Having the first word

“Despite the fact that you have grown this child inside you for nine months, and have given up smoking, alcohol, or any illicit drug that could help you come to terms with the fact that there appears to be a baby beluga whale frolicking inside you, despite the fact that you have given birth to this child, suffering truly unspeakable indignities in the process, and have spent every waking hour since that birth loving him, feeding him, nursing him, comforting him, washing him, dressing him and changing him, his first word will be ‘Daddy’.” – FRANCES WHITING, COLUMNIST

So true, right?
Mummies, I’m here to tell you it’s wrong.
I mean, yes, they do usually say ‘dad’ first.
But, in my experience, it’s not as a word, and certainly not as a word they associate with their father.
Before I go on, all you fathers or soon-to-be fathers out there best shut down this page now.
Because you won’t like what I have to say.
I was, as most of you know, a single mum to Master Seven from early on in the pregnancy.
During his first year, I had no boyfriends, close male friends or anyone else purporting to be ‘Daddy’.
Because that element of his life was so clearly missing, I did my utmost to actually avoid the ‘D’ word.
Despite this, Frances Whiting, despite this… he one day came crawling to me very clearly saying “dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad…”
Gobsmacked, I quickly moved to the other side of the room to test him.
He stopped, followed me with his eyes and then began crawling towards me again, starting to whine as he again chanted: “dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad-dad…”
There had been nothing close to ‘mum-mum’ come out of his mouth and, to my horror, I remained ‘dad-dad’ for quite a long time after that.
Clearly the name ‘Daddy’ harks back to our first days, when cavebaby crawled up to caveman and blurted out ‘dad-dad’.
A chuffed caveman quickly claimed the only coherent sound cavebaby could make as his own name.
Cavewoman was relegated with cavebaby’s next new sound – ‘mum-mum’.
“Me, dad-dad. You, mum-mum.”
And it stuck.
A friend’s husband proclaimed proudly on Facebook recently that his son had just said his first word – and that it was, of course, ‘daddy’.
I quickly recounted my experience with Master Seven in the comment section, humorously but also to set the record straight to him and all his male friends.
An eerie silence followed and I began to wonder if I wasn’t being a bit of a spoil sport.
I mean Mummy, with her breasts and her constant presence, seems to get top dog for the better part of a year.
Maybe being the first person baby calls out to is a deserved piece of validation for Daddy.
So, Learner Dad, if you’re reading this, do what you always do and promptly forget everything I’ve said.
And, when Li’l Fatty starts ‘dad-dadding’ his way round the house, I won’t tell you he is in fact talking to me.

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2 thoughts on “Having the first word

  1. you’re 100% right that the ‘da-da’ that children make when young has nothing to do with the da-da figure in their life. It’s a simple developmental milestone in the (amazing) process of language acquisition. I am a psychologist who studied psycholinguistics (the psychology of language) at Uni as a subject.
    Children simply find this sound easier to say, and requires less control over the muscles in their mouth! Not only this, but as first words come at merely months old, they do not yet even understand the meaning or association of such words!
    See the below website for an easy to read summary! http://www.babycenter.com/0_developmental-milestone-talking_6573.bc

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