If you read this blog (and I’m guessing most of you do) you know I tell a lot of stories about my older boy, Oot, who’s creeping up on 6.
I have another son, who’s a little over 18 months old. I don’t talk about him as much for the simple reason that when you’re that young, there aren’t as many stories to share. Babies are, to be completely honest, fairly useless. They can’t do much, either physically or conversationally.
But Cutie Snoo has been talking more lately. What’s more, he’s started saying “dada” again, after a few months of heartbreaking hiatus.
It’s a fascinating time in a kid’s development. He’s learning how to express himself, and if you’re good at interpreting, you can get a little window into how his charmingly unspoiled little baby mind works.
Tonight, I ended up having to do a fair amount of work (because that’s what Labor Day is all about, right? Working until 9:30 pm?) and as a result, I missed my kid’s bedtime. By the time I wrapped up the things that needed immidate attention and opened the door to my office, the house was dark and quiet.
Still, I crept into the room where they sleep with Sarah. It was dark and as I stepped close she said, “the end,” finishing what was no doubt their bedtime story.
“dada” Cutie said.
I crawled into the bed and lay next to him. It’s a big bed, but I still had to move carefully because he’s so tiny and it’s so dark.
I smooched him, and he squirmed around a little bit until he was nestled next to Sarah, then he said: “my mama.”
There’s only so much that text can do to replicate a baby’s speech. Most linguists agree that nonverbal communication (which includes things like tone, inflection, and body language) accounts for about 80% of the total information transmitted when we talk. But when you’re a baby and your entire sentence is two words, that number is pushed even higher.
Here’s part of what he was saying: “My mom is here.”
But he was also saying, “Look at me, cuddled up against my mom.”
But he was also saying, “Look, this is my space. There are boobs, like, right here, and they’re great, and that’s kinda my thing, and I’m going to sleep next to them. So just be clear, I’m glad you’re here, but don’t try to pull any shit with me. This is *my* mom. Okay? Okay.”
(In his defense, I do sometimes tease him by trying to steal the boobs from him while he’s nursing. So this is not an unfounded fear on his part.)
Last and not least, he was also saying, “Isn’t this great?”
It was clear as day what he meant. And now that I was closer to him and my eyes had adjusted a little, I could see him smiling. His tone was so contented that it was actually kinda smug. And his body language… he wasn’t just relaxed. He was deliberately and theatrically lounging.
It made me realize how awesome his life is. Think about it. How cool must it be to go to sleep next to the person you love without any reservation? The person who is, in effect, three quarters of the known universe? To know if you are hungry or need comfort or a cuddle, a boob is right there. Like, literally, right by your head. To know that you’re cared for. To know you’ll be taken care of. To not have any fears or worries that ride you into the night and make you wake up sweating?
What must that be like, to feel like that for days at a time?
I’m not going to lie. Thinking about it now, I’m more than slightly jealous.
But at the moment, I was jealous for a different reason. He’d said, “My mama” with such smugness and satisfaction, but he’s never said, “my dada.”
I should be better than that, I know. But I’m not. I’m not going to carry a grudge or anything, but still, I can be jealous.
“My baby,” I say, and I kiss his belly.
I say goodnight to him, and give more kisses, and promise that tomorrow I’ll try to spend more time with him.
“Bye,” he says. “Go. Go!” he pushes at me with his foot. This might sound like a dick move. But it was playful. Not mean. And there’s nothing wrong with letting someone know what you really want. If I was all geared up to snuggle with a boob as big as my head and someone was there who might ruin it for me… well… I’d kick them the hell out of my bed, too.
I get up and I say goodnight to Oot, too. (He’s on the other side of Sarah.)
Then I get up and start to leave. “Goodnight my family,” I say.
“My dada,” Cutie says, and I get all melty inside.
“My baby,” I say.
“He’s reaching up for you.” Sarah tells me, because she knows I can’t see him in the dim.
So I get down into the bed and kiss him again. A lot. On their deathbed, nobody ever says, “I wasted my life kissing babies.”
Still. Oot has school in the morning. I know I’m keeping them all from getting to sleep. So I get up.
“Mo,” Cutie says. This is one of his other few words: more.
“Mo dada,” he says. In the dark, I can see he’s reaching up again. “Mo my dada. Mo bebe dada. No bye dada bebe.”
I think it was Robert Bly who said vocabulary wasn’t important for a writer. He claimed you could write marvelous poetry even if you only knew 200 words, so long as you knew how to use them properly to get your point across…
He’s not wrong.