When my son was closing in on his first birthday, I was eagerly anticipating his first word(s). But I was reluctant to interpret his babbling as speaking. I had this weird thing about not being presumptuous, or perhaps I was worried about looking silly when it turned out he called everyone ma-ma or something.
With my daughter, I feel like I’ve clicked into a groove that I just couldn’t find with my son. I seem to have found a confidence and an instinct that with my son I drowned out and undermined by overthinking everything. When she wakes in the night, for instance, I feel confident that it has a reason – I may never know what it is – but that it will pass. I don’t spend so much time worrying that it is because I’m doing something wrong. With language development, I just find myself enjoying her babbling becoming more meaningful every day. I can guess when something is an attempt at a word and I encourage it by repeating what I think she is trying to say.
Daddy won the race to her very first word. She pointed at him and said: “Da da.” She repeated it later at Gran’s house: seeing a photo of me and my husband together, she pointed and said it again.
Barely a day later, we got her first Dutch word. She has a little cloth book with things you can hide away in pockets (the sun behind a cloud, a rabbit in its hole). We do this at bedtime, tucking them up in turn, waving and saying “Dag!” (Bye). That evening she flapped a hand at the bunny and said: “Da!”
Clearly, ‘da’ is a multi-functional syllable.
I also think she says hello (“heya”) and occasionally she will hold up her hand and say “hiyuh!”, which we think means “high five!”, judging by her delight when we high five her.
She is quite adept at letting us know what she wants in other ways, too. She holds up her arms for you to pick her up and she shrieks like a banshee when the food is not coming fast enough or when you are not giving her enough attention.
She has also learned her first song-with-actions. It is a Dutch nursery rhyme with the stunningly philosophical lyrics: “Clap in your hands, happy happy happy, put them both on your grumpy head, that’s how the boats sail by.” (Actions: clap hands, put hands on head, sway from side to side). She started off by watching you do the actions, then when the song is over she starts clapping and putting her hands on her head – she even does the swaying. Now, she will suddenly turn to you with a twinkle in her eye and put her hands on her head. The meaning is clear: can we sing the song?
This is the start. From here on out we’re going to find out what she is thinking and feeling, how she is interpreting the world around her. I can’t wait to see what her next words will be, what she finds important enough or exciting enough to vocalise.
She has started waking up at night again. I’m sure there is a reason – teething, or just a busy brain from her research into speech and motion – and that it will pass again, but just for now, we are spending several hours at night cuddling and shushing and calpolling and feeding her again. A few nights ago she couldn’t settle at bedtime. Tossing and turning, huffing and crying, rubbing her eyes and that high pitched wail that means: “I am too tired for this.” Finally, she succumbed to sleep, cradled in my arms. She closed her eyes, and muttered through sleepy lips: “Mama”.
Linking up to Magic Moments.