionally call me Kelly (or Keddy), because I know it’s just their way of reaffirming their place in the world.

As long as they always go back to calling me Mommy. Because as much as I like the name Kelly, the title of Mommy is sweeter still.

Mommy, er, Kelly blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Civilize the Savages

By Kelly

My two-year-old was eating a bag of snack mix this morning, courtesy of her Daddy’s flight home from Chicago last night. At one point, I turned around and saw a small, wet pile of something on the floor.

“What is that Teyla?” I said, pointing to the quarter-sized mess.

“Gross!” she said, wrinkling her nose.

I guess she doesn’t appreciate honey sesame sticks.

But instead of politely spitting out "the gross" into a garbage can after it offended her taste buds, she spit it onto the carpet, as if she was a cowboy on the range.

Only this range has wall-to-wall carpeting, which now sports a brown stain of gross near my bed.

It was a reminder to me that parenting is many things – but one of its most basic tenants is to civilize the savages.

We teach our children to say  “Please” and “Thank you.” (And in some parts of the country “Yes Ma’am” and “No sir.”) We explain why we wash our hands before we eat, how to sneeze into a Kleenex or bent arm, why it’s not polite to keep slurping on a straw that is bereft of refreshment.

When our children are young, it’s one of the more tedious parts of parenting. “Say excuse me when you do that.” “Aren’t you forgetting the magic word?” “Look me in the eyes when I’m talking to you.”

But at the heart of it, we aren’t just teaching behavior. We’re teaching consideration.

Emily Post has said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

That is why I helped Teyla get a paper towel this morning and clean up the “gross” and then deposit it in the waste basket. Not just because I don’t want piles of half-eaten sesame sticks on my carpet. Because I want her to realize her own desires need to be seen in light of others.

And by the time I finished this article? She had sorted the sesame sticks from the snack mix bag and set the remainder in a gentle pile on my floor.

There. Much better. We're on our way.

Kelly's six-year-old son happened on the pile five minutes later and ate everything, right off the floor. We work on him next. Read about Kelly's continuing manner adventures at her personal blog, Love Well.