“Mommy,” my daughter cries when she’s hurt or upset. “Mommy, mommy, mommy...” She knows I’m daddy and my partner is papa, so where is this mommy business coming from?


She’s three and has lived with us since she was nine and a half months old; I figure she doesn’t remember anything prior to her life with us. She has a good command of the English language, even using sophisticated adjectives and adverbs well, as my mother recently pointed out, so shouldn’t she be more aware of what she is saying?

My partner points out that she is mimicking the other children at the daycare who cry out for their mothers when they’re dropped off or after an accident, seeking comfort and reassurance. Is our daughter associating the need for comfort and reassurance with the word “mommy”?

I do. My mother was not a stereotypical mom, at least not in terms of cooking and cleaning; we learned to fend for ourselves in those respects. But she always encouraged my interests and provided reassurance when I needed it. She taught me the importance of curiosity, courtesy and caring. Dinner can be bought, but these other qualities cannot. If I can give my children what she gave me, I’ll be proud. Comfort and reassurance are not the monopoly of moms, so why does she seem to be calling out for one?

Language and terminology, as we know, is important, but my daughter is only three and probably does not understand the larger concepts and constructs behind everything she is saying. I probably load more meaning onto the word “mommy” than she does, so we don’t get into any big discussions about it.  When she cries for mommy, we say “Daddy’s here” or “Papa’s here” and give her the comfort and reassurance she seeks.

An incident in the grocery store gave me pause. When I didn’t pick the bread she wanted, she first protested, then cried, and finally screamed “Mommy!” I was worried what other people might think, seeing a girl without her mommy being dragged out of the store by a man she was resisting. I thought – call me paranoid – it might look suspicious. And all because of a non-existent mommy and the wrong type of bread.

But the other day my daughter and I were walking our dog in our neighborhood and she stopped to smell some flowers in a woman's garden. The woman snipped off a bloom and said, "Take this home and give it to your mommy." My daughter didn’t hesitate when she said matter-of-factly, "I don't have a mommy. I have a daddy and a papa." It made me think that we are going to be just fine.