Using Your Words

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.

Later all,


This entry was posted in babies, Cutie Snoo, day in the life. By Pat35 Responses


  1. SeekingPlumb
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 4:10 AM | Permalink

    Damn, I love you and your family.

  2. Mickey
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 6:15 AM | Permalink

    That’s a touch down, a first date kiss and winning the lottery all in one emotion right there. Epic parenting win !

  3. Fawn
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 7:13 AM | Permalink

    I make tears.

  4. lovelylass987
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 7:25 AM | Permalink

    Wow, that was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing a little bit about Cutie Snoo.

  5. fishrgreat
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 7:38 AM | Permalink

    I just… <3
    I have an 2.5 yr old and a 6 month old. I'm tandem nursing and we co sleep. Moments like the one you've described melt my heart and make me glad I get to keep them close and love them.
    Thanks for sharing. And making it be normal x

  6. Posted September 8, 2015 at 7:40 AM | Permalink

    Beautiful glimpse into your life. Thanks for sharing!

  7. cynrtst
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 8:05 AM | Permalink

    Awwwwww!!!! I have to say, though, boys and moms are a special thing. The balance shifts a bit as they grow older but as a mother of both genders, my son and I have a much closer relationship.

    On a side note, I wore my You Have Died of Chandrian shirt today to the bookstore. My husband asked me what it meant. I launched into a long explanation about how it was on two levels, celebrating that book I love and the teaching game the kids had played at school. He said he thought that was the geekiest thing I had ever possessed, to the nth level of geek. My son needed no explanation when I went to his house for our weekly game night. That gave me a warm glow inside.

  8. UrsulaK
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 8:11 AM | Permalink

    Now I understand the call for Trigger Warnings on posts. I am drowning in feeeeeeeeeelings.

  9. carroll.home
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

    Dammit, Patrick – I am a 45 year old man and my kids are older (11, 12, 14, 16) but that just brought me back to when my kids were babies and made me tear up at work.

  10. khil1
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

    Pat, I feel like your priorities need to be called out:


    I love your books, they’re great and I love your other projects too. But a lot of people can write books and do those other projects, not the same but still they can do them too.
    Being a father to Oot and Cutie, that’s something only you can do, good job.

    Last time I checked, while your books are big and heavy, I suspect Oot and Cutie out way them on the scale of priority. (And probably on scale of weight too, unless book 3 is trying to set a record in size but I suspect the publisher would have an issue with a 80 pound book)

    p.s. Now I want to know what books 1 and 2 are heavier than, it has to be a fun list.

  11. Guido Jansen
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 9:38 AM | Permalink

    Man, I am not at all ashamed to say that to a guy (and even in my age and size) – YOU’re cute! (And so is your family of course)

  12. Vendrath
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 9:41 AM | Permalink

    Right there with you. My youngest will be 2 in 2 days and loving every moment. My other two are 11 and 22 but this type of stuff never gets old and is so worth it.

  13. justajenjen
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 9:55 AM | Permalink

    Aww. Your kids are just the cutest little things ever. Next to my son, of course, because, he’s the cutest kid in the universe. :)

    I have warm fuzzies on your behalf reading this story.

  14. Jsherry
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

    Warm, fuzzy, and contains boobs. They don’t make posts better than that.

    Also, part of the post reminds me of Frank O’Connor’s short story “My Oedipus Complex,” about (if I recall properly) a precocious child’s sense of competition with his father who has just returned from the war.

  15. Nate Culwell-Kanarek
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 12:52 PM | Permalink

    At some point in middle school, I participated in a survey where they asked various questions about stress. I remember clearly that, according to my honest answers, I felt just about no stress at that time: nothing nagging or hanging over my head. Times have changed!

    Our kid (who is about the same age) operates a bit differently that yours: he doesn’t snuggle up to mommy smugly, but if he sees me snuggling up to her, he gets jealous and starts hitting us or throwing things at us.

    OK, I admit it, sometimes we do it on purpose just to provoke him.

    One more thing: I don’t mean to be a jerk, but I think if you asked “most linguists”, they would tell you that the claim that “80% of communication is nonverbal” is BS. That claim actually comes from cognitive science, not linguistics, and it is not an accurate reflection of real research results in the field, it is a distortion of the work of Albert Mehrabian.

    • Posted September 8, 2015 at 1:31 PM | Permalink

      Not a jerk comment at all. It was kinda late when I wrote this, and it’s something I’d heard before, but I didn’t bother verifying it.

      Out of curiosity, are you a linguist? And also, if you happen to know, what’s the current research imply about the percentage of verbal to non-verbal communication?

      • Nate Culwell-Kanarek
        Posted September 8, 2015 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

        I did a master’s in linguistics (at UW-Madison), but that was about 10 years ago and I haven’t used it since. I do know a thing or two about the subject, but calling myself a “linguist” would be stretching the truth.

        This particular “factoid” comes from cognitive science, not linguistics. Linguists are concerned with the analysis language itself, so they don’t usually pay much attention to non-linguistic communication. Cognitive scientists are psychologists who often deal with language. (The two fields don’t usually get along, but that’s a story for another day.)

        The problem with trying to break such things down into percentages is that we’re talking about something that’s inherently non-quantitative, so any quantities that we assign are only going to be relevant in very carefully defined experimental situations. Really, you can’t give any meaning to the numbers (which were 7% words, 38% vocals and 55% visual) without looking at exactly what the experiment was.

