“Mama. Mama. Mamamamama,” my wife enunciated steadily, in stark contrast to the hyperactive limb-chase she was currently undertaking–attempting to get my son’s frantic arms and legs into his pajamas.
“Thhhhhhhhhh,” he replied, creating a froth of his patented saliva bubbles.
“I think he almost got it that time,” I snarked from the rocking chair, with my daughter riding lap jockey.
Ever since my son said “Dada” for the first time (possibly because of my Chuck Norris t-shirt), my wife has been working on “Mama” with both kids, with little apparent success.
Bathtime had gone swimmingly and we were now preparing the Twins for bed. Typically, we each bathe and dress one kid, alternating them every other bath. That way, we both have equal opportunities at the completely polar-opposite bathing experiences my son and daughter have to offer. In order to better illustrate the differences, I will analogize with everyday beverages you can find around the house.
Washing our daughter is a fairly low-energy endeavor–she’s content to sit and simply enjoy the aquatic epidermal sensation. If my daughter’s bathtime were a libation, it would be a glass of fine wine–one drank at the end of a long day and savored slowly because it was so freaking expensive.
On the other hand, my son is more of a Red Bull tallboy. Put this strapping young lad in the tub and brace yourself (and him) for Olympic-sized splashes, incessant scuba diving attempts, and the golden eruption of Old Faithful. We’ve found that one hand on him at all times is the best practice, as well as mentally preparing oneself for an action sequence that would overwhelm even Michael Bay before plunging into Splash Mountain.
My wife had braved the one-boy-monsoon on this particular night, while I had handled my daughter, who, now that she was in her pajamas and NOT yet drinking The Bottle That Always Comes After Pajamas, was getting antsy.
“It’s not quite time yet, Baby Girl,” I cooed. “Hey, I have an idea. Let’s look at these animals.”
Sitting her down in the rocking chair and kneeling in front of her, I surveyed the stuffed animals congregating on the floor next to me and selected her jumbo pink Sock Monkey, which is about twice her size. She cocked an eyebrow and wrinkled her forehead, unsure about all this whole not-drinking-a-bottle business.
I nudged Pink Sock Monkey’s head in perfect cadence as I spoke in what I imagine a Pink Sock Monkey’s voice would sound like–just a few notches below falsetto.
Hi there little girl! I’m Pink Sock Monkey! I sure am hungry–do you happen to have any Pink Sock Bananas?
Get your mind out of the gutter, O Loyal Reader.
In one motion, my daughter spun away from the monkey, looked right at me, and held my gaze while batting the peripheral pink primate out of view, as if to say, “Why are you bullsh!tting me, Dad?”
I heard my wife cracking up behind me. “Smart little girl.”
Letting my ill-conceived ventriloquist dummy fall back into the pile, I chuckled and picked her up. “I guess nothing gets by you, huh?”
It was then that she swung her arm and delivered a tiny face-five to my nose.
My wife stifled a laugh.
“Thhhhhhhhhh,” bubbled my son, sporting a squinty grin.
“Babababababa,” asserted my daughter. We’re not sure if her undying love for bottles has prompted her to actually say “Baba,” if it’s just her favorite syllable, or both. Either way, with two strikes on me already, I figured I’d better swing away.
“Let’s go make some bottles, baby girl.”
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If not, remain vigilant for splashes and face-fives.
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.