There’s no gentle way to say this–I can smell the difference between my son and daughter’s fecal matter.
I could describe their distinct aromas for you in gag-reflex-inducing detail, but have chosen not to in case you are currently eating, or plan to ever again. (After all, you should never bite the hand that reads you.)
Not sure how many of you know this, but I am a world class dishwasher. This is not due to any concerted effort on my part–I’ve just wound up logging my 10,000 hours since the Twins’ birth, conquering mountains of soiled bottles, Sippy Cups, and high-chair trays on a tri-daily basis.
Thus, on the morning of the Twincident in question, I had stealthily ducked into the kitchen to knock out the breakfast dishes. Despite both having nasty colds and ear infections, the Twins were in excellent spirits having just been fed, and babbled baby limericks at each other while surveying the playroom toyscape. Since the Twins made their outside-of-Mommy debut, we rarely have more than two minutes to eat human-style at a proper table anyway, so we chose to convert our house’s “dining room” to a playroom, which has worked swimmingly at moments like this, when I can watch them in the next room while still actively pursuing 20,000 hours.
Having successfully sanitized the load’s umpteenth and umptieth items, I Deion-Sanders-High-Stepped from the sink to the playroom threshold.
And that’s when it hit me.
The Wall of Stank.
There is a moment that every Daddy waits for.
Typically (or stereotypically, if you’d prefer), Mommy is the all-star. The intensity of the mother-spawn connection is undeniable. After spending nine months living inside of her plus the primal closeness of breastfeeding, dads often feel they are second string in many respects. While there are families with stay-at-home male superheroes like me, I would argue that even then, there is just something cosmically unique about the bond between mother and baby with which fathers just can’t compete.
However, every dad–whether a working dad, a stay-at-home dad, a combination of the two, or some other option I can’t think of–waits for one special, magical moment. A moment he can truly call his own. A moment when his loinfruit shines the spotlight solely on him, and it becomes completely okay for him to ham it up–even in front of Mommy. A moment he is verbally singled out by his offspring as The Man in Charge, the Go-To Guy, the Master of the Universe. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the first-ever time his baby identifies him aloud as “Dada.”
This landmark occurrence is mind-blowingly amazing in its own right–it signifies language acquisition and adds a new, verbal layer of connection between parent and child. But–at least in English-speaking households–it also gives Dad a little ego boost as it usually happens before “Mama.” Call it a purely phonetic phenomenon if you like, moms. We’re well aware that the “D” sound is easier to make than “M” and we don’t care, because when we hear that inaugural “Da” amidst the babble, we know the wait is almost over. We’re going to beat you in just this one thing. And that’s okay.
At the same time, this anticipation can get us a little carried away. For instance, some over-excited dads rule the initial, randomly-stumbled-upon, mid-babble “Dada” as The First. Never mind that the alleged “Dada” wasn’t even in the room and the kid was engrossed in turning an expensive board book into paper pudding before he can even fully grasp its content (money well spent). Yet, the first time they hear these two chance syllables in succession, some dads are on Facebook in seconds flat, telling the world that the “Dada” has dropped.
Settle down, Beavis. Sure, I’ve had these moments, too, but to me, this is an inauthentic “Dada.”
Since the Twins arrived, I’ve been telling myself I would not claim to be dubbed Dada prematurely, and was proud with my performance when we first heard my son say:
“Did you hear that?” my wife enthused. “He said Dada!”
“Yeah,” I replied, skeptical. “Not really, though.”
See, in my opinion, the Official Dada Ruling should be one in which the child actually seems to be addressing or identifying Dada, an intentional utterance instead of an accidental baby-babble snippet. This is when you know your child has joined Team Dada.
Which brings me to my most legendary announcement since The Unveiling of Twinfamy Logo 2.0:
On Monday, August 29, 2011, around 7:45 am, my son welcomed me into the Dada Ranks…I think. Maybe. I don’t know. Well, here’s what happened.
I had put my daughter down for the morning’s first nap and was now changing my son’s diaper before shipping him, too, off to Dreamland. The whole time, he stared up at me with an admiring half-smile. As I affixed the new diaper’s Velcro and pulled his pants back on, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Dada.”
Chills. Butterflies. Skepticism. More chills. Imaginary Disney-movie animal sidekicks cheering.
Did he just say what I think he said?
He launched into a squinty-eyed giggle and I joined him, encouraging him on a job well done, and reinforcing, “That’s RIGHT, Buddy! I’m your Dada!”
