I’ve always been “Mama”. We are Mama and Dada. I don’t like the sound of Mummy, it just doesn’t feel very me. I think I might prefer to skip straight to Mum. But it’s all irrelevant anyway as I have come to realise that the choice is not really mine at all.
For the past half a year, Arlo has been calling me by my first name. He doesn’t call me Mummy, Mama, or Mum. I am Chloe.
Arlo is a name fanatic. He always addresses people by name when talking to them, he’s been doing this ever since he could talk in sentences. Within two weeks of starting preschool, he had learnt the names of all his teachers and his twenty-something classmates. (Apparently he spent the first week wandering around the garden saying “Hi. I’m Arlo. What’s your name?”)
Arlo is a stickler for the rules when it comes to names. He understands the concept of nicknames, but he has ALWAYS insisted that people are called by their proper names (unless it’s Rory, for whom Arlo has invented hundreds of nicknames…go figure).
If you live with me, you will inevitably end up with a host of nicknames. If you live with Sam and me, you will not only have nicknames, but also your very own jingle, updated month on month.
Arlo has always resisted the nicknames. Quick as a flash comes his retort: “I’m Arlo”. “The ladies call me Arlo” (The ladies meaning his preschool teachers, his argument being: If they call me Arlo, then why can’t you?)
So, I guess it’s only natural that he would default to calling us by our real names. Well, my real name.
The case gets stranger when I tell you that Arlo chose to call Sam not by his first name, but by something that was most definitely a nickname. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to repeatedly have to explain why our three year old calls his Dad “Bumble”. (An old nickname of mine for Sam from his days where he was a little less ‘with it’ than he is now).
At first, we looked for reasons for why he wasn’t calling us Mama and Dada. We call each other Mama and Dada in front of him (and continue to do so now), but he spends a LOT of time with our friends, who obviously aren’t calling us Mama and Dada. Was he trying to be part of the gang? I’ll always remember one summers day when I arrived to meet Sam, Arlo, and some of our friends in a beer garden. “LOOK GUYS, IT’S CHLOE AND RORY. CHLOE AND RORY ARE HERE!”
We tried ignoring it. We tried talking about it.
“We like it when you call us Mama and Dada”
“But I like to call you Chloe and Bumble”.
After a short while, we stopped caring for the reasons. Arlo was exercising his free will, choosing to call us by our real names not because of any misunderstanding, but just because he wanted to. We decided to listen to him, and let him call us the names he had chosen.
It became another Arlo-ism. I enjoyed the impression he made on people, “Who is this odd toddler who just held a full-on conversation with me about all the different train services in the local area and called his parents by their real names??” It didn’t make me feel any less his mother, and after five months, I had begun to forget that it might be confusing for people.
Then, just before Christmas, he came back from a day out with Grandma, calling Sam “Dada”. At first, it was a careful effort. He’d start off saying “Bumble” before correcting himself. A few days later, and we were fully back to being Mama and Dada again. And that was that.
It’s been his choice all along, so I’m happy with whatever he calls me. But I am surprised to be finding myself slightly wistful for the days when he would call me “Chloe”. It’s classic Arlo, and reminds me of my funny, strong-willed boy.