Saturday, August 2, 2008


Just after Finn was born, Kate took to calling Dave and me by our first names. No more "mom & dad". I don't know if this was a way for her to discriminate between baby and 4 year old (little kids say "mom"; grown ups & big kids say "Fara"), but it started about the same time we brought baby brother home. Dave didn't mind his new nomenclature at all; in fact, he thought it was kind of cool. And I was okay with it. At first.

I thought it was something that would pass quickly. But it soon was clear that the abandonment of "mom" was going from quirky ploy for attention and giggles to real and thick habit. But I could be an enlightened parent. I had no need for institutionalized labeling of traditional roles. Right? In fact, I remembered four years earlier having a very tricky time coming to grips with the word "mom", a word that seemed not only to not fit, but also to entirely replace any identity I thought I could claim from my previous life. With other life roles/positions, you could just add the new title: Fara, student, teacher, wife, etc. You could be all at the same time, each identity adding to and enriching the other. But there was something insidious and viral about "mom". Instead of sharing nicely and quietly taking its place next to all those other markers, it opened its jaws and devoured them whole, without once listening to their protests.

You'd think, then, that I would embrace Kate's abandonment of this word that had been quite violent towards me. But here's the rub: the more she called me Fara, the more she called me "Faaarrraaa" or "Fara!" or "Far!! Rah!!" There was no sweetness to my name; she didn't cuddle up next to me and lovingly whisper "I love you, Fara." Instead she used my name as an exclamation point to whatever it was she wanted: "Fara, I need help NOW" or "I said I wanted SMOOTH, Fara, not the chunky."

Certainly Kate had said the same kinds of things before in the same whiny or demanding way, but now that she was using my own name rather than my vocational title there was something far more oppressive about it. A whine with "mom" in it didn't raise the hairs on the back of my neck like a whine with "Fara", and it certainly didn't leave me feeling as molested and destroyed as I was feeling as she abused my name. And I began to realize that there was something wonderful about the word "mom".

I had treated this word unfairly. It had been a symbol for the maternal role that had overtaken my real identity. It had been a false front that I could shake. But now, thanks to my loving and very cute yet entirely obnoxious "Fara-ing" daughter, I finally understood that this title "mom" had actually, this whole time, been protecting me. It had shielded me from the assaults of parenthood, it had protected my sanity from the realities of mothering, because all the crap (both figurative and literal) was happening to "mom." This wonderful word allowed me to keep "Fara" safe and happy; I could be Fara when I chose to be, and she was somehow unblemished because "mom" was there to make sure of it. When I, standing in the pharmacy line at Rite-Aid in Athens, realized that my shirt was not only covered in spit-up all down the back but it, also, was inside-out, then I was "mom"---and somehow my attire and reality was okay. The thing that was so jarring about Kate calling me "Fara" all of the time was that she was taking the control of my identity away from me. She was encroaching on the me that I needed to remain safe.

She kept it up for over a month. I think that she must have just gotten tired of it. I was "mom" to her more and more often, until I didn't even realize that days had passed without a demand for "Faaaarrrraaaa!". And now, every once in a while but very rarely, when she does happen to call me "Fara", it can just be darn cute.