When I was a younger, single girl, if I started referring to myself in the third person, I’m pretty sure I would have gotten severely made fun of, or at the very least I would still be single. Who wants to hear you say, “Jennifer has to go bye bye now”? But somehow when we become parents, this manner of speaking becomes totally socially acceptable, and not at all weird. On a daily basis I find myself saying things to my son like: “Did mommy say you could turn on the T.V.?”; “Can you give mommy a hug?”; “If you can eat the rest of your vegetables, mommy will give you a cookie”. God, sometimes I hear myself talking and I think I am crazy. Who talks like that? And the answer is…all moms talk like that.
But the bigger question is: Why do we talk like that? Is it because when we become wives and mothers, we become the third most important person in our own lives, rather than the first? The importance of my husband and my son start to trump my own importance, and therefore I am no longer worthy of referring to myself in the first person? Or rather, is it because we just assume that our children don’t understand first person pronouns? …Or do they not comprehend those pronouns because we never use them? I never say, “I am going to give you a bath now”. It’s always “Mommy is going to give you a bath now”. I’m guessing that if I said “I am going to give you a bath” that my son would be wondering, “Who is this ‘I’ person she is talking about?” We spend so much time and energy (and often money) educating our children in their formative years, so that they can evolve into the smartest, most well-adjusted little people we could possibly hope for. But are we setting them up for failure by not teaching them the basic ways in which normal adults speak? Will my child become one of those adults who goes around saying things to women like, “Jackson thinks you’re very pretty, and he would like to take you out for dinner sometime”? The girl is going to think, “Who is Jackson, and where is he? He sounds nice, but why are you asking me out for him?” Such a confusing way to go through life when you talk like that. No one would ever understand you.
Yet somehow as mothers we continue to talk to our children like that, and for now at least, they seem to understand us. And I suppose that if talking in the third person is the worst grammar side-effect I could suffer from being a mom, that’s not so bad. I is pretty smart otherwise, after all.