The Mami Wars

Dylan and I have been locked in a battle of the wills lately. Neither side is backing down, but I am determined I am going to win this one.

 There is NO WAY that I am going through life with my kids calling me “Mom.”

 Don’t get me wrong, Mom is a beautiful word. It is also an American word. As a Puerto Rican, I grew up calling my mother “Mami.” Mami called her mother “Mami.” My grandmother called her mother…well, Trina, but that’s a whole other story. Plus, calling your mother by her first name is just plain weird, of you ask me.

 You see the dilemma here. I want my kids to call me Mami. I strive very hard ever day to keep the Puerto Rican culture alive in our family. Even though Bill is American and we live in theUnited States, it is very important to me that my kids grow up speaking both Spanish and English and being very proud of their Puerto Rican culture and heritage.

As such, I speak to them only in Spanish. I read to them in Spanish (if a book is in English, I will translate it for them). I sing Puerto Rican lullabies and other patriotic songs to them. In fact, when Bill and I first started visiting Dylan at the baby house and trying to sing to him, we discovered we had forgotten most of the nursery rhymes we’d known, so I started singing “En Mi Viejo San Juan,” a beautiful ballad about love for Puerto Rico (to this day, it is the go-to song guaranteed to put both my children to sleep. They love it).

You can imagine, then, how shocked I was the first time Dylan looked at me and said “Hey, Mom.”  WHAT?! I explained to him that I wasn’t “Mom,” I was “Mami.” I’ll even settle for “Mama,” which is what Bill insists on referring to me as.  It didn’t make much difference to Dylan. He continues to call me Mom until he realizes he won’t get what he wants. Most of our daily exchanges go like this:

D: “Hey, Mom.”

Me [In Spanish]: “Who are you talking to?”

D: “You, Mom.”

Me [In Spanish]: “There’s no MOM here.”

D: “I want X, Mom.”


D: “Please, MAMA.”

Me [In Spanish]: “Oh, now you’re talking to me! Oh, OK, let’s get you X.”

It’s exhausting. I’m really hoping it’s just a phase and that soon he will go back to calling me what he has always called me, the sweetest sound in the world to me. Nothing makes my heart melt more than to hear his little voice say, “I love you, Mami.”

The day he comes to me and says, “Te amo, Mami,” I will be a total mess. He will get anything he wants then!

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  • Your children are very lucky to grow up with two cultures. It is the same for my son, and I think someday they will appreciate what a wonderful thing this is. Right now, they mostly take it for granted, which is the beauty of getting this exposure at such a young age.

    I can understand why you would want to be called by the name that your family has used for "mother," for generations. I do the same with my son, except lately we have been battling over him calling me by my first name because that is what my foster daughter, Nina, calls me (I would prefer if she at least called me "Aunty," but I can't get her to). Every time he calls me by my first name, he gets a "time out' - it is too ingrained in me that calling your mother by her first name is downright disrespectful, not just weird!

  • In reply to jiyer:

    I'm with you with the first name thing. I think I would flip out if Dylan started calling me Khadine, Lol! Hope you have a nice Thanksgiving week!

  • I hope you have a wonderful, multicultural Thanksgiving! We are having 30 people over from both our cultures for a great big traditional American meal and a weekend "sleepover" - then leaving for India two days later. Yikes!

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