Friday, June 29, 2007

the 'm' word

Being a step-parent presents an interesting question: What do the kids call me? While Jared and I were dating and engaged, they called me appropriately "Katrina". I never thought much of it. That's my name, of course that is how they would address me. But now that Jared and I are married and the kids are living with us, the situation is a little different. I am more than just a friend. I am a parent. And every day our relationships as parent and children deepen and strengthen. So it seems, the name they call me should reflect that. But where does that leave us? They already have a mom whom they call "Mommy".

I have thought about this quite a bit, wondering how this would develop. A while ago I read an article by a step-mom who suggested coming up with a special name for the step-children to call you. This shows the uniqueness and significance of the relationship. Here's how they handled it.

"When [my step-son began calling me "Mommy"], emotions ran very high. My stepson's biological mother felt threatened and thought she was losing her son's affections. Steven, my stepson, sensed his mother's feelings and became very upset each time he "slipped" and referred to me as "Mommy" in front of her. So, I asked Steven to think of a name just for me. Being four-years-old at the time, he decided to add an "a" to the end of my name [Jann] and call me "Jana." It's been more that five years now, and Steven continues to use that special name for me. Every time I hear it, I'm reminded of the close relationship that Steven and I have. "

This issue came up in our house last week. The kids do occasionally slip and call me Mommy, but its more in the way I slip and sometimes call Grace "Olivia" or vice versa. One day, when Isaac did this, Olivia said, "Why don't you call her 'step-mom'." Jared and I kinda laughed at that and said, no that's not really a name you use that way. Later, I told Jared about the aforementioned article, but it wasn't until last night that we talked to the kids about it. We were in the car when it came up. I asked them if they'd like to think of a special name to call me since I'm their step-mom. There were lots of silly answers from Grace and Isaac, mostly the names of animals. Jared suggested "Kiki", a nickname Jared's brother came up with. But Olivia said no, since Uncle Mike already calls me that. Then Grace said, "I want to call you Mommy!" We told her if she really wants to she can.

At home, she asked again if she could call me "Mommy". Again, we told her if she wants to she can. After brushing her teeth, she gave me a hug and said, "Goodnight, Mommy." Isaac also said "I love you, Mommy" in a trying it out sorta way. Olivia didn't really say anything about this one way or the other.

I don't know how this will play out. I'm not expecting them to all call me "Mommy". In fact, I'll be surprised if they do. I could definitely see Grace getting used to and even Isaac, but I don't know about Olivia. And it seems unlikely that the other two would call me "Mom" if Olivia doesn't. But again, I have no idea. I'm not going to press the issue. I'll let them take the lead. And I have no idea how their mother would feel about this. But I admit, it does feel nice to be called "Mommy". There's just something magical in that name.

So I ask all of you.... Any ideas for alternative names? What are your thoughts on this? Do you know of anyone who has dealt with this issue?


  1. Well, as you know (or do you?) I call my dad "Sniz." It started as a joke, as do many strange words in my family, and then it just stuck. The point of me telling you this: you could come up with pretty much anything you want and it would work. Of course, my term of endearment for you is "Katinka," so the kids are welcome to use that or some variation of it if they so please :)

  2. Thanks, Suz! That made me laugh! And actually, I don't think I knew you call your dad Sniz. How interesting. :-)

  3. I think nicknames are so sweet and endearing. When we were young my sister and I started calling our mother 'marmie', which is what the sisters in Little Women call their mother. It ended up sticking and now our mom is 'marmie'.

    My friend and her siblings who grew up with a lovely stepmom (who they love and adore) ahd a similar problem. Their solution was to call her mother but in different languages. She is always either 'madre', 'mamma' {with thick italian accent no less!}, 'matka', or 'mere'. They rotate around but she responds to them all and I have always loved that.

    Good luck with this. I'm loving your posts these days {not that I wasn't before.} :)

  4. My precious bride--how fun it is to see our life come to life online in your blog! I love reading your posts, and love you more every day. I admire you and am touched by how well you are rising to this challenging situation. Thank you for being a wonderful "mater, ima, mere," and everything else to my children. I cherish being on the same team.

  5. Andrea, thanks so much for your idea! We love it! Jared talked to the kids about it last night and we're thinking about using the Hebrew form of mother--"ima" pronounced "ee-ma".

  6. As we talked about this morning, the emotional result of this change is so surprisingly powerful--it feels so different and so right to have the kids call you "mummy" and "imma". I love it. You are so wonderful!

  7. I have 3 step-children as well, they call me momeeto. Sometimes we get looks in stores but I do prefer that to the kids calling me by my first name, Momeeto seems little more endearing.