"Mama," I reply, trying to reinforce it with my lips pressed together "Mmmmm" followed by an exaggerated "Ah" sound -- "Maaa-maaa. Ma-ma-ma. Say MAMA." Michelle just laughs at me. I know that she understands the word. She knows that I'm her Mama. "Where's Mama? Peekaboo!" I am surprised by how many words she knows actually. She knows star now. She was playing with her shape sorter and I asked her which shape was the star. I was amazed when she picked it up (Ok it could have been coincidence but she had a 1 in 9 chance.) When I sang "Twinkle twinkle little star" she got excited, clenched her fist and shook the little plastic turquoise star. She makes associations between words and objects and pictures. She knows "monkey," "cat," "teddy," "fish." She knows water and gets excited whenever she has water in her sippy cup. Although she understands the words she doesn't really try to say them. She makes a few sounds but mostly all that comes out is "Dada!"
My campaign to get Michelle to say "Mama" isn't going so well. I know it doesn't mean anything but I can't help but find it ironic that her first and favourite word is "Dada" when there's no dad in the picture. I know that if Mike (her deadbeat disappearing dad who skipped out when I was 4 months prego without a word and still no apology or explanation to this day) had stuck around he'd be gloating. He was so competitive (he usually beat me at Scrabble, a fact which he loved considering I have a B.A. Specialist in English). He would get a real kick out of Michelle saying "Dada" rather than Mama. He would probably say "Ha ha! She loves me best! Neener!" (Because that's just the kind of weasel he was.) To all the mothers out there who feel hurt and rejected when baby says "Dada" before "Mama," let me assure you that it means nothing. Michelle never hears the word and has no daddy in the picture yet that's what she says. It's just an easy sound to make.
"Dada" is in a sense a nonsense word, a symbol of meaninglessness. Dada was an avant-garde art movement in the early 20th Century which began in reaction to the atrocities of war. It was a form of art that was abstract, nonsensical and irrational. It was also a strange song in the 80s by the German band, Trio -- "Da da da." I found it annoying at the time but I find it kind of catchy now. I played it for Michelle and she enjoyed it (in retrospect I shouldn't let her hear anything that's going to reinforce her Dada habit!)
Michelle and I were in Walmart the other day and she was talking a blue streak. "DADA!" at the top of her lungs as I went down the cereal aisle. "Da-da-da!" as I grabbed two bags of milk. When a man would walk by and she'd yell "Dada!" I was afraid he'd think she was talking to him. I was waiting for someone to say "Aww isn't that cute? She's calling for Dada!" and I would have had to explain "She'd have to call a lot louder than that. I don't even know where he lives!" Thankfully no one mentioned it. She did however have a lot of admirers. "She's adorable!" "Aren't you a cutie?" "What a little sweetheart!" I countered each "Dada" with a "Mama" to no avail. Next thing I knew she was squealing and screaming with delight. She was so loud that she made some unsuspecting shoppers jump. I couldn't help but laugh. The levity didn't last however. By the time I went to cash out, Michelle had had enough and began to scream. She screameed all the way home and while I was bringing in the groceries. I was suddenly wishing I had just ordered them online again.
Sometimes I almost feel like Michelle has a little of her dad's sadistic streak in her. I have to cut her nails constantly (which believe me is NO EASY FEAT! She wiggles and squirms and screams. I have become a pro however with practice and have never nipped her fingers again since that one time I did when she was a newborn) and she still manages to dig her nails into my arm. Her worst trick was the other night I was carrying her and all of a sudden she grabbed my right nipple and pinched it with all her might. It caught me off guard and hurt so much I screamed "OW! Don't EVER do that again! You HURT Mama!" I know (at least I'm pretty sure) she didn't mean to do it. She doesn't understand about hurting me but it's still brutal when it happens. It's funny that I used to call her dad a monster and he called me an angel. I guess Michelle has a little of both of us in her. Sometimes she's my little monster and sometimes she's my angel.
My fantasy is that maybe Michelle will say "Mama" by Mother's Day. It's a few weeks away. It could happen. I can't believe she'll be 9 months at the end of April. Time is flying waaaay too fast. I know when I was at the doctor with her last time and the doctor said she wouldn't need to see Michelle again until she was 9 months it seemed like such a long way away. Now it's only a couple of weeks away. It's scary how fast the months go by now.
Michelle is trying so hard to stand and walk on her own, constantly pulling up on everything. I wonder which will come first, the walking or saying "Mama." Probably once she starts saying Mama I'll never hear the end of it. Everytime she falls or wants anything it'll be "MAMA! MAMAAA!" It will be music to my ears.