“May May?” my daughter cries out.

“Is she talking to me?” I wonder.

“May May!” she says sounding more desperate. I run to her thinking that perhaps she has hit her head and forgotten my name.

“Oh, May May,” she says when she sees me pass through the door and into her room.

“How many fingers am I holding up? Who’s president?” I ask as I check her pupils to see if they’re dilated.

She can’t answer either question but it’s clear there’s nothing wrong. She’s giving me a big smile.

“Hey May May,” she says in a casual “what’s up” sort of tone.

“You’re my May May,” she continues lovingly.

“Oh,” I say. “I thought I was your mommy. I thought we’d kind of established that over the past two years.”

“You’re May May,” my toddler insists.

“Okay” I think to myself, if the past two years have taught me anything it’s that I should be adaptable, roll with it, go with the flow.

So I spend the afternoon answering to May May.

“Whatever,” I think, “it’s just for the day.”

But the next day May May is requested once again; and the day after that, and the day after that too. I start to wonder: What has become of Mommy?

Maybe I need to reintroduce myself; come to think of it I’m not sure I ever officially introduced myself to begin with. Maybe I’ll just rewind and do this right. I’ll give my kid a hearty little handshake.

“I’m Mommy,” I’ll say.

“I’m the one who’s lent you the boobies all these months (26 to be exact). I’m the one who loves you till my heart hurts and lies awake at night obsessing over your future. I’m the one who strategically places developmentally appropriate toys in places that you can reach and sings to you all day long. It’s Mommy, got it, Mommy.”

But lately that’s not all Mommy has been doing. Lately I’ve had to occasionally diverge from my impulsive, intuitive, “go with the flow” parenting and begin to play the role of enforcer. Lately I find myself saying things like “If I don’t hear a please I’m going to have to turn this car around!” or “I’ll count to three and if you don’t clean that up play time is over.” In short, I’m doing some dirty work. I’m having to be firm at times and even, dare I say, teach some lessons. I’m making some demands that make both of us miserable in hopes that it’s ultimately “for the best.” I’ve let her cry a bit, I’ve sat back and watched her struggle in frustration, and I’ve ignored her requests when they are delivered with a whine.

And it occurs to me that this new phase of parenting just might explain the sudden appearance of May May. Sage seems to ask for her just following these tough parenting moments. Like the other day when she took a friend’s toy and I ushered her over to a park bench for a talk. “May May,” she whimpered as I carried her away. “No Sage, no May May. Mommy has something she needs to talk to you about. If you can’t share, you can’t play.”

I believe that May May is my daughter’s super hero. And my daughter is calling to be rescued. If Mommy says no to ice cream maybe May May will say yes. If Mommy will not be interrupted a tug at the shirt maybe May May will indulge.

As soon as I piece together the May May puzzle, that little super hero starts fucking with me. I hear my daughter crying in the other room because she can’t fit her oversized doll into a tiny plastic highchair. I go to help her but then stop myself. “Just give her a minute to figure it out,” I say to myself. “She needs the independence. This is good for her.”

But as I hold myself back I hear this little voice that I can only assume is May May’s. “Come on, what’s the big deal?” she says. “Independence is overrated. What she needs is someone who’s attentive. You don’t want her to think that she’s alone in the world do you? DO YOU?”

“Must not cave to May May,” I chant to myself.  Sure she’s cool and fun. She’d be a great person to take out for drinks or to a movie. But will May May show my daughter how to be self reliant and polite? “Step off May May! I’m trying here, you just don’t see the big picture. Get out of my head!”

And just when I think I’ve suppressed May May, Sage starts calling for her (I guess because Mommy did not come running). Suddenly my guilt intensifies. And that May May, she feeds off my guilt. Her voice gets louder and louder. “You’re not trying to make her independent, you’re just slacking. Help your kid put the fucking doll in the high chair so we can all get on with our day. So we can have fun. Don’t you want fun? DON’T WE ALL WANT FUN!”

Then all at once it’s quiet.  My daughter has stopped shouting.  She has figured out how to cram the baby into the chair.

Now it’s “Mommy” she calls, “Look what I did!” She pronounces triumphantly.

This time I do run. I swoop her up and tell her I’m proud. Proud that she’s doing things on her own, proud that she’s such a big girl.

And as I hold my daughter in a tight embrace, I whisper under my breath

“Suck it, May May. Suck it.”

“I’ll get you next time,” I hear a little voice say.

“We’ll see about that May May…we’ll see.”

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