My son has created a catch phrase that very well could sweep the nation. You may not have heard it yet because it is currently being swept under the nation’s rug, but once this news hits the interweb, look out.
The pop culture revolution began with my mother, who watches the Twins twice a week while I doctorize on campus. As the kids slowly become geniuses just like their parents, they are constantly acquiring new skills and lifehacks–like standing up and walking on their own, infiltrating government-grade security measures, or composing their very first rock opera (entitled American Infant) with nothing but a toy xylophone and Daddy’s GarageBand app.
Appropriately, whenever the Twins would use their newfound superpowers for good, my mother made a point to positively reinforce these behaviors, thus congratulating, “You did it!”
This became an overnight chart-topper with the kids, and soon, around November, every time my son accomplished a task, he’d triumphantly proclaim, “Did it!”
This is usually the time of year I ask inanimate holiday store displays to at least wait until Black Friday to assault me with their raised red and green elven fists. Don’t get me wrong–Christmas is my favorite holiday. I’ve just always felt that when stores crank up the Jingle-Bell Muzak while vampire costumes and Jack-O-Lanterns are still in stock, it undermines the experience of Halloween and Thanksgiving–both excellent holidays in their own right–all to make a few extra bucks. Plus, decking the halls that early and intensely has often left me tired of open-fire chestnut-roasting, intentionally-kitsch reindeer sweaters, and that impressively obnoxious Mariah Carey song long before the actual December 25.
At least that’s what I used to think.
As a parent, you rediscover to the wonder the world inspires. You see things “again for the first time” through your children’s eyes. And that’s why this year is different. This year, my wife and I will be giving the Twins their First Christmas Ever, and we are so psyched for it that we’ve been discussing its grandiose possibilities since June.
This fervor was recently amplified by the arrival of the Target Holiday Toy Sale catalog.
After a plaything inventory over the weekend, we decided that
Mom and Dad the Twins were growing bored with our current toy selection, so we took Double Trouble for their first ever visit to Toys “R” Us. (Don’t worry, I was sure to alert them to the store name’s grammatical usage error. Papa is not inclined to raise any fools, you all.)
I had not been to a Toys “R” Us for years, and as I crossed the threshold, was promptly reminded how much I don’t wanna grow up. Although I’m quickly closing in on three decades of John, one of the perks of parenting is the justification for purchasing badass toys without appearing to be The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. So many groundbreaking advances in toy technology have been made since I was last in the market for toys years ago, and I attribute this to Toy Succession, a principle I am just now making up, positing that toys are improved as each generation grows up and applies changes they wish they had when they were children, ultimately allowing already-awesome toys to become uber-awesome.
For example, when I was a child Legomaniac, there were only three Lego genres on the market: Town, Castle, and Space. Now, a glimpse at the Lego section of a toy store features too many to count, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, SpongeBob Squarepants, and even Ninjas! Gone are the days of having to imagine that a black space helmet is a ninja mask. Just as the iPhone probably has “an app for that,” Lego has a piece for that.
During the course of the We Are Toys visit my wife and I got separated, which is easy to do amidst such fine merchandise, especially as a new parent fueled by the excitement of sharing it with our kids and getting that genuine, unbridled ear-to-ear smile we parents feed off like addicts. I was flying solo with the shopping car, while my wife was rollin’ hard with the double stroller and thus, the Twinfants. When I finally caught up with the rest of my family, I found my daughter glomming intently on a Sesame-Street-themed piece of cardboard packaging, with the back side facing up. “What’s that you have there, little girl?” I asked.
For those who are not parents, this is a fun thing we do when requesting information–directing the question to the baby who cannot reply sufficiently while the other parent (who actually knows the answer and, as an added bonus, can verbalize it) is in earshot.
My wife spoke for my daughter. “A stuffed Elmo. I showed it to her to see if she liked it and she just grabbed it and started chewing it.” As mentioned previously, the Twins, like legions of other half-pints, are card-carrying members of Elmo’s Army.
“Cool! Can I see it, little girl?” I inquired, reaching for it.
My daughter’s eyes welled up as I approached the package, and I heard the slow, growing rumble of a tiny freakout. “No, don’t!” My wife hissed. “I already tried to take it. She flipped out. I think we need to take it home.”
I know it’s still early to say this, but I don’t plan on being one to cave just because my kids will cry if I don’t buy them something. Having survived their first colds and the recurring perils of teething, I’ve become relatively desensitized to crying. I’m not saying I’m immune–it’s been scientifically proven that a crying baby upsets anyone–both parents and non-parents. All I’m saying is my adventures as a stay-at-home dad have granted me the power to keep a cool head, even in the face of tears in stereo. On this particular day, both kids happened to be teething hard, so I had no problem with my daughter gnawing on this item–whatever it was–as long as it would quell the day’s tenth tantrum.
