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Meredith Lopez

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Thus Spoke the Juban Princeling

Posted: 09/09/09 06:11 PM ET

A lot of my son's milestones seem to just sort of happen. One day while I was changing his diaper he clapped his hands. Another day while playing with his father he let go and stood alone for several seconds. One night he slept for 12 straight hours and that was that, we had a baby who slept through the night.

But there's one milestone that's not as clear-cut: his first word.

For several months now he's been working on a variety of syllables, his favorite being "bah." During his bath he'll have entire conversations with his toys that involve little more than "bahbahbahbah!" in a melody of tones and emphases. His second favorite syllable is "ma." As in, "mamamamama!" He does seem to use "ma" more often when he's tired or hungry or generally miserable and wants attention, but he never fully grasps that "mama" equals me. So a few weeks ago I started responding.

"Mamamamama!"

"Yes?"

His doctor told us that his first word only counts when he says it with intention, as in saying, "Mama" to me, not "mamamamamamama" in my general direction or as an indication of his misery.

Then last week it happened.

I sat at our computer desk and the Juban Princeling crawled over to me, put both hands on my knees, pulled himself to stand, looked right at me, and said, "Mama!"

My husband was getting ready for work at the time, and my friend Tia was staying with us for a few days. Both of them witnessed this and both of them told me that the Princeling just said his first word. It was unmistakable, they said. I could no longer deny it. He said, "Mama," and he meant ME.

It's been nearly a week and I still feel ambivalent about this. Sure, I posted on the Princeling's Tot Spot page for all his family to see that he said his first word, and I updated my Facebook status so that all my friends could see, and I marked it in his baby book. But it feels so...anti-climactic.

Not that I expected that one day the Princeling would go from his non-stop string of happy baby babbles to quoting Shakespeare, though that would be awesome. ("Oh, your baby's first word was 'Poo-poo?' Mine's was the St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V. 'We few, we happy few,' etc. But, you know, 'poo-poo' is good, too.") But I did expect that his first word would be a little more exact, you know? And that it wouldn't be just a shortened version of something he's been doing for a while now.

I've been trying to get his first word to be "Yankees." It doesn't seem that hard to me. "Yaaaaaaay-keeeees!" Or, just to annoy my husband, for the Princeling to point at the television whenever Derek Jeter comes on and go, "Daddy!" (Husband: "That's not funny. Stop that!") Neither of those are even remotely happening. When I say "Yankees!" the Princeling just laughs, and when I point to Derek Jeter at bat or in a Ford commercial the Princeling generally crawls away or farts.

But his first word is "Mama." Very simple. Very basic. Kind of cliché, but I'll live. People tell me I should be thrilled, that this is a clear indication that my son loves me. And I am glad that he can differentiate between his blue hippo toy, and me. Still, I can't help but wish that like his other milestones this one didn't feel so ambiguous. I guess it just rings a little hollow to me. With his other milestones there is a clear moment I can point to and say, "He is cruising along the furniture!" or "He pulled himself to stand!" But his first word has now, apparently, come and gone, and he has yet to repeat his indication that I am, in fact, Mama. Or to say "Yankees."

Of course, knowing the kind of karma I have, his next favorite syllable will probably be "Poo."

 

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