The Mixed-Up Mama



“I know a Pretend Mama,” announced the four-year-old over peach pie and ice cream.

“Who is a Pretend Mama?” I asked, wondering what in the world sparked this thought.

Pointing to me with a sticky finger and a smile, “You are,” she answered.

“Me?” I queried back, momentarily stumped.

“Yep,” said this pint-sized daughter of mine as she arranged another spoonful of ice-cream and peaches.

I couldn’t help myself. “Then who is the Real Mama?” I asked in a casual voice, hoping it didn’t betray my keen interest in the answer.

Again the sticky finger pointed at me, “You,” she confirmed, unaware, it seemed, of the catch-22 she’d just created.  If I was the Pretend mama, I could not, in fact, be the Real Mama.  And if I was the Real Mama, I could not possibly be the Pretend Mama. Further investigation seemed necessary.

“So I’m the Pretend Mama and the Real mama?” she nodded, her attention, at this point, narrowing toward her bowl. “But how can I be both?”

With the confidence of Ann Landers answering the great problems of the world in a few paragraphs, she explained, “You’re a mixed-up Mama.”

I waited a few moments for further explanation but she seemed to be done with this session of psychoanalysis, so I left her to the last soupy bites of ice cream.

How did she know, I wondered?

Do they all know, I pondered further?

Maybe the fact that I am both a Pretend and Real Mama is the white elephant in the room that we lift up and dust under on chore days. Maybe we’ve all silently agreed that it will be our little secret.

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