        Here is the last in a series of articles on the topic [the last because it links to the previous ones]:

        • Posted September 8, 2015 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

          Cool. This probably explains why I end up arguing a lot with people on the subject, as I’m both a dilettante linguist and a dabbler in cognitive psychology.

          Thanks for the link, too.

  16. MommaAng
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    Well done Mr. Pat. Not only are you a busy but good Daddy but you love each little bitty moment that is given you. And shout out to Momna Sarah for being an amazing mom. Dude you truly have it all. If it were in my power I would grant you more hours in the day and only sweet cuddles like this could occur during said hours. Thanks for sharing your sweet moments. Now when mine get home I will be sure to cuddle them even more than usual…even the big ones who think it uncool.

  17. idylle
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

    That. was. so. cute. Seriously, I remembered my childhood (hmm or babyhood) days when my dad used to come to my bed and we made my feet talk to each other in a very small vocabulary. How could we imagine so many adventures with so few words? :’) Thanks for bringing back good memories. Enjoy your time with your family!

  18. Dirtneck
    Posted September 8, 2015 at 8:53 PM | Permalink

    I never experienced true joy until I had children of my own.

    When you are younger, and when you think you know everything, you don’t know jack $#!}. It isn’t some gropey crappy sexual experience with whomever, or sitting with friends into the light of the early morning. Nope. No contest.

    True joy is deep blissfully warm moments listening to your child breathe as they lay on your chest before night-night.

    Thank you for sharing your moment Pat.

    Oh. And the boobs. Those too.

  19. Serena
    Posted September 9, 2015 at 12:16 AM | Permalink

    This made me tear up. So many of your stories of cutie snoo I can relate to. I gave birth to my son in January 2014, so they are very close in age and I’ve noticed the resemblances in many of your stories. My fiancé had an almost identical relationship with our son. The “my mama” thing was said many times, and it definitely had that boasting quality, that smug satisfaction you speak of. Now he’s become so independent when I try to help him he often just tells me “go away mama”. He’s very determined.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this beautiful moment and reminding me of my own special moments with my son and his father. There truly is no greater joy and moving emotion than feeling connected with your child. :)

  20. Marc
    Posted September 9, 2015 at 6:36 AM | Permalink

    Bah, my wife recently give birth to my second child. So after two weeks she went to stay with her parents for a while, in another city, as is easier for her. For two weeks now, with me going to them on weekends.

    So here I am, enjoying my life, after work coming home to be a sloth, which I enjoy quite a lot, not doing anything and proudly throwing my things everywhere I’m not supposed to, drinking bottles of wine, spending more time on my PC than I did in years. Aaand feeling miserable, missing them like crazy, crying a little on the inside, every time I see a picture frame.

    And now, here I am, browsing some authors blogs, trying to find hidden hints on when they will deliver the next book I will read, when everybody goes to sleep and I find this lovely story. Thank you Patrick, I am even more sad now, and double sad because you mention boobs, marvelous toys I used to play with.

    Waiting for the weekend…

  21. Jule89
    Posted September 9, 2015 at 7:12 AM | Permalink

    When I first stumbled into your blog, I was quite confused about the name Oot – and very relieved when I found out that it was only a code name :-D So it is good that you emphasize this from time to time…

    By the way, the day after tomorrow, I will have a puppy dog and her name will be Auri :-) And I recognised something about the name: the german word ‘traurig’ (“sad”) contains the name Auri oO Nevertheless, I hope my dog will be a happy one :-)

    • PaulyVE
      Posted September 9, 2015 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

      hahaha. i also named my puppy after Auri. Fits her perfectly! :D

      • Jule89
        Posted September 9, 2015 at 8:54 AM | Permalink

        Cool! What’s the breed? Mine will be an Airedale Terrier.

  22. bakaup
    Posted September 9, 2015 at 7:51 AM | Permalink

    ‘Babies are, to be completely honest, fairly useless. They can’t do much, either physically or conversationally.’

    But they make great barging chips when it comes to fairies no?

  23. PaulyVE
    Posted September 9, 2015 at 8:48 AM | Permalink

    Im truly glad youre one of those parents who actually love their children once theyre here. I never understand why people bring children into this world if theyre not gonna love them. Thank you so much. You make this world better by just doing that. Blessing to you all Pat from Venezuela.

  24. hierovision
    Posted September 9, 2015 at 2:04 PM | Permalink

    That was fantastic. I’ll never forget moments like this with my two sons. It’s easy to relate.

  25. SporkTastic
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

    Beautimous, Pat. Thanks for sharing. Put a smile on my face.

  26. arslan
    Posted September 11, 2015 at 11:40 PM | Permalink

    Hi Pat,

    Thank you for the post! Loved it.

  27. Carrie
    Posted September 14, 2015 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

    I know exactly how you feel, but I am on the *next* level. My youngest granddaughter says “MY NANA” and it just melts me all to pieces!!! So of course your post made me cry. LOL Isn’t it wonderful having this little people who make life just that much better!!!

  28. Posted October 27, 2015 at 8:31 AM | Permalink
  29. Jan Plewa
    Posted October 10, 2019 at 2:47 AM | Permalink

    I’m not going to lie. Reading this now, I’m more than slightly jealous.

    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.

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