Mommy, Dearest?


I recently gave my dad a birthday card which I chose because of the sentiment. It thanked him for always being there and providing a comfortable childhood so that I never even had to worry about food on the table or a roof over my head. Nice, right? But I almost put it back because the inside said “daddy.”

I’m an adult. I don’t call my parents Mommy or Daddy. In fact, it kind of freaks me out when anyone other than a young kid says it.

There have been a few pieces presented at my writers groups in which the narrator refers to his or her parent with the…diminutive. One particular piece I remember was a creative non-fiction (it turns out) piece about the narrator dealing with her dad’s Alzheimer’s. I felt the pain and sense of loss along with the narrator, but every time she said Daddy, I winced. My mental image of the narrator changed. Instead of a grieving adult, I pictured a woman who was childish and, frankly, not independent. While it shouldn’t have made my connection to the narrator lessen, it did. And when it came time to critique, I said so.

Of course, the writer said that’s how she really did refer to her dad. There’s really no backpedaling from that insult.

Several other group members jumped in and said how they thought referring to her father as daddy was sweet.

I did notice that those group members were older than me, about my parents’ age (although my parents never used mommy or daddy when describing their parents). Perhaps, however, it is a generational thing. Or a regional thing.

Mama makes me wince slightly less. While I do think of younger children, I also think of the South and historical books like Little House on the Prairie. I grew up in the South and I really liked Little House when I was a kid, so maybe I’m more forgiving because mama is something I’m more used to. That’s not fair, but I can’t help it.

Are there names or titles that creep you out or color your image of the person or character who uses it?

7 thoughts on “Mommy, Dearest?

  1. I’m in my 50s and would never think of calling my parents mommy or daddy. I can’t remember if I ever did, after like toddler age. They were always mom and dad, except for a shortlived adolescent attempt at calling my father “pop.”

    Anyway, it does feel creepy to me. I think if the writer wants to avoid that, but still use the term, they need to play with it somehow.

    • Ultimately, I think she’s writing for herself, so she seems pretty content using the term. At least, she’s never mentioned sending pieces out for publication. Although I always critique with the assumption that the author will send out.

      And what’s the story behind trying to call your dad Pop?

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