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.
My son has discovered the joy of blowing bubbles. Not the sudsy kind that can be purchased at the store that are equipped with plastic wands. His bubbles are homemade, mouth-crafted from his own bodily fluids, including saliva and spit-up, as well as fluids intended to become bodily, such as breast milk, formula, and baby food. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing–eating, playing, fighting crime–he’s always perfecting his new hobby.
He employs two methods in bubble creation. His first, preferred technique is by sustaining the “TH” sound, partially sticking his tongue out just underneath his forthcoming top row of teeth, allowing bubbles to emanate from either side of his mouth. The second strategy involves vocalizing the “hard C” or “K” sound and holding it, creating a sort of artificial static white noise usually incorporated in the use of imaginary walkie talkies.
Whichever method he employs, he is growing in both enthusiasm and proficiency daily, making him a veritable sprinkler. Most of the time this is incredibly adorable, as he sports a proud, accomplished grin at demonstrating such bodily control. However, this new talent can be cumbersome when attempting to feed him.
He’s hard enough to feed as it is. At 6 months old, he is highly distractible while eating. Books I do not have time to read suggest that many babies at this age have newly-acquired 20/20 vision and are thus becoming increasingly aware of their surroundings, which can be infinitely more exciting than eating, their first love. This newfound awareness does not seem to faze our daughter, though. Despite these biological developments she is a focused eater, eyes on the prize the whole time. She’ll chug an entire bottle without once coming up for air and is always ready for each new bite of baby food, oatmeal, rice cereal, or whatever else we’ve prepared.
In stark contrast, I’d estimate my son’s feedings to average 1 1/2 times to twice the length of his sister’s.
At mealtime, his attention is everywhere except the intended ingestion–the pictures on the wall, the pattern on Daddy’s shirt, the swirly shape of our pole lamp’s energy-conserving bulb, the toy I’ve given his sister to occupy her since she finished eating 20 minutes ago, etc. While drinking a bottle, teething has even prompted him to nipple-gnaw instead of drinking through it.
And then, of course, there’s the Spoon Games. One of his favorites involves putting his head down so his chin is virtually attached to his chest, making for a less-than-ideal spoon delivery. Another is when the spoon comes his way, in the time-honored tradition of pretending it is an airplane, he denies the plane in what we have dubbed the King-Kong-F*ck-You Swipe, rendering the plane useless as its engine fuel splatters the floor. Luckily, our dog waits patiently for this occurrence and is an excellent cleanup crew.
I’m sure you can imagine what bubble blowing had contributed to this repertoire, particularly as food is often sent back to the chef in an aerodynamic manner. I have removed puree’d peas from my eyes on several occasions.
Regrettably, in frustration, I recently I caught myself uttering a phrase I hoped never to utter to my kids, particularly because they’re twins and will always compete for our approval: “Why can’t you be more like your sister? Look how fast she eats, Buddy!”
Totally my bad, but trust me, 20 minutes of desperately trying to get him to eat even half of his food seems way longer than it actually is.
At the same time, the battlefield that is feeding my son recently provided the setting for what may be my favorite father-son moment to date.
The meal was carrots and green beans. Having seen the stains the carrots leave on some of our baby spoons, I looked down in horror at my off-white $40 Paul McCartney Tour t-shirt. He smirked at me from his high chair, as if petting a supervillain cat in his lap.
“Be right back, Buddy.”
Once I slipped into something more ruin-able, a bell sounded, signaling the beginning of Round 1. Luckily, King Kong was tame today, and he actually started out cooperatively. After a few successful spoonfuls, however, as the plane approached the hangar, I saw him winding up. His tongue partially protruded, the “TH” blowing technique was imminent, and would be unleashed the moment food hit baby mouth. I found myself in a game of “chicken” with my 6-month-old.
Then, a half-inch from impact, I pulled the spoon back, saying, “Oh, no you don’t. I know exactly what you’re doing.”
Shocked, he stared wide-eyed for a split second, and then just started dying laughing. But there was something special about this gigglefest, and it’s a moment I will remember for the rest of my life because it was my first real intellectual interaction with my son. I could tell he knew that I knew he was about to blow green beans and carrots all over me, and he recognized that Daddy was on to him–that I was a formidable opponent.
It blew me away. We had connected and communicated on a higher level than greetings, tickling, or wanting to be held. This was an intellectual, joking moment between the two of us. My son was being a smartass, just like his Dad.
Arriving at this realization, paired, of course, with the contagiousness of baby laughter itself, I had no choice but to join him. We giggled at each other as chunks of carrots ran down his chin and he gleefully slapped his high chair tray.
Once the laughing fit was over and he acknowledged me as the Undisputed Champion of Bubble-Blowing Prevention, the remainder of the meal went off without a hitch.
This, along with the recent arrival of tiny teeth, admittedly makes me a little sad, as the initial “baby” months are really starting to fade away. At the same time, though, I’m elated to see my son becoming the sharp little man he seems to be turning into. I have a feeling he and I will riff with each other for years to come, much to the annoyance of the females in our household.
