Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's in a Name?

My name is Tammy, but when I became a foster parent, I took on a new name along with my new role as temporary mommy to other people's kids.

I knew that I was going to need to call myself something when these babies came to me, but I was torn on what it should be.  I have to admit, I don't even remember what I called myself when the Munchkin was with me.  Those five days were a whirlwind of complete and total chaos.  The name issue didn't really come up until the Booger Bear and Angel moved in. 

Booger came first, and for the first few weeks when it was just the two of us, I just called myself "Mama Tammy."  He was only seven months old, so it wasn't like he was talking much, but when Angel moved in, it was clear that the "Mama" and "Mama Tammy" thing was going to be confusing for everyone.  That's when my mom suggested "Mimi."  "Mimi" is a play on "Tammy," and it sounds like a fun name for an aunt or a young, fun grandma-type name too (although I'm still not ready to admit that I am old enough to be a very young grandma).  So I decided to give "Mimi" a try.

As the months passed, I just started thinking of myself as "Mimi," and the name grew on me (especially coming from the Booger's mouth :-).  When I think about what to have these little ones call me in terms of foster care, I think that "Mimi" works best for all of us for lots of reasons:
  • In many of these cases, "Mama" or "Mommy" isn't a positive person in these babies' lives.  I don't know what my babies remember about their mommies, but I don't want them to be afraid of me simply because I call myself by a name that has bad memories associated with it.  When it came to the Booger, "Mimi" was the person he ran to when he was hurt...  The one he called for in the middle of the night...  The one who played with him, fed him, bathed him, nursed him when he was sick, taught him, and loved him the way a mother should.  To him, "Mama" was just the name of the person who lived with us for a while.

  • I don't want to confuse my babies any more than they are already going to be.  Chances are, all of my kids are going to have weekly visits with their parents.  Because I foster infants and toddlers, I feel like calling myself "Mama" would only lead to more confusion every time they have a visit and their birth mom calls herself the same thing.  If they are with me for any length of time, in the babies' eyes, I would be the person they consider their "Mama," and it would only cause more hurt and confusion when they leave me.

  • I don't want to hurt my babies' mothers.  I know that sounds crazy to a lot of people...  Not wanting to hurt the feelings of one of the people responsible for hurting her children...  But I still think that as badly as some of these women have messed up, most of them still love their kids.  I know it would hurt me to hear my child call another woman "Mama," so I think that calling myself "Mimi" shows their mothers that I'm not trying to steal their babies or to take their places, and I hope that it helps develop better relationships with my babies' parents.

  • And then there's what I kind of think of as my self-preservation motive.  It might be "just a name," but a part of me thinks that if I call myself "Mama" or "Mommy," I'll have a harder time reminding myself that these babies aren't mine to keep.  I know the hurt of losing them will never lessen, regardless of what I call myself, but there's just something about having a child call me "Mama" that feels more permanent to me.
I love being "Mimi."  To me, "Mimi" is that person who steps in and is there when these little ones need someone the most.  "Mimi" is the person who teaches them what love, security, patience, and trust is all about.  My hope is that I can be "Mimi" to as many babies as possible...  That I can be there for them when their own mommies can't be...  But there's still that part of me that longs to hear a little one call for their "Mommy," and to know that I'm the one who is always going to be there when they do.  What's in a name???  I guess for me, in some ways a name is just a name.  But in others, a name can mean everything.


MamaFoster said...

i love "mimi" to. i hope someday i will figure out something kinda like that that fits me as well. but with a son in my house calling me mom i have found that sometimes that is what dictates what the kids call me.

Denver Laura said...

Popped over from Mama Foster's website...

I like "Mimi." Personally, I have the kids call me by my first name. Even through all 3 kids through 2 placements are supposed to be fost-adopt, I consider myself no more than a live-in nanny. I just happen to have them living in my house, not the other way around. "Mommy" is somebody completely different in their lives. I would love for them to call me "Mama" or some other variation but I feel the realtionship we have with the family is tense enough I don't want to add to it.

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