She Says… Mamamamamamama

We have a new game. It’s called “I will say lots and lots of sounds and will try to repeat lots of words, but I will NOT say Mama”. Owen is particularly good at it.

I don’t find it terribly funny anymore.

Let’s back up. Owen has always been a babbler, but he didn’t say his first real word until a few weeks ago. He’s a man of few words, that beautiful boy. His vocabulary now includes “Dada/Daddy”, “Doggie” (which often sounds exactly like Daddy, but recently I’ve been noticing a subtle difference that makes “Doggie” sound more like “Dawttie” rather than “Dah-dee”), “Hi!” and “Uh oh!”. Trust me when I tell you that “Hi!” and “Uh oh!” are ALWAYS said with exclamation points. What Owen doesn’t have in words he makes up for in enthusiasm/emotion and arm waving. Maybe he’s Italian. Recently he’s been experimenting with inflection too and has figured out how to turn these four words into questions (for example: “DAH DEE?!??!” letting his voice swoop up at the end and raising his eyebrows expectantly while peeking around the corner for Benjamin). His teacher at daycare told me he even repeated his teacher’s name (“Katie”), but I’m going to file that under copying sounds instead of learning a new word.

There’s one word that is lacking in his vocabulary. A very important word, if I do say so myself. A word that I thought I would’ve heard by now. Ahem, a word I would really like to hear right now.


Mama. Mommy. Even Nan (a sound I’ve heard him try out a few times, and what my little sister called my mom for a long time). Ma. Mother would even be fine at this point.

Side note: Does this make anyone else think of this Family Guy clip?



Anyway, all I’m saying is that I’d like a little recognition! Benjamin has been traveling a lot recently and whenever he’s gone Owen wanders around the house yelling, “Dah DEE???”, pushing open our bedroom door and peeking around corners. When I say different words to him, and sometimes even prompt, “Can you say…”, no matter WHAT I say, he looks at me proudly and says, “Dada.”.

Even at night while I’m giving him his bottle and singing him lullabies he sometimes pats my cheek lovingly, then sits up and says, “Dada!”.


What do I have to do to get a little love around here? I am the one who wakes him up in the morning and puts him to bed at night. I am the one who cuddles him when he falls and holds his hand while he toddles and narrates our day so someday he can learn more than 4 words. I am the one who makes his food and picks up his toys at night and packs his daycare bag and reads him stories. Maybe he doesn’t say my name because I’m always around? And Benjamin leaves so Owen needs to verbalize that he recognizes he is gone? That’s one theory, but I think that’s a stretch.

Other mothers have told me, “Just wait. Once he learns it, he’ll never stop saying it! Enjoy it while you can.” I’m sure they have a point. But is it too much to ask for my darling son who I spend almost all of my time with to call me something?


Anything other than Daddy, of course.

Thankfully Owen communicates really well with sign language for other words like “More”, “All done”, “Milk” and “Sleep”. Maybe I should teach him the sign for Mama! Though I’m not sure that will fill this little hole in my heart. I want to hear that adorable little voice!

When did your baby first say Mama? Did you do sign language with your toddler and did it help you communicate before he/she learned those words?


23 responses to “She Says… Mamamamamamama

  1. “maybe he’s Italian” <–haha! I'm just picturing Owen walking around throwing his hands up in the air like a crazy little Italian baby.
    I'm sure Mama will come soon enough. Maybe he's saving the best for last? 🙂

  2. My little girl said Mama months ago, however, I still don’t hear it all that often. There is a joke around here that she says “Dada” when she is happy and I usually only hear “Mama” when she is upset. 😦 Yes, I agree, I’d like her to say “Mama” in a loving way! This morning I went to pick her up from her crib and she waves her arms, smiles and says, “Hi Dada!”. “Mama”, I told her, my name is “Mama”. ..

  3. my 7-month-old just said her first word this week – dada. of course I know it’s easier for them to say, but I attribute it to her having a stay at home dad (as opposed to me being a sahm), which totally makes me sad!

    that’s hilarious about “maybe he’s Italian”!

