In all of these 16 months, my wife and I have experienced every moment of our daughter breathe, live, crawl, walk, grow and essentially achieve every milestone etched in the doctor’s sheet. But on the road of these momentous events, the one milestone that we are gravely missing is verbal communication.
For every parent, it is brain-numbing to understand what the child is trying to communicate. Some hipster-sounding sapiens will try telling you that “Oh crying is a form of communication, they are trying to tell you how they feeeeeeeel man!” you know what BRO, put a bleeding sock in it. The only thing our child is communicating by crying is – how powerful her lungs are, how shrill her voice is, how much stamina she has, how deaf we are NOT and the list goes on.
By this age, kids pick up some handy words and use them in the correct context; like pani (water), mama & daddy/papa, susu (pee), baby, hieee, tata (bye) and some other cultural significant words depending on the family the child is brought up in.
On the other hand my daughter’s vocabulary is limited to “dada”. 94% of her communication skills revolve around this all-encompassing word, 4% goes to finger-pointing (sometimes with absolutely no meaning), 1% to new syllables and the last 1% to gibberish.
Our daughter started babbling when she was closing in on six months and her first coherent word was DADA and all of us were swift to derive its meaning. And the Indian parents that we are, we went “What a smart kid! By the age of ONE she will be reciting the String Theory like the back of her hand”. But the back of her hand was always in her mouth.
A few months later we started taking credit for her first word, “Yeah she likes me better, Dada is close to DAD… so yeah… the word describes me”. My father was quite sure that word was used for him “you are all idiots, dada means grandfather so she is calling me out”. My wife, who is slightly more intelligent and better read had this to contribute, “Dada in most cases is the first word that kids pick up and then graduate to other words… but I think she is trying to say ‘she loves her mother'”. SURE.
In Baby Z’s world “Dada” is a person, a thing, a situation, an emotion, a moment, a condition, an experience, a conversation, a statement, an encounter, a dream, a nightmare… basically EVERYTHING. Everything or everyone is a “dada”. She could be describing a 19th century abstract painting by stringing together “dada” in various tonalities and voice modulations.
When you ask her to say MAMA… she will exclaim DAHDAAAA. When you demand that she say JIJI she will reply in a thunderous growl… DADA! (notice how that word didn’t even remotely sound any thing like dada). At one point my wife was convinced that she is deaf. It’s like living with Hodor or Groot the only difference is that their family, friends and acquaintances understand them… some what. There is a strange orchestra being conducted in her head and the only language it can compute is “dada”.
The only other words she can say are “tata” and “hieee” but that is with purpose. Like she wants to greet you with the highest sense of pride and inquire about your life, “Hieeee… dada Dada DADA DADADADAAAAAAAA…” or tell you to piss off.
My wife and I keep thinking what if she doesn’t graduate beyond “dada”? Imagine, she likes a boy… or a girl… and wants to tell them how much she cares. She looks into their eyes with unimaginable affection and says… “DADA… dada DaDa DADa”. She’s going to be single forever… god… she’ll never leave home.
We encourage her to hang out with kids her age who have a slightly more evolved vocabulary, hoping that she will get inspired… but NOOOOO… our little monkey goes crazy reciting “dada dada dada” in different scales. We never met those parents again.
After much research we figured that since she doesn’t have teeth (yes at 16 months, she doesn’t have a single piece of enamel protruding from her gums) she is limited to using just a few syllables. Great, now we have two things to worry about, her “dada” rant and lack of teeth. Having a child is a blessing.
No matter what, it is such a beautiful thing to hold a conversation with a child, who, no matter what, will always go “dada”.