I admit it. I’m terrified of the M-word.
Y’know. That M word. The supposedly most beautiful word in the English language… unless you’re a gay dad.
Come on, don’t make me say it. 99.9999% of families have one? We honor her the second Sunday of every May? She’s uniquely privy to the strain and anguish of childbirth? That’s right. Her.
Don’t get me wrong, M-words are awesome. I have one myself. I have a step-M-word, god-M-word, grand M-words. All swell ladies. If you ask me, they deserve ten holidays and a continued monopoly over daytime TV programming schedules.
But my kids have no M-word – never had one, never will. Personally, I don’t think they’ll suffer for it, nothing serious anyway. I mean, Bennett might have to skip the M-son picnic at school. And Sutton’s going to have to make her peace with Daddy always taking her into the public bathroom where she has to close her eyes until she’s inside a stall. But they have two parents who love them smotheringly, and that’s all that matters.
Still, it’d be nice if the entire world wasn’t constantly reminding them how amazing M-words are.
They’re in the books they read, the movies they see, the songs they sing. One day, I just know my kids will ask me to cough one up. “Daddy?” they’ll shout from behind a river of tears. “Why don’t I have one? All my friends do!” And what will I say?
“Sure, but your friends only have one daddy. Losers!”
“What makes you so sure you’d have a good one? Let me show you some Lifetime movies. M-words are a crap shoot, kid.”
Or maybe I’ll just read them Olivia. “You wear me out, but I love you anyway,” her M-word tells her at the supposedly heartwarming end of the supposedly adorable book. Geez, what a sow!
I do what I can to shield the kids from the M-word propaganda out there. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve even resorted to censorship. When I’m reading books, I’ll change the M-word to “Daddy”, or if there’s a picture with it, “Grandma”. I’ve even made it “some strange lady.” “See, kids, when you’re crossing the street, always do it like the kid in this book, while holding the hands of a grown-up. Even if it’s just some strange lady.”
You’ll never find a copy of “Are You My M-Word” on my family’s bookshelf. We’ll play Simon Says, but not M-Word, May I. And when my kids are old enough to watch Bambi, we’re only going to show them the second half, after you-know-who eats it.
But it’s no use.
They bust out the M-word all the time, and each one is a tiny dagger in my heart. Usually it means nothing. I mean, they’re still at the stage where 5-90% of what they say is gibberish. So when I hear one of them say “Mommy”, I play dumb.
“What’s that? Flommy? Clommy? Salami?”
But sometimes, they know exactly what they’re saying.
A few weeks ago, the four of us – Drew, me, Sutton and Bennett — went to Target, and Sutton decided she was going to demand one of everything in the store. After we said “no” for about the millionth time, triggering the umpteenth fruitless tantrum, she decided to take a new approach. She looked around her, flipped her head upward and belted out a sentence we’d never heard her say before.
“WHERE’S MY MOMMY?”
It was shouted at top volume, like a distress call to strangers. She may as well have said, “Where’s my Mommy and who are these two strange men who keep telling me I don’t have one?”
We were sure a ring of suspicious shoppers would surround us and demand to know, “Yes, where is her mommy? Do you even know? Is this even your daughter?” It could’ve been ugly. Thankfully, no one intervened, and to quiet Sutton down, we gave her whatever she’d been asking for, plus the last 50 things she wanted, too. That stopped the “M-word” talk, fast.
That’s when I had a revelation. My kids have a secret weapon against me, something every kid desperately wants against their parents, something far more valuable than an M-word. My kids have ammunition.
And they’re already figuring out how to use it.