My one-year-old daughter Astrid has spent the past week practising the sound ‘mamama’. I’d love to say this is an acknowledgment of all the hard work I’ve put in during the year, but I know it’s no more aimed at me than when she says ‘dadada’, despite no dad figure in her world.
Many babies make the sound ‘dada’ first. I’m not sure whether in centuries gone by a father heard his baby’s first word and said ‘yes, that is me’, or whether a mother heard the noise and cannily offered encouragement, saying: ‘This is our child’s name for you. Now, please change this loincloth-nappy’.