“It’s that one,” my wife continued, indicating a colony of “My First Elmos” on the shelf.
I’d already resigned myself to purchasing Her First Elmo, adhering to the axiom of “You break it, you buy it,” or my favorite incarnation of the saying, which we found on a poorly-translated-to-English sign in an Asian restaurant a few years back:
I checked Elmo’s price tag and found a dollar amount to my liking–in fact, I would have willingly bought the toy anyway. No harm, no foul.
However, we came close to a meltdown when wrenching Everyone’s Favorite Monster out of our daughter’s clenched fists as choke-able cardboard/saliva flakes peeked from the corners of her mouth. With a swift, Indiana Jones switch, I thrusted a wad of toy keys into her tiny fingers just after extraction, with limited tantrum-mercial interruption, while my wife inspected her mouth for debris.
Having reflected on this occurrence, particularly my wife’s reasoning, I got to thinking about its implications.
On a completely unrelated note, there is a possibility that tomorrow, I will spontaneously decide to take the Twins to the Apple Store at our local mall. If, during the course of the purely-for-browsing-purposes-only excursion, I happen to show my teething daughter an iPad “to see if she likes it” and “she just grabs it and starts chewing it,” it will not at all be my fault, but I will tragically and begrudgingly be forced to purchase the item, as the pristine Feng Shui Apple packaging will surely be ruined.
Don’t tell my wife.
But if she does happen to get word, I will have the landmark decision of Daughter v. Board of ElmoCasing as a precedent.
As an added precaution, I may or may not slip my daughter the receipt post-purchase.
After all, I wouldn’t want her to make a scene. It may upset the Geniuses.
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If not, wow! Check out this piece of cardboard! That looks pretty tasty.
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.
“I got your ear! I got your ear!”
This quotation does not involve the unfortunate loss of an appendage due to a hyper-competitive boxer taking a match just a liiittle too far, nor an evil, metal-faced Japanese overlord exacting revenge on a mutated rat ninja master, nor the alleged madness of a Dutch artist (or, apparently, a covered-up fencing squabble). No, this utterance hereby ignites a story destined to be more legendary than the ear-related tragedies of Evander Holyfield, Master Splinter, and Vincent Van Gogh combined—without even any actual ear removal. It is a story that will live on in the hearts of the Pseudonymous family for years to come as the time we almost certainly won several thousand dollars.
“I got your ear! I got your ear!”
The faux ear threat in question was directed at my son, who was lying in front of my wife on our ottoman/living room changing table/Pride-Rock-style dog lookout as she knelt on the floor, hunched above him. This was about a month ago, with the Twins about to hit the 4-month mark, and they were just starting to laugh. Now, we’re not talking mere smiles here—those had been around for months (for most babies, the smilestone hits during the second month). No, these were full-on belly laughs accented with elated shrieks, and that was where my wife had my son at this very moment, as she lip-nipped at his ears.
He was in this position for a reason. We’d just watched him pinch out a massive dump while sitting in his bouncy chair, and my wife had lain him down to change him. However, once he was down, his bashful flirting with Mommy prompting a little playing before delving into his brown abyss.
For those who have never experienced infantile giggles, it has to be one of the world’s most debilitatingly adorable, heart-melting sounds. Just try to be upset near a laughing baby. It can’t be done, even if you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t like kids. I contend that even the Heath Ledger incarnation of The Joker would ask himself“Why so serious?” in the presence of this sonic euphoria.
And thus, as my son shrieked and squealed with belly laughter, my wife and I were aglow with parental enchantment, which, in cooperation with the perpetual exhaustion of our super-sized parenting stint, impaired our now ever-dulling alertness. Holding my daughter at the time, I propped her up on the couch and made a ninja-grade dash for the camera, as I am our family’s documentarian.
I am determined to capture the Pseudonymous family’s greatest hits in high definition for the following reasons:
1) It provides the possibility for me to auteur an Official Selection for the Sundance Film Festival (or at least phenomenally indulgent highlight reels for such occasions as 18th birthdays and weddings).
2) I am compiling blackmail as ammunition for the upcoming teenage years (and beyond, if necessary).
3) Finally, and most relevant to this anecdote, I am convinced that the more I film the World’s Most Interesting Children, I will eventually wind up with a videographic twincident that will earn us $100,000 in winnings from America’s Funniest Home Videos.
With this fervor at full blast, I was capturing a very touching moment between mother and son within seconds. As he squeaked elatedly, my wife kept turning to me, declaring, “I’ve never heard him laugh like this before.”
