Friday, April 16, 2010

International Maman?

So. The last time I checked in, I was 7 months pregnant, had just put LK in a French garderie, and was all teary and anxious about him growing away from me into a French world that I know nothing about.

These days, the baby on the inside has been outside for 8 months old. LK adores the garderie. And I am happy and proud that my son comes home singing French songs that I don't know. But something happened yesterday that got me feeling reflective and moody about our international life.

It was a small something. Really small. All that happened was that the baby (Pup) grabbed ahold of my pant leg to pull himself up and LK, who still gets a bit jealous, pushed at Pup's hands, shouting, "Ne touche pas Maman!" (Don't touch mama!)

For a moment, I was filled with pride (well, not about the pushing and shouting part). This was the first time I'd heard LK say a full sentence in that wasn't just a repeat of something he'd heard at the garderie. Then two things hit me: (i) he was speaking to his little brother in French, and (ii) he had referred to me Maman.

It's not so surprising that LK spoke in French to his brother. After all, French is the language he hears spoken to little kids the most and it's the one (I assume) he speaks with his peers. Still, it was both awesome and strange to think that my boys' chosen language might be the tongue of neither my husband nor myself. But even odder was hearing myself referred to as Maman. 'Cause I gotta to say, while it amuses me to think they might choose to speak French between them: I don't want to be Maman.

There are many lovely things about being a mother, but one of the things I love best is hearing LK call me, "Mama." I never tire of it. Even when he's calling "Mama!" at 3am. Even when he's screaming, "No, Mama!" in the middle of tantrum. Even when I'm on the telephone and suddenly he needs my attention urgently, and says, "Mama? Mama? Mama? Mama? Excuse me...Mama?"

To him, I suppose, it's just my name. But to me, it feels like an endearment. A verbal hug and kiss. But hearing Maman on the other hand....I feel nothing. He might as well call me Mary or Julie or some other name that isn't mine. If he called Maman! in the middle of the night, I suppose I'd still get up. But I also might just poke Dawg and say, "Your turn."

Seriously though, I doubt that the boys will ever end up calling me Maman. But when they speak in French, they might think of me as Maman. They won't think it sounds bizarre as applied to me. It'll just be what they call Mama in French. This makes my brain whirl. It seems so odd to me that they will have some emotional connection to the word Maman, when I - the person they're referring to - has none.

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