I can’t wait.
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If not, please don’t spit food in my face. I get enough of that already.
The rare, sought-after occurrence (especially among stay-at-home parents) of orchestrating all of one’s children to nap simultaneously, awarding the ecstatic parent the opportunity to do whatever he or she desires…at least for a little while. Often punctuated and commemorated with celebratory acts such as Twinfamy’s “Holy Crap, a Nap Overlap” Shuffle.
Due to an unwelcome household visit from the fabled Teething Fairy, the ever-elusive Nap Overlap had now become the stay-at-home father’s White Whale–his obsession–while his tiny first mates alternated between laughing in his exhausted face and wailing along with the Sirens just off the rocky coast.
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If not, watch out for those Sirens on your way out. They sing a killer rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Almost gets me every time.
I always escape singing “Mama mia, let me go.”
I awoke suddenly to sheets of rain tap-dancing on the roof, werewolf-howl wind gusts, and the white-noise hiss of our baby monitor, my wife’s intent yet exhausted face lit by the screen.
“Hey,” she whispered.
“What up,” I yawned.
“He’s awake.” She turned the monitor to display my son in his crib, tossing restlessly. I glanced at the clock. 3:20 am.
“Still out,” she replied, just as the monitor toggled to our daughter, fast asleep. My wife dubiously shook her head. “How are you just now waking up? How can you sleep through this?”
A bright flash lit the room momentarily, followed by thunderclap that literally rattled the house.
She shot me a the-deafening-storm-you’ve-been-sleeping-through-you-lucky-bastard kind of look. My wife is a light sleeper, so she wakes up often at night and sometimes gets jealous of my hibernation-grade slumber intensity, particularly during nights like this.
“Oh,” I answered. “Talent?”
We are in the midst of what Arizonans call “Monsoon Season,” a time during which we are graced not only with three-digit heat, but also higher-than-usual humidity and a wave of tropical thunderstorms, including the most massive dust storm Phoenix has seen in years–or as I learned the day after the storm, the proper term is haboob. (Yes, really. How exciting is that?!) So, with that in mind, check out these pictures of this enormous, mind-blowing, spectacular haboob, from TWO angles!
While it was incredibly cool to experience (at one point we couldn’t see anything further than five feet out the windows as the tannish fog enveloped the house), the timing was not ideal. The storm hit just as we were putting the Twins down for bed, so despite the soothing simulated-heartbeat jams of their Sound Machines (which I believe are from Miami), the rattling windows, moaning gusts, and our yapping watchdog kept them awake, which allowed them the opportunity to complement the clamor outside with alternating cries akin to dueling guitar solos.
I remembered the haboob experience as the sky paparazzi flashed another photo.
My first thought was: Huh-huh. Huh-huh. Haboob. My second was: Huh-huh. Huh-huh. But my third was: Get ready to hold crying progeny for an hour.
Not that I was hoping for it, but I definitely had to accept it as a possibility. But then, my selfish heart melted when I actually thought of the Twinfants, alone in their beds, waking with a start, never having heard or experienced such a loud, sensory-overloading thing. Recalling my own childhood and how terrified I’d get of lightning storms, I became totally okay with soothing them and letting them know everything would be okay.
My son flipped from his side to his back, his eyes wide open, looking up at the camera. I swear he already knows what it is and what it does because all the time I catch him half-smirking directly at it like Dunder-Mifflin’s Jim Halpert.
After a few minutes of silently willing him back to sleep, my wife and I gently high-fived as he found his thumb and sucked it all the way back to Sleepy Town.
“Okay,” I murmured, leaning over to kiss my wife. “Good ni–”
FLASH! (Yes, that is an onomatopoeia that doesn’t actually make a sound.) BANG!
“She’s waking up.”
“No she isn’t.”
Sure enough, there my daughter was, exhaling loudly, whipping what little hair she has back and forth. Now, she worried me even more. She’s a little more high-strung and observant than my son. Her eyes like dinner plates, she has a thirst for life in general and passionately takes in everything she encounters. This curiosity will serve her well, but it also causes her to get easily overwhelmed by situations that overload her senses. Such as bright flashes of light and loud booms.
The back-and-forth hair-whipping slowed to an alert halt at another flash and bang. Her eyes widened.
Oh no. Here it comes.
And then something incredible happened.
She just lost her mind laughing.
And then, in utter shock, so did we.
Each crash intensified her hysterics to a higher, more jubilant octave, rolling mirthfully back and forth as the storm raged on, while my wife and I tried to stifle belly laughs so the three of us wouldn’t wake my son.
Eventually, she tired herself out, found a tasty finger, and collapsed.
My wife and I, on the other hand, were now fully awake from laughing until we cried.
In fact, we listened to the sky explode for another hour, returning fire with overdramatic sighs and obscenities.
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If not, maybe you just need to think of the word “haboob.” Huh-huh. Haboob.
“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.