I was recently watching a popular reality TV show, and I heard a middle-aged mom make an interesting observation. She watched as her one-year-old son repeatedly said “dada,” and commented on how he has not yet said “mama.” She acknowledged that her son was clearly saying dada, but then stated “he just thinks that I am dada.” It was an interesting and thought provoking suggestion. The kid did look at her most of the time that he was on camera. She could be right.
The truth is, for all the significance placed on first words, these crazy babies have no idea that they are actually forming intelligible speech. Every now and then, I am certain that my baby is saying “hi.” Other times, I hear “okay.” We have yet to hear what we might call his first word, just because we have little reason to believe that he is purposefully making these sounds. I have twice heard him say “ma” while in the presence of his mother, and we have twice heard him say “dada” fairly clearly. We feel like those might have been his first words, but we have not yet acknowledged this publicly. I think we were reluctant to celebrate these as his first words because the moments felt so anti-climactic. He never acted as though he meant to say those words, and he has yet to repeat himself.
It’s not like we were waiting for him to say “Hey mom, thanks for welcoming me into this world with nice hugs and warm milk,” although that would be helpful and affirming. We probably have been expecting too much certainty, though. I, for one, have wanted to hear him clearly say “mama” or “dada” multiple times, and repeat it back to us when we speak to him. I want to hear mama or dada more than anything.
Until then, I will continue to dismiss all the “heys” and “okays” throughout the day, and ignore all the real progress in speech my baby might be making. For all I know, this kid might be able to hum the Itsy Bitsy Spider with perfect pitch, and recite the Gettysburg address. Until he repeatedly says mama or dada, though, I probably won’t be paying attention to his speeches and songs.
Sorry, little guy.