It’s a funny thing when your toddler realizes you have a real name, besides “Mom” or “Dad.” Repeating that real name is one of their early acts of independence, almost as if they are playing make-believe at adulthood. Maybe it’s an experiment in learning how far they can push the envelope. For a long time, my daughter thought people were calling me “Ma’am” (rather than Pam); so, I was Ma’am. I suppose she was mimicking how she saw other people treating me.

The novelty of “Ma’am” faded away during the preschool years. Then, out of nowhere, I became PJ to her (the first letters of my first name and middle name). I’ve said to her a million and one times in response to hearing that name, “There are only two people in this entire world who can call me Mom, so that’s what I want to be.” It does no good. Every once in awhile, my husband, will get a “Rick” out of our daughters, and it’s said in a playful way, likely for the shock value. As our pediatrician would say, “There are hills over which we wage battles, and this is not one of them.” I guess there are worse things she could call me. Even though I’ve always had nicknames for my daughters, “Princess,” “Sweetheart,” “Sweetie Pie,” it feels inexplicably awkward that my child should have one for me.

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