It’s confusing when I introduce my family to people. My nephew has lived with us since he was five years old, and I’ve been in charge of his care since he was three (when I married his uncle). In his native language, Lisu, he calls me Anyiche (a combination of Anya, which means Aunt, and Okay, the English word I was saying all the time and that he assumed was my name).
In English, he calls me Mommy.
After all, his own mother hasn’t taken care of him since he was six-months old. She left him with his grandparents so she could re-marry, something that is not uncommon here. When we had our son, we wanted Johnny to call me “Mommy”, so Ben also started calling me Mommy.
Ben would also point out in English class that Johnny is his “brother.” Lisu has no word for “cousin” anyway.
When we moved to the city, Ben started using more Thai, as he actually had friends who only spoke Thai and not Lisu. So with his friends, and also at school, he refers to me as his mother.
Ben doesn’t know the word for Aunt in Thai anyway.
I guess I can come to terms with it. Ben is my son, more than my husband’s nephew. Sometimes, it feels like Ben is my son more than Johnny is. I didn’t give birth to him, but I have treated numerous injuries, picked him up, chased him down, enforced discipline, given out rewards, and taught him to speak in English.
That…and he calls me Mommy.