  4. Eli just recently started saying Mama… though he doesn’t say it very often. Usually just when he really really really wants something from me or is very upset about something. Other than that, it’s all about the Dada around here, too.
    Eli uses the sign for ‘more’ but other than that, I haven’t really taught him much sign language. I am trying to encourage the speaking rather then the signing at this point. He is definitely a boy in that he babbles a lot but doesn’t really say many words yet.

  5. I don’t get mama yet either – and Wes is 16 months old! His only words are “Weee!”, “Yeah!”, “Mmmm,” and “Da” – which isn’t “Dad,” it is “Duck.” He used to have “Dada” but it went away…sigh. I’m having a hard time not worrying about it because his brother had about 60 words at this age! But they are all different…anyhow, if you figure out the secret to getting out that precious word, please share! (And Austin, my man of many, many words, definitely said “Dada” first. It must be easier, because he didn’t find a word he wouldn’t attempt!)

  6. When did you guys start baby sign? I need to do some research, because I would really like to do it with William. Hopefully that first mama is right around the corner.

  7. Aww….hang in there! Some sounds are harder for some kids than others. Plus, pretty soon, you’ll be hearing “Mom! Moooooooooommmmm!!!!” at every turn!

  8. Remember my video?

    Haha, same problem here.

    You know what I do get now? When she’s angry at me (for doing something silly like preparing lunch too slowly) I get “MUMUMUMUMUMUM” which is close, right?

  9. Loved that Family Guy clip.
    While I do get ‘mama” sometimes, I usually get a lot of “dadas” too. I feel the same way as you do about being the primary caretaker, chef, etc. I think she is also confusing “mommy” with “grandma” and she is calling me “mama” and grandma something like “emma”. Which of course she says a lot too. Sigh.
    Hope it comes ASAP for you!

  10. My son called both my husband and me “Dada” for a long time; I think he thought it was just the word for “grown-up”! And I went through the same thing you are — hey, buddy, I’M the one who’s there all the time, where’s my special love???!?!!? I think I finally heard “Mama” when he was around 15 months old. And truth be told, since that first time he said it, he has never stopped. That Family Guy clip is my life! So don’t worry — Owen knows who you are and soon he will let you know!

  11. Elizabeth McCracken

    My daughter has known Mama and Dada for quite a while… I think since at least a year old. However, it was last week when she FINALLY started PURPOSEFULLY calling me Mama. (And she is now 22 months old). I was Dada for a loooooong time. I knew she knew the difference, but she didn’t want to call me Mama for some reason. So, good luck with that.

    And we started signs at probably like, 6 months. We didn’t push it… we just did More, Please, and All Done. For a long time it was like signing to a brick wall. Then, out of the blue one day, my daughter signed All Done. So, they are learning and paying attention, even if we think they aren’t.

  12. I get “mama” when I’m working on her dinner, bottle, or she’s tired. Only occasionally will she say it other times. She’s for sure a daddy’s girl but I think she knows the difference. For the longest time, she played a game where we would ask her to “say Mama” and she’d just grin, giggle and say “Dada” with enthusiasm. Silly girl. We also started signing around 6-7 months with “more,” “all done,” etc. but I think she’s only really gotten “all done” som far. We work on it some but probably not as much as others. Don’t worry, Owen will get “Mama” soon enought!

  13. Same here. My daughter will be 1 in less than two weeks, and she WILL NOT say Mama. She says “Tessa” (the dog) clear as day, and says “Dada,” and “Bye.” But she will NOT say Mama. Every time I prompt her, she just looks at me and smiles.

    It’s like she’s doing it on purpose. She probably is.

  14. We had the opposite problem – my kids called both of us Mommy for several months. They clearly understood the difference between the two of us, and understood who I was talking about when I said Daddy. But called us both Mommy.
    You want AWFUL? They actually said ELMO before they said Daddy. Swear. To. God. And they didn’t even watch very much TV.

    We also used some sign language right around this age, and it was definitely helpful before the spoken words took off. And because I’m THAT lady, once my kids were reliably signing “more,” I made them sign “more, please” if they wanted something. And “thank you.” Hell yes.

    I also heard that, if you really want them to pick up on sign language, you should teach them some words that they want, in addition to ones they need. So look up the sign for whatever his favorite things are. We had dog, light, cat, ball, that sort of thing. Good times.

