It’s been a hellish week at work with meetings, meetings, stress and more stress – not to mention a sinus infection that I can’t shake. All this melted away, however, when my baby produced what every new parent pines for: her first words. “Baba.” (“爸爸”)
My ayi and in-laws, who help watch her during the workday, said that Marianne started babbling the Chinese words for “daddy” yesterday afternoon as she was sitting in her highchair waiting to be fed. This was a marked and very clear difference from the sounds she had theretofore been producing – typically a series of coos, sighs and long and rather melodic “eeeeeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh” sounds.
In retrospect, it seems that her successful enunciating of the word “Baba
” was a culmination of days of vocal experimentation: All week she had been singing to us at the dinner table, on her play mat, in the bath, as she was waiting to be fed, etc. It was as if her brain essence wiring itself for the big moment – like when HAL
achieves full cognition in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Marianne continued intermittently babbling “Baba” until we got home from work, at which point ayi informed us of the day’s new discovery. I was, of course, pretty psyched at the news, but the full force of this fervor did not strike me until I saw and heard it for myself after dinner.
I was sitting on the couch beckoning Marianne to crawl to me when she suddenly looked straight at me and murmured a distinct “Baba!” I cracked a smile so hard I could practically feel my fillings. Seeing this, my wife instantly set about trying to evoke the words “Mama” from her mouth. Marianne’s only reaction was to stare back at her while continually enunciating “Baba,” much to Mama’s disappointment.
To be honest, I’m not completely sure if our baby even knows what she’s referring to, but if developmental milestones
are any indication, she most probably does (Marianne definitely responds to her own name and will turn her head in the direction of any family member we ask her to look at (i.e. “Mei Mei, where’s Mama?”). One recent study
reveals that babies’ brains may be hard wired to recognize certain repetitive sounds (i.e. “mubaba”) as opposed to words without repetition (i.e. “Mugabe”) – which is perhaps an explanation as to why such sounds have come to be almost universally associated with the terms for “mother” and “father” in different cultures.
No matter the reason, the sound of these words are now enough to turn me to mush.
Links and Sources
Babycenter.com: Developmental Milestones: Talking