Remember the unbridled childhood excitement of Christmas Morning? The insomnia-inducing obsession with the sheer possibilities of the bounty Santa Claus would surely leave under the tree? Staring at the ceiling at 4:00 am, debating asking your parents if you can just cut the nonsense and get this party started right now?
As we grow older, however, there seems to be less and less magic each year, which ironically provides less and less of a window for acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Is it lame that at 29 years old, I’m still waiting for that owl?
But I’m thrilled to say that after believing it was gone forever, I’m suddenly feeling that familiar old Christmas Morning anticipation once again because starting today, my wife and I will be orchestrating that magic for the Twins, as we prepare to give them their First Christmas Ever.
At 11 months, they’re not by any means at an age where they can fully comprehend all that’s happening, but we’re in no hurry for them to grow up any quicker than they already have, and we see this year as a prelude–a taste of many happy memories to come.
And now, on The Night Before Christmas, as I look all through the house (with my dog, the only stirring creature, pawing at my shin for attention now that the Twins are down for a long winter’s nap) I see decorations that will become ingrained in the Twins’ subconscious as Christmas-defining relics, just as my parents magically transformed $4.99 pharmacy purchases into The Singing Christmas Bear I Played With Every Year While We Decorated the Tree, The Christmas Carol Book with Which I Led the Whole Family in Rousing Sing-Alongs, and The Nativity Scene with Which I Fabricated Alternate Biblical Storylines Involving He-Man Saving Baby Jesus from Cobra Commander with the Help of the Three Wise Musketeers, the Ninja Donkey and the Jedi Cow.
I was just about to fall asleep after an exhausting day of twin-wrangling.
They’re both crawling now–not full-on, up-on-their-knees crawling, but they are definitely proficient army-style creepers, swift enough to entangle themselves in dangerous twinanigans if I look away for even a few seconds.
Beside me in the bed laid my wife, whose mind was still apparently very much at work, contemplating important career decisions.
As I approached the threshold of sleep, it occurred to me that upon entering the dreamscape, my arch-nemesis Skeletor would undoubtedly be up to his usual antics, necessitating a DeLorean trip back in time during which I would need to orchestrate my then-teenage father decking that skull-faced a-hole outside the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in the Castle Grayskull Gymnasium to create just enough of a diversion for me to hurl the Ring of Power into the Goblet of Fire, so that it could be displayed in a museum where it belongs. But just as I was unsheathing my Light Saber, a voice broke the silence, pulling me out of the Gumdrop Forest and back to reality.
The voice was my wife’s.
If I were Willy Wonka, I would have made a cheese factory instead of a candy factory.
If you had found me just then, I would have been dumb. Because I was dumbfounded. “Huh?” Those of you who are Loyal Readers are aware of my wife’s fascinating pillow talk contributions to our marriage.
“Think about it. There would be all kinds of cheese everywhere–a forest of cheese, a cheese river, cheese wallpaper, Everlasting Cheese-Gobstoppers that never go bad. It would be amazing.”
I weighed my wife’s idea carefully, critically, honestly, and came to a crucial decision. “That. Is. Phenomenal.”
“Yeah. Wonka really dropped the ball on that one.”
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If not, the answer may be cheese.
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.