Betty's talking has been going great guns of late.
In the early days of our training, Boo copied my mouth shapes. We operated a cut price French Mime School for Babies (that's not a new Channel 4 documentary by the way). She managed to master the "ooo", a passing "ba", and most importantly an occasional "ma", but she was rubbish at walking into the wind.
We really started cooking with gas when she began throwing the sounds in as well. I spent a good few months working on these until she had her gameshow audience sound effects down to a tee, but I'll be honest with you; all the whooping and ooing got a bit boring for a while there, but after teasing me with many a "mmmm" amid her ramblings, I was sure it was in the bag.
She then progressed to these sort of under breath whisperings, like the bad tempered muttering you get from a teenager when they've been told off. She would sit in her highchair/car seat/pram murmuring almost inaudibly for hours at a time. Again; cute, but these bumbling incoherences were not exactly a carnival of exhilaration nor were they the validation I was searching for. But I fought on, keeping one unwavering eye on the prize.
Then, the onset of discernable sounds. She warmed up with "a paaaa" and "a buuuu". When we hit "a maaa" I knew we were approaching THE MOMENT. Months of graft, support, coaching and dedication were about to result in the most beautiful homage to the one that made it so. A nod to the magician behind the magic. This would be Betty's first chance to communicate with the world the love, the gratitude and the overwhelming adoration she feels for her most excellent primary carer giver. She would choose this epic milestone to pay homage. She would use it to make me proud. She would use it to say to the world "This is my Mum, and I love her sooo much". The lips were ready; the sounds were ready; the sentiment was ready. It was a total shoe in.
The day dawned. She cleared her throat before warming up with an excellent early morning rendition of the now well honed 'Doe ray mi...'. Then, she paused. She allowed a beaming smile to sweep across her beautiful face. She pursed her lips. She looked me dead in the eyes, and took a breath.
She then expelled the air that formed this absolute cornerstone of her early development.
Her. First. Word.
I closed my eyes. I readied myself. And there it was.
Then, just when I realised there were no witnesses, that we could bury the moment and make it our little secret, Boo decided that, despite my sterling efforts and broken heart, saying those four letters is THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO HER.
I have spent the last few days in the throes of an inescapable torment: being offered a catalogue of precisely one thousand smiling, delighted and indiscriminate "Dada"s.
And since? Not a single sign of the once eternally popular "a ma".