“Didi” a Hindi word for – big sister.
Or a more commonly used form of respectful address to any older woman of the household.
Usually not a term used to refer to one’s own mother though.
However, this was what I was referred to as, by my son for the first two years of his life with us. DIDI.
My daughter called me ‘mama’ but he firmly referred to me as DIDI.
I tried ignoring him when he called me ‘didi’ on a couple of occasions, hoping he would be forced into calling me ‘mama’, but his confused and hurt eyes melted me into responding right away.
He called my husband ‘papa/daddy/pa’ all the various connotations and endearing terms for a Father with ease. But I remained firmly didi for a long time.
I joked about it when we met friends, stating my apparent youth has my newly adopted son completely confused. He thinks I’m his older sister! When we went out friends joked about it too.
All the while secretly, I feared that he hadn’t truly accepted me fully as his mother. He doesn’t love me as much as he loved his Dad, I felt. I haven’t connected with him quite as well as I should have, I blamed myself.
What if he never accepts me in the role of a mother? His Mother more specifically! I fretted many nights over this.
My beautiful baby boy, who came to us at the tender age of one, was only just learning to speak. He was adjusting with all the huge curves life had already thrown his way at such a fledgling stage. New surroundings, new family, new languages, new Country, new sibling, new parents. He coped admirably with it all! He continued to smile, play, and be what we now know to be his impish humorous self through it all. He took to all of us with ease and made loving him so easy and natural for all of us.
My beautiful girl born to us 8 years before, adjusted to her new brother, the unusual circumstances and all the life changes that go with a new baby in the house with such maturity and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt how big and kind her heart actually is.
So amidst all of this emotional palaver, when God had been kind enough to grant me a smooth transition on so many fronts with the new arrival I was left questioning the universe as to why is my boy not ‘accepting’ me as a Mother. Why does he still see me only as ‘didi’ I wondered.
After a while of such fretting I let it go. In more ways than one, my son had clearly depicted his affection and his attachment to me along with the rest of the family. I decided not to agonise pointlessly over a name tag as such.
Then one day I chanced upon a story of a foster mother who had felt compelled to adopt a little girl who on the very first meeting with her then foster mum referred to her as ‘mummy’.
A combination of various aspects of the story, fuelled by the fact that I had finally taken the time to step out of my self-indulgent thoughts to think beyond only my own need to be accepted, that I think I may have seen some sense at last.
My baby boy, in his limited time at the facilities before coming home to us, had grown in an environment of mainly women. There the primary caretaker, the head honcho of sorts who fed him and cared for a majority of the kids daily needs was referred to as ‘didi’ by all. The child knew not of any different term. She was the closest to a motherly figure for all the children there and they knew no different. So when my son came to me, despite the household having a nanny and visiting grandmothers, he had linked me as the ‘didi’ in his life. He had associated and singled me from all the women in his new home, in that role.
I had indeed, this means been accepted as a mother, it was only left to me to decipher it appropriately.
Recently one day he just very naturally switched to calling me ‘mama’ in the course of his garbled baby conversations. He simply switched to calling me mama and while we all clapped with glee behind his back, drew no attention to it in reality!
I am pleased to say that I am now firmly mama in his vocabulary. My love for him remains just as strong and deep for him as it did during my didi days. The new name tag bore no effect on the emotions, I realised. I felt like I was destined to be his ‘mama’ from the minute he entered our lives. I intend to remain his mama for the rest of my days. The fact that he has chosen without any duress of his own accord to call me so now, I hope is a reflection of the fact that he now understands a mother’s love.
And so it was that I graduated from ‘didi’ to ‘mama’.