My daughter hooked her arm securely around mine as I held her at my hip–a cripplingly cute mannerism of hers that melts me to my core every single time.
Vocalizing airplane sound effects, I made an extravagant production of swooping my giggling passenger down to the floor to pick up each member of the Hundred Acre Wood institutionalized as her Bedtime Crew, currently featuring Piglet (her go-to daytime stuffty) as well as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (the night-shift support staff who allow for optimal snugglization).
Her teeth brushed and hands washed, she knew we were coming up on bedtime and began her nightly wind-down ritual: gripping Piglet and Company, sticking her beloved right thumb in her mouth, and embracing day’s end with open arms and heavy eyelids.
Our son, however–currently in his mother’s arms–was performing his own nightly routine: maniacal arm-flails punctuated by Oscar-worthy whines. Never ready to pack it in, he’ll dash for the playroom or point at the turned-off tv in a last-ditch effort to stay up just a little longer, to milk as much out of the day as possible. There are still so many blocks to stack, so many books to read, so many Sing-Along Songs to groove to.
And while his unrelenting desire to be awake can be burdensome, I don’t ever fault him for it.
He gets it from me.
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!
You may also enjoy:
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.