I wrote this last year for a print version of Boomvang #3. Since I'm transitioning to an on-line version of Boomvang I am reproducing it here as a post instead.
Despite what it sounds like, this is not a fictional account of two gay men and their son. It is, instead, an account of how one should be careful what one teaches one’s child to say. We all know this rule already from numerous funny stories involving extremely small children saying shit and the f-word at inappropriate times. But who would have thought that teaching your child to say da-da would be a mistake?
We have a daughter, Lucy, and she is the cutest baby ever. Sorry to all those other babies out there but I must speak the truth. So this extremely cute baby started learning both spoken words and baby signs around 6 months. The first word she said (at around 5 or 6 months) was baby. She said baby when she saw herself in the mirror or babies on the yogurt container or babies in books, etc. etc. Baby was a big hit. I don’t want to contemplate what it means about her future that her first word was completely self-referential and was said for the first time while looking in the mirror (let’s just say that I won’t be surprised if she ends up like Bob Dole saying things like, “Lucy likes yogurt. Lucy is a hot babe.”).
Anyway, so here we are and Lucy knows how to say baby, ball, shoe, sock, and a few other things. So one day I decide that it would be great if she could say da-da. Mitch stays home with Lucy every day and takes her to the park and to kids shows, and lets her climb on his back, and picks up the food she throws on the floor. So I thought it would be a nice gesture if she could refer to him by name, that name being da-da. So I spent a few hours over the weekend saying da-da and pointing at Mitch. And it wasn’t long before she was enthusiastically saying da-da, da-da, da-da any time Mitch was in the vicinity. And I must say that the first time she said da-da and gave him a big hug that Mitch did get a small tear in his eye (it could have been all the dog fur flying up from the carpet but I’m just saying…).
Here’s the catch. After a few days of only calling Mitch da-da, Lucy decided that I was a da-da too. If Mitch was a da-da, then clearly I was also da-da. No amount of ma-ma, ma-ma, ma-ma from either mitch or me could get her to convert over to ma-ma. So we would have funny interchanges like this. Mitch is at home with Lucy and he tells Lucy that ma-ma is coming home. I open the door, she runs into the living room and shouts “da-da!!”. Or, Mitch is trying to get Lucy to put on her shoes and she says da-da, da-da so she picks him up. At which point she gets really annoyed and reaches out her arms to me saying da-da, da-da, as if to say, “no you idiot, the other da-da.” We spent a lot of time pointing at me and saying ma-ma to which she would reply, “da-da, da-da.”
No amount of cajoling or instructing could convince her that she needed another word for me when clearly da-da was sufficient for both of us. Why bother with ma-ma when we were both obviously da-da? In fact, I think she got some amount of delight from rubbing my nose in all the da-das. She’s no dummy and when I would say ma-ma, she frequently laughed delightedly as she vehemently declared da-da, da-da.
So, there we were, the two da-das. What can I say, my daughter believes in economy of language (I don’t know where she got that from – definitely not me). It wasn’t until about a month ago, when she was around 15 months old, that one day she decided that she would call me ma-ma. Now I am ma-ma about 65% of the time and da-da around 35% of the time.
Take home message, think twice about teaching your kid the name of the dog. Before you know it, we’ll all be Cleos.