New mother Sandra O’Malley knew the excitement of having her first child would eventually wear off. She just didn’t expect what would cause it.
Until three weeks ago, O’Malley, 31, had been happy ever since she had a given birth to her first child, baby girl Amber, six months ago. She excitedly kept track when Amber reached each developmental milestone. That was until Amber started babbling. And she sounded exactly like her paternal grandmother.
“I’m convinced that my baby’s babbling has the same tone and message as when my mother-in-law criticizes me,” said O’Malley. “I really love my girl, so I don’t want her to sound like a passive-aggressive bitch like my mother-in-law.”
The connection between Amber’s babbling and her grandmother’s criticism of her mother didn’t become apparent immediately, however. Like most babies, Amber began by just making individual vowel sounds, entertaining her doting parents with strings of “ah ah ah ah” or “uh uh uh uh.” Eventually she moved on to consonant sounds as well, again impressing her parents by babbling “p-p-p-p” or “t-t-t-t.”
“We loved it when she would smile at us and start ‘talking,’” said Amber’s father, Jim. “But when she started connecting the vowels and consonants together we noticed the same inflections and patterns as my asshole of a mother.”
Sandra agreed with her husband. “The first time we noticed it,” Sandra said, “was when we were cooking dinner and feeding Amber some mashed bananas. She started babbling, but it was different somehow. She looked at us with a smile, but then cooed a string of words with a sickly sweet tone that my mother-in-law uses. I looked at Jim and he looked just as shocked as I.”
Jim picked up the story from there. “I looked at Sandra and asked, ‘She just sounded like my mother, didn’t she? That’s the same fake smile and insincere inflection my mother uses when she criticizes with a compliment.’ I should know: she’s done it all my life.”
“’She did!” Sandra said, continuing. “I think she was upset that we were making mushroom risotto and gave her only bananas. We gave her a little of the risotto, and she babbled something that seemed like she was saying it was half-decent, but anyone could tell I wasn’t Italian and that I’d needed to stir it more.”
Things only got worse after that according to the new parents. Being an at-home parent, Sandra found it more difficult than her husband who gets to escape to the sweet, silent sanctuary of work.
“Not a day goes by that she doesn’t babble something that sounds like the inflection of my mother-in-law. From the temperature of her bottle to how much wine I’m drinking with dinner, she comments on it all. I actually had Jim come home and take over one morning when I could swear that Amber babbled at me, ‘Shouldn’t you have lost that baby weight by now?’ I burst into tears and was afraid I was going to do something I regretted if I didn’t take a break.”
The two parents hold out hope that it is just a stage. They hope that their darling baby will become her own person as she reaches more advanced developmental stages.
“I’ve heard from my friends,” said Sandra, “that when she starts actually saying words, she will start imitating us more. I really hope that is true. We already limit the amount we see my fucking mother-in-law. I really hope I don’t have to listen to this bullshit for the next 18 years.”
For now, the new mother hopes that new stages bring new excitement unrelated to family members’ speech patterns. “I really hope that when Amber starts crawling, we’ll be excited to see the world open to her. Though she did remind me that I need to baby proof this death trap of a house Grandma told us not to buy.”
Jim looks forward to crawling for another reason. “That’s a milestone I can’t wait for her to reach. I hope she is so tired that she just shuts the fuck up for once.”
About the Author
Andrew S. Delfino is a stay-at-home dad of four and a teacher. He’s not afraid to be called a feminist, but does hate being called the babysitter, though. He blogs at Almost Coherent Parent and is also on Facebook and Twitter.