So, Ila says "mama" now. Well, actually, she shouts "mamam" or a sharp staccato "mam" from across the house. She hasn't really branched out in her use of the word - no sweet "mama" when we snuggle or even a whimpered "mama" when she cries. It's pretty much a demanding holler whenever she uses it, usually when she can't see me because I've walked out of the room to get a glass of water or answer the phone. It's sort of like the baby version of the pool game "Marco Polo," only she's always the searcher. I can't really reciprocate. If I call "Ila" she may or may not respond, depending on her mood and how engrossed she is in whatever she's doing. And she's not at the verbal stage where she responds to a call with words. She may physically appear if you call her, but probably not, especially if she is doing something she deeply enjoys like taking out all the cloth diapers and unfolding them, strewing them all over the room and house.
I'm not sure what scene I had pictured in first being called "mama" or "mommy." I suppose I assumed it would be used like a name, "Mama"...maybe with a soft little kiss on my cheek. Okay. No, I don't think I was silly enough to picture that. I just assumed it would be like, "Mama, up!" Or, "Mama, read!" But Ila is just barely starting to use the names of objects as terms to indicate what she wants, needs, can't find, etc. She still pretty much uses names as declarations. Book! Ball! Hat! There they are, she wants to say. Right there. Paper! Crayon! She's the town crier for inanimate objects around here.
This stage is actually a little frustrating for everyone, Ila included. When she wants something that she knows the word or sign for, she still often doesn't use it. I'll say, the voice of preschool teachers ringing in my head, "Can you use a word or a sign, Ila?" Of course she ignores this. Once I've figured out what she's probably wanting, I'll say, for instance, "Do you want to nurse? You can use your sign." She sometimes will then sign for it, but sometimes she continues to be frustrated, though she clearly wants to nurse. It's such a bizarre gap between having some words and knowing how to employ them. I have to admit, it's seems a little like a prison to me, having only 30 or so words and signs to communicate everything you want or need. I'm amazed she's not constantly throwing her blocks at the wall in rage. Fortunately, she is so fascinated by everything around her, absorbing so much new information, that she isn't usually caught up in frustration. It is amazing to watch her make connections. Everyday she says something new or does something new.
Lately, she's been really into putting diapers on her stuffed animals. She's always been freakishly obsessed with cloth. Wash cloths, blankets, towels. She also loves cloth diapers. She lays them on the ground, smooths them, picks them up, lays them down somewhere else. So, the other day, I put a diaper on one of her bears. Well. That was probably the most amazing thing she'd ever seen. She promptly took it off the bear and indicated that I should put it back on. We repeated this about 56 times, until I started to lose my mind and told Ila she should try it on her own. I went into the kitchen to make our lunch and left her to play with the bear and his diaper. Several minutes later she came to me and handed me the bear...whose leg was mysteriously wet. I had my suspicions, so I followed the little droplets of water all the way to the bathroom. She had taken off bear's diaper, like we do hers, put the little toilet seat reducer on the toilet and put bear on the potty. Or, rather, in the potty. I was torn between feeling a little sad about bear's new toilet bowl leg and the adorableness of Ila wanting to help her bear go to the potty.
We've started putting clothes and shoes on this bear along with diapers. She eats it up! And, she's really attached to this particular stuffed animal, which, before, she barely even looked at. It's so interesting how caring for an object (or person, I suppose) endears it to us. Sure, sometimes when that little person is awake for an hour in the middle of the night, it's not exactly endearing, but overall, it is sweet to feel that you can care for another person, you can offer help and kindness and love. And there are such moments of sweetness, even in the middle of the night. Often, when she wakes up, Ila will now stroke my side as she nurses or snuggles me. She is truly coming into her own, affection-wise. She likes to give kisses and cuddles in the mornings and this, fortunately, snaps me out of the zombie state I may have been in only moments before, still groggy and unrested from a less than ideal night.