The Evolution of Mama Waddoups

 Photo credit: unknown but I'd love to know!

Photo credit: unknown but I'd love to know!

Do you remember the tiny rebel thrill of calling parents by their first names? Among friends in high school those first names were tossed around coolly, though not within earshot of our parents. “Will Sid and Ann let you go to the concert, do you think?” It was more an attempt to earn another stamp in our passport to adulthood than a sign of disrespect. But still. It was cheeky. And wholly about maximizing us, minimizing them. (Sorry, Sid and Ann.)

Back then if I thought about being a mid-stage mom myself at all, it was through the hazy lens of an After-school Special or a Claire-Huxtable-centered episode of Cosby. I planned to be a fun mom (don’t we all?), wise and cool with an open-minded listening ear for not just my kids but also their friends.  They would drop by (my spotless, stylish house, the dream went, of course) to chat about life and decisions and partake of my vast wisdom and pithy insights. They could call me Annie if they wanted; I might even insist on it.

. . .

The reality of Lauren’s teen years meant that I more often was probably considered the uncool one among her friends, the one who had to say no more often than I wanted to (or probably needed to, truth be told). We were young and cautious parents (often 10-20 years younger than her peers’ parents), she was our first, and we lived in a really lovely community that sometimes didn’t know what to make of our family, with our old-fashioned dating guidelines, Sunday observance, and teetotalism--practices that we had packed up from our own upbringings and moved with us across the country like reverse pioneers. She invoked us as her excuse when she left parties early if they got rowdy or said no to the co-ed sleepover. I didn't plan on being the mean mom, it just needed to be that way.  Just because these mantles of parenthood are necessary doesn't mean they aren't surprising and uncomfortable, so different than the anticipated fable.

. . .

I go, late at night, to pick Maddy up from a gathering. A handful of 16- and 17-year-old girls--giddy with shared jokes from the evening and full up with life--tiptoe out in bare feet to say hello and chat a bit. As we pull away, they call out: “Bye, Mama Waddoups!” 

Mama Waddoups is Maddy’s doing, an endearment she’s used for the past few years and how she refers to me with her friends.   I suspect it started because it’s fun to say (go ahead, try it) but it’s evolved into an honorific title I fully appreciate and absorb. Essentially she's held up this mirror and said, “you are Mama Waddoups”--not just her mother but a mama in essence and identity to others, too. I named her first, carefully selecting her name Madeleine as a nod to two great women, a favorite author and a groundbreaking stateswoman, but she has named me last. I'm Mama Waddoups.


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