A week or two prior, we’d gotten our daughter in similar stiches by composing an impromptu chant to the effect of:
Gonna take a bath?
Gotta take a bath!
Gonna make a splash
In Daddy’s face!
There’s actually some Grammy buzz surrounding the chant, and we don’t want to be preemptive, but the Best Bathtime Chant Category has pretty few nominees this year, so we’re fairly optimistic.
Anyway, our daughter had just about lost her mind laughing at our chant, but we still hadn’t gotten him to crack yet. At that point, it seemed our daughter was hitting all of the developmental milestones about a week sooner than her brother—smiling, hand usage, chainsaw juggling, etc. At first, we worried our son was not progressing along as well as his sister, but we realized that if he were the only 4-month-old in the house (without another to compare him to), we wouldn’t even be thinking about this. He would just be progressing the way that he was and even doing so earlier than average.
We thought this could possibly be attributed to how they were born. When my wife’s body notified her of its desire to expel children, it was my daughter’s water that broke. She was the first to be born (in multiples circles this is what they call “Baby A”). Once she arrived, they actually had to break our son’s water at the hospital to deliver him (“Baby B”).
Typically, naturally-broken water means a baby is “ready” to be freed from The Matrix, but since his was broken by the fine staff at the hospital, we figure our son wasn’t necessarily quite “ready” and thought he might even be roughly a gestational week behind. This, of course, came from our own lay-analysis, and I have no idea if it’s medically sound or complete crap. In the scheme of things, though, it didn’t even matter because now, at 5 months out, this one-week delay is gone. They’re splitting milestones in half, with him perfecting many new tricks before her, and vice versa.
After recording baby laughter footage galore (probably more than I will ever have disk space for, considering the compounded baby laughter footage I will undoubtedly amass), I stopped filming, put the camera down next to me on the couch, and picked up my daughter again. I would later regret this, to the tune of thousands of hypothetical dollars.
Having sufficiently gotten my son’s ear, my wife decided she needed more, and trained her crosshairs on his stomach. “I’m gonna get your tummy! I’m gonna get your tummy!” she giggled, unsnapping his onesie and pulling it up, exposing his belly. It was at this point that I remembered how my wife and son had originally gotten into this position. It was not difficult to deduce because baby feces smattered his belly well above his diaper.
However, my wife did not seem to be aware of this, persisting “I’m gonna get your tummy! I’m gonna get your tummy!” as my son laughed his ass off. It seemed that during the undressing process, she had not broken my son’s gaze.
As she lowered her face towards his stomach, I told myself “She has to know,” as evidenced by the pronounced layer of peanut butter glaze coating his lower stomach, but she was headed right for it! I shuddered.
“Babe!” I called, but, alas, to no avail.
She “got” his tummy.
“What?” she answered, looking in my direction, allowing my viewership of the gooey, brownish-green, diagonal, prolonged soul patch of baby poo now caking her chin.
My son was equally surprised, staring with eyes wide at the guy who interrupted his giggle-fest. My daughter looked up at me from my lap, horrified by the sudden, loud outburst emanating from her chair/Daddy.
“Um, I think you just got sh!t on your face.”
“Look.” I pointed at my son’s bare stomach, still chock full of fecal spread.
“Oh my God,” she chuckled. ” I was just so focused on his laughing I didn’t see it.”
“Yeah, I got that.”
Cleaning her chin with baby wipes, she bashfully added, “Guess it’s time for more coffee.” Suddenly, she inhaled excitedly. “Did you get it on video?”
I spun desperately towards the camera, sitting idly next to me on the couch.
Had I kept rolling for just a few more seconds, I’d have comic genius in my hot little hands, a prime candidate for not only winning the episodic $10,000 first prize on AFV, but a contender for the $100,000 grand prize finale. But no, I had instead decided to exercise self control, to not overdocument, to conserve disk space. That’ll teach me.
I tried to convince my wife to reprise her role as “Sh!tfaced” Mommy, this time with the camera rolling, but she wouldn’t go for it. Plus, I would also have had to renegotiate a modified contract with my son’s agent, and that would have been a paperwork nightmare.
My head hung in shame, I did my best to move on with my life, pushing the what-could-have-been’s out of my consciousness–the waterslide I could have replaced my stairs with, the world-class recording studio I could have built in the Cluster Room, complete with a retractable grand piano for my wife that lowered from a secret ceiling compartment, the personally-pimped-by-Xzibit-Go-Go-Gadget Minivan we’d be rolling in, complete with changing table, cotton candy machine, and gold-plated Diaper Genie…
But no, I can’t let myself think about these things, because the video was never shot. Instead, I’ll have to settle for sharing it pro bono with you, O Loyal Reader, which, I guess, is better than nothing.