  15. Oh lord I feel you! Maya is all about dada, dee-da, daba … anything but mama. It kills me too, but I think it’s just the easiest word for them to say. Luis thinks she is saying it to him, but she calls everything “dada” 😉 When she is crying (which is rare) I hear “muhmuh” but not “mama.” I think we just have to wait for that glorious, all-important word! Good job with the signing though, Owen 🙂

  16. no mom here either! everything is dadda’s! he goes around collecting nick’s things and proclaiming DADDA!! shoes, sunglasses, even nick’s favorite yellow shirt. he carries them around and says dadda. i’m the one that’s here all day everyday.

  17. I’m so glad I’m not alone! Thank you all for these stories — they are hilarious and clearly I’m not the only one struggling with this 🙂

    @Sarah, I think I started signing to Owen around 4 months, when we started solid food. “Milk”, “More” and “All done” were natural for him to learn at that point, and we did some others like “Bathtime” (which hasn’t really stuck, although now he knows the word and runs for the tub when I say it) and “Sleep” (which he does a very cute approximation of by smacking his hand on his eye and cocking his head to one side). Like others have said, it feels totally stupid for several months. He didn’t seem to acknowledge or care what I was doing with my hands. And then all of a sudden he did it back. And he knew what it meant. And we were conversing. It was (and is) awesome.

    @Goddess, I love that idea! Off to Google my next round of sign language. “Please”, “Thank You”, “Mama” (ha!), and “Help” are on the top of that list.

  18. We are in the same boat! His first word was actually “Mama” (at 8 months) and about 2 months after that “Dada” came into play and magically,
    “Mama” has disappeared. Completely. He says all other sounds, but no “Mama”. It breaks my heart. I wait. I have tried to teach him the sign language for it, he giggles and thinks it is the funniest thing in the world. So again, I wait. Impatiently. And I empathize with you.

  19. Kate-my daughter just turned 1 last week and I am not called Mama. (i don’t think she calls me anything!) She actually says other things like uh-oh, down, hi, but no mama. I can get her to say “mmmmmm—aaaa” but not to me! I think it’s just because “M” is a more difficult sound for them. And I love how DOG their 1st word! DOG?? It’s so weird b/c it’s not like we all refer to our dogs as “DOG”. We call them by their name. How do they figure out that it’s a dog?? It’s very interesting how they figure this out. My daughter says dog too, will point to him and say it, and if I ask where’s Mama? I get nothing. oh well, it’ll happen eventually!

    isnt this age the bestest??? It’s by far my favorite and I think 2nd year is going to be so much fun!!!

  20. Yes, I’m only just now regularly being referred to as ‘mum’ and not just ‘ehhhh!’, and Devin is 2 years old!
    ‘Dad’ has been down pat for at LEAST a year, and not just as accidental babble – you’d point and ask who that is, and he’d say ‘dad!’ Point to me, though, and *crickets*.
    I think the only reason he finally started calling me Mum is that he worked out he can get what he wants faster that way. So yep, I’m sure it won’t be long before I’ll be sick of his, ‘Mum, Mum, Mum!’, but for now I’m having fun making a game of it and replying with, ‘Dev, Dev, Dev!’

  21. My son didn’t address me as “Mama” until he was two years old. He called me, and everyone else, “Dada”. Seriously. I felt like chopped liver for the longest time. It will come – don’t fret. And when it comes, it.will.never.stop. 🙂

  22. My son says “mama” and signs it at the same time. Try the sign language! He actually says most of his words as he signs them. More, Dada, Mama, he makes a slurping sound when he signs drink, please, ice, banana, ear, eye, belly button. Of course, they aren’t perfect words, but you can tell he knows how they should be said and what they mean. He’s 14 months – I guess I didn’t realize that he’s doing so well!

  23. A’s three and still occasionally calls me ‘daddy’. I also get informed that I am her “mommy-daddy” and various other such things. It’s interesting to read this post because I always before attributed it to the fact that we’ve got three parents so things might be a little confusing for A. Now I know this might be just a thing that happens. 🙂

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