Sprawled out on my back amidst the Duplos, Thomas train tracks, and Fisher Price Little People that frequent the playroom floor, my daughter snaps me out of a momentary spaceout.
Grunting, I sit up groggily to field her request. Although my wife had worked from home today, it hadn’t been any less exhausting keeping the kids occupied and quiet while she ran in and out of the room with her cell phone and laptop, straining to hear her conference calls over squawks and shrieks for juice and raisins. On this particular night, my wife had a work dinner event to attend, leaving me in charge of the day’s Closing Ceremonies with the Dynamic Duo.
“What’s up, Baby Girl?” I ask my daughter.
The pigtails she’d dismantled the moment Mommy left poked frizzily from either side of her head, totally undermining her deadly serious demeanor. “Snowman,” she insists. “All gone.”
“That’s right, Baby,” I chuckle. “The snowman’s all gone. But he’ll be back on Christmas Day.” One of our Christmas decorations is a snowman that hangs from the front doorknob. She’d taken note of it during the holiday season and every day since we’ve taken it down, she’s reminded us that it’s missing–even now, almost two months after Christmas.
And every time she does this, she blows my mind.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we recently celebrated the Twins’ Second Birthday, and ever since the 1st of the year, the Twins have been making cognitive leaps and bounds daily. It’s as if their neurons have all finally joined Facebook and are friending each other. Their abilities to imagine, remember, reason, and verbalize have kicked into overdrive.
My daughter breaks into a beaming, jack-o’-lantern smile and giggles, “Snowman all gone,” thrilled that Daddy has confirmed what she already knew was right.
Noticing the clock, I rise to my feet and bellow, “Okay, kids! Bath time!” Continue reading
I used to laugh at my mother.
It would begin with her getting on the phone with a customer service representative. (Keep in mind that this was back in Ye Good Olde Days before Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Internet, when instead of yelling at ambiguous, unhelpful websites or cussing at incompetent live-chat reps in all caps, the only game in town was to actually haggle with a real person about bills, warranties, and Hooked on Phonics.)
While my mother attempted to insult the intelligence of whatever dolt she was dealing with on the other line, some semblance of the following events would transpire.
My two younger sisters, who were a year apart and constant playmates, would be “Doing a Story,” their name for playing out an improvisational narrative with a star-studded cast of Barbies, My Little Ponies, and whichever Legos their brother failed to hide well enough. In choosing which playthings each of them would voice, the oldest of the two would always weasel her way into First Draft Pick.
“I’ll be Malibu Botox Barbie.”
“No! You got to be Malibu Botox Barbie last time we Did a Story!”
“But this is the sequel. I have to be Malibu Botox Barbie again or else we’ll tank at the box office. The fan base expects me, not some young, up-and-coming no-name. Here, you can be Especially Flamboyant Ken.”
“Girls!” my Mom would hiss. “I’m on the phone!”
Fully engrossed in their heated casting session, their battle would rage on without even acknowledging my mother.
“Then be Less-Exciting Sister With the Arm Missing Stacie!”
“Why can’t I be one of those 20 other Barbies?”
“Because I’m Barbie.”
My wife turned her head. “What?”
“I’m 30 on the East Coast. The Facebook ‘Happy Birthdays’ just started.”
She smiled, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder. Having just kissed her own 20s goodbye in November, she’d (understandably) had moments of panic when her day drew near and had been bracing herself all week for a potential flip-out on my part. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.” And I was. I really, really was. But still… “It’s just…It’s really happening, you know?”
“Oh, I do,” she emphasized, nodding wide-eyed. “Believe me.”
My straw sputtered as I downed the last of my drink and clomped the glass back on the table.
“Let’s get the birthday boy another one,” she grinned, rising from her chair. “Or should I say ‘old man‘?”
“Ha. Ha. Make it a double,” I snarked. I watched her as she zig-zagged through the throng of suits and dresses crowding the dance floor towards the bar.
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!”
With Month-Marker Eight looming in the not-so-distant future, I find myself in futile daydreams of Steampunk time-pausing/travel inventions allowing me to (re)experience the unfathomably amazing moments of The First Year. Even though I’m with the Dynamic Duo more than anyone, it never feels like it’s enough because I know this babyhood thang is temporary.
I’d prefer not to tritely say “They grow up so fast” (even though it’s SO true), so I hereby submit a far greater phrase for nation-sweeping candidacy: “They grow up faster than a Red-Bull-guzzling cheetah in a Lamborghini on the Autobahn with his pregnant, twin-carrying cheetah wife going into labor.”
Go ahead, picture that for a minute. Man. Now that’s fast.
Coping with Age Velocity is common among parents, and I’ve found my personal remedy to be occupying as much hard drive space as possible with photos and HD video, immortalizing epic Twincidents on this fine publication, and simply being present. I’m as guilty as anyone of distracting myself with social media and my beloved television shows, but when I weigh reading Facebook statuses about going back to work again or pictures of meals people for some reason feel compelled to broadcast against snuggling my offspring or cracking them up to the point of hiccups with stupid human tricks, it’s a pretty easy decision.
Due to the recent addition of raptor-sharp teeth to Thing 1 and Thing 2’s mouths and their growing interest in non-cannibalistic foods, the Breastfeeding Buffet has officially closed up shop. It was a difficult journey for my wife, especially to feed twice the usual mouth quota with absolutely no experience, and I’m so unbelievably in awe of her resilience and desire to fill our Twinfants with the Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner of Champions. Now that it’s over, I know she feels like a layer of connection is missing between the munchkins and her, but it’s getting better as we’ve watched them exponentially blossom with the acquisition of new essential life skills such as playing toy pianos with one’s heel, biting one’s sibling’s toes, and escaping the clutches of a diaper-changing table at all costs.
So, as Cafe Mommy throws in the towel, pump, and Boppy, I’d like to commemorate its months of legendary customer service with a testimonial from our daughter.
But it’s not a verbal testimonial. It’s far greater.
Every night, just before bed, my daughter would get into her feeding groove, her eyes gradually closing as if losing herself in a shoegaze indie jam. And that’s when my wife and I knew it was coming.
The Pete Townshend Windmill.
That’s right. Believe it or not, with her mouth still firmly attached, our daughter would swing her arm just like the legendary guitarist of The Who. She’d do a few semi-circle warm-ups, and then rock out to the thumping of Mommy’s heartbeat.
How do I express to you, O Loyal Reader, the sheer awesomeness of this occurrence? My already-mind-blowingly-cute daughter…taking after my musical hero…PLUS BOOBIES!
Are you kidding me?
I will concede that her arm did not always travel as quickly as Pete’s. However, one particular adaptation of this iconic gesture is a dead-on representation of her breast-milk bliss–the future Wyld Stallyns fans in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
I may not have a time-traveling phone booth at my disposal, but I’ll still always be able to return to my daughter’s air-band performances in my mind’s eye, and, at least to me, Woodstock’s got nothing on them.
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If not, maybe you can invent a time machine and get that time back. If you do, let me know. I’m in the market for one.
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.