From the minute I learned I was pregnant I, like most women, began to fantasize about my little bundle of joy. I would sit at my desk and imagine bringing him home, giving him his first bath, his first tooth, etc. One of my fondest daydreams was his first word. My husband and I had decided I would not return to work after my son’s birth, so I knew I was going to be his primary care giver, and the one he’d spend the majority of his time with. Therefore, in my fantasy, I always pictured him uttering “Mama” first. Imagine my surprise when, at 6 months, my son looked around the room, locked eyes on his father and said “Dada,” in a room full of witnesses.
Most were surprised that my son was saying his first word at 6 months. I, however, was not. He has been following the same developmental path that I myself took as a child, and I just so happened to say “hello” at 5 months old, a fact my husband still refuses to believe!
My husband immediately jumped for joy and started screaming ‘HE SAID DADA! HE SAID DADA’” to which I instantly replied, “he’s just jabbering so stop your yelling!” I, of course, was in denial. My son for days would say “Dada” and I would walk around pretending he was saying something else.
The Monday after he first started saying those infamous words, I was forced to cave in and admit defeat. My husband left for work, and I sat down to play with our son. He sat there, throwing his toys and watching bemused as I would continuously pick them up and hand them back to him over and over again, and then started repeatedly screaming “Dada” as clear as day. My heart sunk. I could no longer deny it, my son had said his first words, and the experience was nothing like my fantasy. I was hurt and upset; I am the one that is home with him all day, I am the one up in the middle of the night with him (because my husband works a job where he drives all day, and I’d rather him not fall asleep at the wheel), I am the one sitting there repeating “Mama” for hours on end so that it will be implanted in his mind. My attempts were in vain, and I felt like a failure.
Those words, so simple, rocked my whole world. I felt, in a sense, betrayed. My husband guffawed at my reaction, thinking me foolish. He didn’t understand my reaction nor, for that matter, did I. It’s not like I don’t know my son loves me. He is at the age where he clings to me, and if someone else is holding him he will throw himself to get to me. I knew, underneath my hurt, that my son was, and still is, a momma’s boy.
That night I called my mother. Being a first time mom myself, I often turn to my mother for expert advice. She, unlike my husband, understood my pain. She assured me that this is a normal part of development; the “d” is just easier to pronounce than “m.” The longer we talked, the more rational I became. So what my son had said “Dada” before “Mama,” this didn’t mean he doesn’t love me! Why wasn’t I celebrating the fact that my 6 month old had said his first word?
I then realized I was ruining the whole experience for my husband. I’m a part of every developmental milestone in my son’s life; my husband was, unfortunately, working when the umbilical cord fell off, when my son first rolled over, when he first sat up on his own, when his first tooth popped through the gums at 5 months. Why couldn’t I just sit back and let my husband have one, for once? I hung up with my mother, pulled out the baby book under the “first word” section I wrote “Dada, 11/01/10,” and then offered the book to my husband as my peace offering. Now my son says “Dada” about 100 times a day, quite often referring to me as “Dada,” and I sit back and roll with the punches. He will say mama, soon, and then I can celebrate that milestone as well, but for now I’ll take what I can get!