Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Language of Parenting

Here in South Philadelphia, people often call their children or grandchildren by the role they have in the child's life. For example, the mother calls the child "mom" or a grandfather calls the child "pop-pop." This is true for a huge number of South Philadelphians and although it's most predominant among the Italian and Hispanic population, I have noticed that every group in South Philly uses this role switch nickname. Sometimes it goes so far that you hear a child being called, "Uncle Pete." And I'm using the term "child" loosely because it's just a generational difference.
If you are 60 and your mother is 80, you are going to be called "mom" by your mother.

Our across the street friend calls her son "Mom" and he calls her "mom."
She recently told me a story about a conversation that they had and they both called each other mom through the whole thing.

This is verbatim.

"So I said, 'Mom, what are you gonna do?'

And he said, 'Mom, relax'

and I said 'Mom, don't tell me to relax' "


This is not to be confused with the same generation calling each other "Mommy" or "Mommi" and "Daddy" or "Papi." And although this is sometimes sexualized, it's often a friendly term to be used in conversation or as a greeting. Often women who are strangers greet me as "mommy" or "ma." I have noticed in the last couple of years that I will sometimes also greet someone with "Hey Mommy" or "Hey Papi." And this is not a term to be used with people older that than the one using it; it is for peers close in age.

What does it mean?


The Capt'n said...

It is not for us to understand. It is only for us to love.

Anonymous said...

i always thought of the same-generation thing as "mami", rather than mommy. in my head that's how i distinguish the actual mothers from the friends. i never knew the rest about moms calling their kids mom, very interesting!