As the festivities drew to a close, I rocked him to sleep to the tune of my magically delicious baritone crooning “Bohemian Rhapsody,” cribbed him in super slow-motion so as to not wake him, and plopped onto the couch.
Did he just say what I think he said?
He looked right at me.
They were his only two syllables during the entire diaper transaction.
I then noticed the t-shirt I was wearing:
Was it because of the shirt? Was he calling Chuck “Dada” instead of me? Or did the nine majestic Norrises inspire him to call me “Dada”?
I needed a second opinion.
I unsheathed my cell phone and ran to the other side of the house to call my wife at work. (After five years as a teacher, I have a slight volume problem–I tend to over-project my voice, even when unnecessary, so I’ve learned not to talk on the phone during naptime.)
“Babe. I think…our son…just called me ‘Dada.'”
She later told me my unintentional dramatic pauses had her in a panic that something terrible had transpired. My bad.
I proceeded to relate the event in question and asked her if she thought we should “count” it.
Her response was incredibly supportive: “Why is he saying ‘Dada’ first? I pushed him out of me. Does he not remember that?”
I was pretty convinced it was For Real, but I’ve been waiting for an encore performance and he hasn’t done it since.
So now I don’t know what to think. Was it an intentional moment of clarity, possibly inspired by nine images of Chuck Norris, or was it just a coincidence?
Since I’m on the fence (but not a pointy one, thankfully), I’m going to outsource my opinion to you, O Loyal Reader.
What do you think? What are your Authentic Dada Verbalization Criteria? When did you decide the first “Dada” had dropped, prompting you to chronicle it in the Sacred Texts (baby book)?
Go ahead. Get your “comment” on.
Here’s some Jeopardy-style Dada-themed thinking music for you:
This post was Freshly Pressed by WordPress on September 7, 2011. Yay!
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If not, remember that Chuck Norris is always watching. Nine of him.
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
As I’ve been preparing more twincidents for your reading pleasure, the Grammatical Terrors of writing with gender in mind have reared their ugly heads, so I figured I’d tackle that now, in Twinfamy’s first few days, before its umbilical cord falls off.
Most babies are either male or female. This is especially helpful (and fun!) when those babies grow up and attempt to make more babies.
However, this two-party system makes it difficult to use personal pronouns when writing about a generic child (and really, all people). In the olden days, when dinosaurs and handlebar mustaches ruled the earth, a then male-dominated society would opt for pronouns with a penis (he, him, his, etc.). Nowadays, many writers exclusively use vaginal pronouns (she, her and… um…her), some overcompensating from the paranoia of being branded a male chauvinist, and others in an effort to make up for the sins of writers before them.
Still others attempt to write in a completely gender-neutral fashion. This can be done by always using the plural form (e.g. they/them) and occasionally crafting sentences that are either grammatically incorrect or slightly awkward, as well as using other generic terms (child, baby, youngster, progeny, offspring, loinfruit, etc.), but this often is just a pacifier’s throw away from referring to a baby as an “it,” which is just offensive. It makes you sound like a Terminator seeking your target and attempting to destroy “it.” Some writers even employ clumsy, multiple-choice eyesores like s/he, him/her, and my personal least favorite, him/herself.
Simply put, writing about singular, hypothetical babies can be a pain in the diaper.
I care about you, O Loyal Reader, and I don’t want you to stumble over such madness. It would anger me if that got in the way of you consuming my genius, in the same way that Mel Gibson would be a half-blue-faced, kilted savage if some dufus in a ten-gallon hat were blocking your view of Lethal Weapon 5.
However, I don’t know which public restroom your child will be using when HE OR SHE grows up (see how lame that is?). You might even have one of each like me, or dare I say some combination involving three or more (and if you do, God bless you). No matter what, I can’t always write in such a way that is pronounically relevant to your exact situation. I’m sorry. Don’t cry. I can wrap you up in your blankie if it’ll make you feel better.
The best way I’ve seen it executed in other parenting texts is by alternating between masculine and feminine forms every other chapter or post, so I’ll do the same here, with the exception of gender-relevant topics, like how to avoid a golden shower while changing your son’s diaper.
Since I have both a girl and boy, I’m already tuned into that balancing act, as evidenced by the equal number of pink and light blue items that have taken over my house. So if it happens that you have a son and I use “she” in a post, I’ll ask you to not assume I’m calling him a sissy, nor am I calling your stunningly beautiful daughter mannish when I use “he.” I’m just trying to keep it even, as I do with my love for my own son and daughter—tied at 100%.
(Yes, I do realize that allocating 100% to each would actually equal 200% of my love, which is technically impossible. Don’t be that guy…or girl.)