There’s something Arthur’s started doing recently that is melting my heart.
He’s been saying ‘Mama’ for a few months now. Leigh and I spoke about it when it first started, a couple of weeks after he began to say ‘Dada’, and he asked me whether it wasn’t the most magical, heart rending thing to hear our son say those words. I hummed and harred and ‘sort of’ed, but in truth it wasn’t really hitting me like it was Leigh. Even when ‘Mama’ started evolving from just a sound Arthur made into a name which he clearly associated with me I didn’t feel more than the odd pang – I mean, it’s just what babies do, right?
But now, now he’s started doing this totally adorable gorgeous thing that absolutely is some kind of magic. He looks at me with this expression of total love and, in the calmest, sweetest voice repeats ‘mama mama mama mama mama’. As he says it his little face begins to break into a smile. And I become utterly at his mercy.
It’s almost like he’s trying it on for size. He’s definitely at a stage now where he’s aware of his ability to communicate, and he gets great pleasure from attaching his few words to things and realising that we understand, that our words are the same. I’ve surprised myself (again) by just how deeply I’ve felt this stage in his development – the beginning of naming.
And it’s brought to the surface a niggling naming issue that is as yet unresolved in Arthur’s world.
My Mum – one of his two Grandmothers – has a major aversion to any of the traditional grandparent names she could be called and so still, a year in, remains nameless.
I don’t entirely blame her – she’s still so full of vitality that I can’t quite see her as a Granny, or even a Nanny as her Mum has always been to me. And she’s in good company – many a glamorous grandmother has taken pains to avoid a moniker that will prematurely age them in their own eyes or those of others.
The niggle for me comes in her reluctance to take any name at all and rather to wait for Arthur to name her. I’m not an expert in early language development, but from what I do know I understand that words are acquired by mimicry. It is by hearing a word attached to a thing that a child begins to understand that that’s its name. I mean, obviously my son is a genius but I’m not sure he’s going to be able to pluck a name out of the ether.
It’s proving a little tricky for us too in referring to her. For a while she was ‘the woman who has no name’, but that joke’s wearing a little thin. I found myself addressing a thank you card earlier to ‘Grampa and…’, but the ellipsis doesn’t work so well verbally. When I pushed her on it, Mum’s response was “I’m just me!”, but I think it might confuse things grammatically if that’s how I refer to her for Arthur.
As I type that, I’m wondering if actually she’s pushing for Mimi. Which could work. It has an air of glamour about it…
So what do you reckon? Have you had any experience of babies inventing names for grandparents? Am I underestimating Arthur’s linguistic powers or should we come up with something to fall back on? I’d love to hear your thoughts!