Several months ago, N says “mama.” He’s in his car seat babbling away, and then I hear it for the very first time. I feel it all the way down my spine. For about ten minutes, he says it over and over, melting my heart and turning me into a puddle of tears.
And then he stops. For months, I can’t get him to say it again.
Know what he does say? Da-da. All day, every day. Da-da! DA-DA! DADADADADAAAAA! He says it to C all the time, unbidden. To be fair, he also calls the dog, the iphone, his sippy cup, and my mother-in-law’s yellow table lamp “da-da.” But still.
I keep working on it. I say it loudly, I say it softly. I do a lot of “where’s Mama? THERE’S MAMA!” I’m shameless in my pleading. It’s such a tease, to hear it once and then never again! I’m like a junkie and I want it BAD. One day, he’s laying on his changing table before bed. I’m getting him into his fuzzy footie pj’s, the lights are low, the white noise machine is on and he’s sweet and sleepy. “Ma-ma,” I say, wrestling his arms through the sleeves. He looks up at me with those ridiculous eyelashes and smiles. “Ma-ma,” I say again, zipping him up. He smiles again and reaches up to me. I lower my face down near his, and he runs his fingers through my hair (gently, for a change). “Mama,” I say, “Mmmma-mmmma.” He’s gazing at me, and I can see him starting to understand. I can barely contain my excitement as he bats his eyes, strokes the side of my face with his soft chubby hand, and opens his delicious little mouth to speak.
The next morning, we’re sitting on the floor of his room. He’s picking at the threads on his nursery rug, a bright red shag that looks for all the world like the hide of a skinned Fraggle. He looks up very earnestly and says what I maintain was, at least to him, his first sentence. He looks very serious and earnest. “Wo wo, ba ba ba,” he says. I really think he thought he was talking. I say it back to him, to try to keep this intellectual discourse going, but he’s on to banging blocks together and looking extremely proud of himself. Since I know that all eight hundred of my facebook friends are dying to hear every minute detail of what my infant son is doing, I post his sentence on my wall. An acquaintance just back from a year teaching English in China confirms that my baby is a genius– the sentence is in Mandarin!
It means “Me me, Dad Dad Dad.”