Molly said her very first words this week. Dad dad dad dad dad dad.
I let him have it. It was a one horse race.
This time I was even egging her on.
Caillie’s first word was Mum, but I had to work very hard for it. I fully primed her. At every opportunity I was mouthing Mum in front of her face. Even then she only ever said it in a whingy voice, when she wanted to be fed. Mummmma. Mummmma. Whereas Dad always comes out in that happy sing song voice – Dada Dada. Daddaddaddaddadaaaaa. Like it’s just all fun and games when Dad is around.
There’s something truly exciting about those very first words.
It’s like they’re turning into a human for the first time. I mean you know that a baby is human but they could almost just be an animal. Before they can talk, they are really functioning purely on instinct, they cry when they’re cold or hungry or have a dirty nappy, and when they laugh they have no idea why they’re laughing. It’s an instinctive laugh and it’s beautiful but it doesn’t always make sense. You wonder what is going on in their little brains.
Already there have been little moments – fleeting moments – of consciousness emerging.
Molly is starting to work out that she can operate her hands and her feet. She’s grabbed at a spoon, sideswiped an icecream cone. She’s had a good look at her reflection in a mirror and you can see she’s thinking about it. She’s turned her head when I’ve called her name. She’s wriggled in delight when a song she knows comes on the radio. These are just little signs that the person in there is coming out.
I’m convinced that Molly is going to be a sociable person. It’s true that she’s been dragged around to more than her fair share of weddings, but it’s not just that. She’s also happy to be held by anyone. And it’s not just that she tolerates it, she snuggles into them, she smiles at them, she makes them feel that she really likes them. It’s like it’s her sole job in life to go around spreading joy. We took Molly out to lunch in the city the other day and she made friends everywhere she went. Even people who wanted to be grumpy couldn’t help themselves smiling at her!
Molly’s first words reminded me that there are two things that make being a parent really exciting.
The first is seeing your baby learn everything from scratch and do everything for the first time. Seeing them start to understand what’s you’re saying and what’s going on around them, hearing them learn to speak, watching them take their first steps. I really feel for parents who have to go back to work and who miss out on witnessing those first moments. They’re so precious.
And the other is seeing that little personality start to emerge. It takes a while, but you get these moments when you realise that they are different to you, they have their own interests, gifts and passions, their own way of being, they’re not just a mini-you. And it’s exciting to get to witness that personality being formed right in front of your eyes. I think looking after a baby gets easier the second that you start getting a sense of who they are, that they not just a little parasite attached to your body, there’s actually a person starting to emerge.