When Bronwyn’s first word was “No,” (actually it was “awe”, which is “no” in Bemba) I felt super loved. And by super loved I mean I felt completely not loved at all. Isn’t “mommy" supposed to be every child’s first word? That’s what I had been led to expect, at least. Thankfully she soon learned to say "mommy" and everything was right in my world. Until she started calling other women mommy. Bana Chiti was the first, then Bana Robert. I actually confronted them on it: “When Bronwyn calls you mommy, can you please tell her that no, you are not her mommy, because I’M HER MOMMY!” I swear, if these women were not my best friends they would think me a lunatic. They never have corrected Bronwyn and I eventually relaxed about it. Mommies are wonderful, so, the more the merrier? I guess?
|bana chiti. absolutely her fave.|
And then we visited America and now my sisters are mommy, and Grandma is mommy and Nana is mommy and our friend Edith is mommy. She sounds like the little bird character in that one children’s book in which the bird falls out of its nest and wanders around asking all the farm animals, “are you my mommy?” Except Bronwyn is not asking – she’s telling. You ARE my mommy. And everyone thinks it’s SO CUTE while I giggle awkwardly because all I know is that childbirth is a one woman show, folks.
|"damma mommy damma" is this woman's name|
Jealously issues aside, I write this post as a mother’s day declaration that all children deserve a swarm of mommies. You see, Bronwyn does not indescriminately call all women mommy. There are plenty of women at whom she casts a stink eye while nestling her head into my neck. BUT, when Bronwyn lifts her arms to a non-bio-mommy, it means she has identified that person as...
someone who cares about her
someone who is safe
someone who is kind and warm and giving
someone who nourishes
someone who loves
and someone who affirms.
And every child deserves a hoard of people like this in their lives.
Village drama occurs outside our hut most nights as Bronwyn comes back from playing either at Bana Chiti or Bana Robert’s house and we reenact the nightly weaning ritual as Bronwyn cries for “Chiti” and “Bobart” and as they dramatically hold out their arms and walk away realllllly sloooowly while soaking in the admiration that accompanies the fact that Winnie Bupe loves them to pieces. Jeremy rolls his eyes at the unnecessary melodrama but I’m so indebted to these ladies who spend time with my girl not to do me a favor so that I can work but because they treasure her.
When Bronwyn was born, I learned to love in ways that I never knew were possible. I adore everything about her, including her tantrums which reveal her spunk and tenacity with which she may one day change the world. The greatest gift I can think to give her is to surround her with worthy women who are unwaveringly FOR her, committed to her growth and wellbeing, teaching her to be kind and showing her the best way to be a mommy. That she has multiple “mommies” who are showering this kind of care upon her is a gift from heaven.
|a mommy in the making. a good mommy...|
Once upon a time I wanted to push away the other mommies – kicking them in the shins, grabbing Bronwyn’s hand and running the other direction while yelling "miiiiiiiiine." I've come to realize that I am indeed irreplaceable in Bronwyn's world. I'll always be her number one. But as I put her to sleep each night, responding to her request for a bedtime story including Jesus, a chicken and a Chiti, I know these souls are an important part of her story. Motherhood is a product of more than biology or legality. It is a matrix of tenderness and care, continuity and love. And so to all of you who have been "mommy" to me and to my little one, I say, “Happy mother’s day.”