Sometimes I'm glad that I've given up on the prospect of keeping a baby book.
I really did try to, at first, with Abby. However, not only was it hard to remember to record anything in it with my sleep-deprived, low-functioning brain cells post-first-newborn, I quickly realized that there was more to it than simply writing stuff down. On the rare moments that I thought to look through the pages of blank space, it would occur to me that I should have been checking it regularly to see what I was even supposed to be tracking in the first place.
As if that were not enough of an annoyance, so much of it is incredibly open to interpretation. What day, exactly, do I count as being "when a tooth comes in?" At the first sighting of white? At the first puncture through gum line? When it's 25% exposed? Fifty percent? Absolutely, unquestionably, 100%?
Which brings us to the first word. I had a hard time deciding on that one with Abby. Certainly, I could pinpoint the first recognizable word that she repeated. "Dada," hands down. However, like every other baby, she initially began to chant it with no particular thought in mind. It was many months before she used the sounds that she was ,mimicking to refer to any one particular thing, so in that sense, I'd say her first word was "cheese," because it was the first thing that she began to request by name. But, accepting that when babies first speak is not when they are truly speaking, which word do I count? Which day? I suppose that both have their own significance, so I've made record of each.
With Michael, however, things have been even less clear-cut. He's waited so long to speak at all that, at the precipice of his own verbal breakthrough, he's of an age and understanding at which he's perfectly capable of applying words with intent. The trouble is, it's been exceedingly difficult to determine whether he's been doing so. Countless times, Tom or I have thought we heard him say a word, but Michael's always been adamant about not repeating himself, so we could never confirm.
Over the last few days, he's practically made a mantra of "Mama," so I think I can finally say for sure that he's got that word down, and that it's as close as we'll come to a first one. Fitting, since Abby's was "Dada." (from a certain point-of-view, anyway). However, he never addresses me with it, just chews on it like a piece of gum.
Perhaps, despite his late beginnings, he just needed to have a similar experience to his sister: a get-a-feel-for-it-in-your-mouth word before a "real" one, even though he knows what each one that he might use actually means. Perhaps I was the honored guest in attendance at his own personal epiphany. At any rate, something incredibly special happened yesterday afternoon when Michael crawled into my lap, fitted his little tush perfectly into the space reserved for it, and shoved a book into my waiting hand.
As he adjusted his position, turning his face opposite mine, pushing the book down and away to meet my eyes, he virtually glowed before me as he primed himself to speak. Eyes wide and focused, mouth half-upturned in a nervous smile, he clearly and confidently commanded, "Read," before allowing that grin to spread across and past his eyes, lighting sparks in each iris as it went.
While my heart shot towards the floor and burned a hole right through in my massive overdose of pride and excitement, I grabbed him up in my arms, then quickly pulled my hands back to free them for a personal ovation (few things excite Michael more than a little hand-clapping). Our celebration was necessarily brief- after all, the best reward for Michael would be to do as he requested. And so I did.
However, my mind was very far from the story I was reading as I made a mental catalog of the time, place, moment- that First Moment- in which my son spoke, with purpose.