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Bitsy McCann: Why not ‘Mama?”

My kid won’t say mama.

It’s rude, right?

I carried her for nine-plus months, experienced extreme everything, changed my diet drastically (gestational diabetes, y’all), and suffered a migraine in my third trimester so intense I thought I was having a stroke. I forgot how to form words. Have you ever tried to call 911, and you couldn’t say your township name or your house number because you didn’t know what it was? It was terrifying.

All this garbage I went through because I was pregnant, and this kid still will not say my name.

She can say ham. She can say hot. She can say the letters M, O, and B. She can make a noise like an elephant and sing a whale song. But mom? No thanks.

You know what else she will say? Help.

She climbs up on her toy bench and can’t get down. “Help.” She wants to undo her car seat belt buckle herself (she can’t), and finally gives up after two minutes. “Help.” She wants to pick the too-tall-to-reach raspberries in the garden. “Help.”

If you know me, you know I’m a ridiculously grateful person. Always looking on the bright side. Finding the positive in everything. But for some reason, the fact that she won’t say mom or ma or mama just makes me frustrated in a way that I can’t even explain.

I was reflecting on this during the past week as she has been learning more words and is saying them proudly. Why is this so important to me? Why does this bother me in a way that I didn’t expect?

I think it’s because right now, I am overwhelmed by everything. Things have never been busier with my business. Plus, my computer crashed last week, so it’s been an absolute joy having to redesign two weeks worth of work. (Can you hear the sarcasm?)

I am overwhelmed by the state of the world.

I am overwhelmed to be living through a pandemic with an immunocompromised partner.

I am overwhelmed that I have to repeat over and over again that I’m not “living in fear.”

I am overwhelmed that there are very few people quarantining like we are.

We are being real extra, but being real extra makes us not worry about it. It makes us not feel scared. Taking additional precautions brings us peace of mind that we won’t possibly bring anything home to threaten the safety of our little trio. Our new lifestyle, however, makes it incredibly difficult to socialize our kid or hug our friends. But, honestly, I’m just not willing to take that risk for the sake of normalcy.

And what is normal anymore? Virtual learning. Zoom conferences. Masks.

As a civilization, we have always been forced to adapt. Why has it felt so extra hard in the last several months to adapt to a worldwide pandemic?

In life, change is the only certainty. As a parent, that change is tenfold. You change over time, your kid changes over time, and you are forced to work it out together. You can’t divorce your kid (that I know of), so you have to hang in there (or barely hang in there), hoping and praying that you come out okay on the other side.

With this pandemic, we’ve been forced inside, and we’ve had to evaluate ourselves, our partners, and our kids. We’ve been forced to look at our relationships, our habits, and our abilities. I don’t know if you’re like me, but this pandemic has stirred up some unbelievably uncomfortable feelings in ways that I never wanted to experience. It has made me take stock of who I am and how I approach the world. And sometimes, looking in that mirror has been jarring.

No one has a crystal ball. We have no idea how this election is going to go, when this pandemic is going to end, or if our neighbors will eventually recognize that we are neighbors – not enemies.

 I am certain of one thing, though. I will spend every day of my self-appointed quarantine attempting to get my 1.5 year old to say my name, and I will take comfort in that fact that she doesn’t say “dada” either.


 Bitsy wrote this column on Oct. 13 and filed it with Central Penn Parent that day. She sent us an update on Oct. 17.

 She wrote that she shared her column with her husband on Friday after he had just gotten our baby down from a nap, and after reading this sentence from the column, “But for some reason, the fact that she won’t say mom or ma or mama just makes me frustrated in a way that I can’t even explain,”


“Apparently, I’ll have to read her my writings in order to get her to do what I want.”

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