The M word
When do children outgrow that need to shout ‘Mom’ whenever they have a thought?

Mom. Mom. Mom? Mooom? Mom! Mooom!

Mommy. Mom. Mom? Mommy? Maaarrrmm! Maarrrmmmiieeee? Ma-hom? Maaaaa-arm?

Sometimes I don’t notice. I just say ‘yes!’ as many times as it takes for them to figure out that a) I am not going to them just because they called and b) that they should follow the sound of my voice to find me.

But sometimes I think they forget what, if anything, they wanted. They’re just saying ‘Mom’ over and over again as a sort of sociological echo-location system. They wander around the house and garden with nothing in mind in particular, just a sudden, inexplicable overwhelming need to locate themselves in their life and day and mind and space by working out the relative distance between them and me.

Sometimes there is, however, a logical genesis for the great mom-search – the explosion of a fabulous thought, a great idea, an epiphany – and sometimes this genesis survives the Great Search for The Mother.

More often than not, however, the genesis recedes in relative speed to the number of times the word ‘Mom’ is shouted across the house or garden so that, by the time the caller has found me, he or she looks at me blankly and says: ‘What was I going to say again?’ Or – even cleverer – ‘What was I thinking again?’

It is really irritating though, isn’t it? I wonder how they would feel if we ambled around stupidly calling their names in different tones and rising hysteria and carried on doing so long after they had yelled back ‘yes’ several times in response?

Actually, come to think of it, this is a trick I’m going to try one day. I’m just suddenly going to shout one of their names and then ambulate round the property trying the feel of their name in different ways – but at the top of my voice – while they sit in exactly the same spot I’d left them answering ‘yes’ over and over again. I wonder how soon they’d flip?

Mom! Here’s my old yoyo!

Sometimes, when they do the whole half-hearted ‘Mom!’ thing, I just give up answering, figuring that if they really wanted me that badly, they’d find me. Then, when they eventually do, they’ll say ‘Why didn’t you answer me?’ This is a good time to practise the withering look. To which they respond with sincere indignation: ‘What? What now? What have I done?’

At which age do they outgrow the need to shout ‘Mom’ as their first response to any event that happened while they were on their own, whether it was the discovered of a spider web under the bed, the triumphant last flourish on a project, or the happy outcome of the search for the yoyo they remember once having?

More to the point, at which age will they call ‘Mom’, wait for the predictable ‘yes?’ and adjust their search engines to follow the voice, instead of simply repeating the call for me while wandering off in what feels like the exact opposite of where I am?

When do kids learn not to use ‘Mom’ as punctuation to everything?

Read more by Karin Schimke

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