(First ever guest blogger!!! Yeah! Please welcome Jen to the fold! I am excited to introduce new voices to TBBW. Thanks for reading, sharing and being in touch.
My Daughter Calls Me “Da-da”
It happened without warning. I walked in to Ita’s room as she pulled herself up inside her crib. My one-year-old grunted as she stood, looked at me, smiled, and exclaimed “Da-da!”
“Hmmm”, I thought. “Maybe she meant TA-DA! like ‘look, Mamí, no hands!’” I shrugged it off. She doesn’t have a dad–not the put-your-bike-together-interrogate-potential-boyfriends type of dad–and she has no idea about gender roles or norms. We haven’t had that conversation yet because…she’s one. I folded her clothes and left the room to hear “Da-da-da-da!” Peeking my head back in, I corrected “Hi Ita, Mamí’s here.”
“Da-da!” she squealed back. My wife chuckled. “It’s just something new she is saying. She doesn’t know the difference between mama and dada. It’s okay” I consoled myself. I shared my new moniker with friends at Ita’s first birthday party. “You know, she’s been calling me Da-da. Isn’t that funny?” My guests looked awkwardly at their hands. I fretted, “People will think I’m confusing her, that I am going to screw her up because I’m gay. I’m too butch looking. Maybe I can soften my edges?” I questioned if I was a good parent, if I deserved my amazing little girl.
Later, I sat alone playing with Ita. The littlest things I did made her laugh. She told me stories that were detailed and serious, read me a book she held upside-down. She fell asleep; snoring in my arms as I laid her down in her crib. I went downstairs and noticed the screen saver on our television. There was a picture from our first quiet moment in the hospital. One of me holding her at the pumpkin festival. A series my wife had taken showing how Ita and I fall asleep together in the same position. I smiled and thought about how my little girl means the world to me.
From the monitor I heard her stirring, which soon turned to crying. I hurried up the stairs taking two at a time. I walked in to Ita’s room as she pulled herself up inside her crib. Tears ran down her tiny face as she stood, she looked at me, and in the weepiest voice squeaked “Da-da”. I scooped her up in my arms and wiped the tears away. As I held her tight, I reassured her, “It’s okay, baby. Da-da’s here.”
Jen Daigle-Matos lives in western Massachusetts with her wife of seven years, their daughter (to whom Jen is the non-biological Mamí), and their whippet/poodle mix breed, “Moof”. When Jen isn’t chasing her baby or her dog, she teaches courses and consults on topics of diversity and social justice. She identifies as Puerto Rican and enjoys discussing what it means to be a woman of color co-parenting a White child. Jen holds a Doctorate in Education with a concentration in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.