The Day she said mum

The day she said ‘mum’

Hannah sat in her high chair, half eating and half distracted by the world around her. We had reached the point in her evening meal where each new spoonful becomes an adventure – will it go in and be swallowed in its entirety? Will it be refused at the last second and end up as part of the general splatter around the high chair?

Or, Hannah’s new favourite: will it be turned into a fine mist and sprayed all over dad?

Hannah babbled away. She ran through her ever-expanding repertoire of sounds. I sat, exhausted, in the chair opposite. I too was half distracted, by my forever-expanding list of things to do before leaving work for the Christmas break. I made some noises back to Hannah and she giggled a bit.

“Mum,” Hannah said, amongst a string of babble.

“Mum…” I replied. Gradually the significance of the moment dawned on me. It was the first time Hannah had ever said ‘mum’. She had been saying ‘dad’ for a long time – it was her first word. She had also made some mum-like sounds when crying, as discussed in my The “Mum” Cry and “Dad” Play Theory post.

A big smile broke across my face. I pulled myself closer to Hannah and congratulated her on her new word. I said “mum” a few times and she said it again!

The only problem with the moment was that her mother wasn’t actually there to hear it.

The kid has impeccable timing.

Emma was at the shops. She had been with Hannah all day, as she is most days. She had just ducked out to pick up a few things.

I grabbed our wedding photo off the shelf and pointed at Emma. “Mum,” I said. I pointed at me. “Dad,” I said. I drilled her a few more times. I was determined that the moment Emma walked through the door, she’d be greeted by an enthusiastic “mum!”

Emma returned home. Hannah smiled, but was silent. Soon enough it was time for her bath. I began the night-time ritual, but in the back of my mind I was aware that time was running out. I so desperately wanted her to say ‘mum’ to her mum that night, because I didn’t know what the right thing was to do. Was I supposed to tell Emma that her daughter had said ‘mum’ and that she’d missed it? Or was I supposed to keep it a secret so that Emma could experience the joy for herself?

I finished dressing Hannah as Emma entered her room. She was ready for the night-time feed before bed. I stood Hannah up and whispered in her ear: “You can do it, say ‘mum’.”


“Go on, ‘mum,’” I whispered again. Emma looked at me suspiciously.

“Mum-mum-mum,” I whispered as I picked Hannah up, ready to hand to Emma.

Emma began to ask what I was up to, but she was stopped in her tracks.

“Mum,” a beautiful, tiny voice said, clear as day.

I felt a wave of relief as I watched the smile break across Emma’s face. Hannah smiled too. She could see the joy that one little word had brought to the face of her favourite person in the whole wide world.

I gave them both a cuddle and left them to complete the night-time feed.

James Smith is a Sydney-based parenting and lifestyle blogger. This article was originally published on Blog of Dad, and has been republished with permission.

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