Betting on the Underdog: Big Brother’s First Word

When you have a baby, Firsts are a big thing. Everyone talks about them. The first time Baby smiles, rolls over, sits up, gets a tooth, crawls, stands, walks, runs, goes to school, has a sleepover, breaks a bone… Alright, not that one so much. But Firsts are a big deal.

When Big Brother was born, Husband and I were like any other parents — eager to be there for all out baby’s Firsts. There was one First that was particularly important to me, and that was his First Word. Husband and I placed bets on whether it would be Mama or Dada, and waited…

And waited…

And waited…

Then we checked out some websites and baby books. Okay, seven months might be a bit early. Apparently it was likely to be around 8 months. Maybe 10 months, because boys tend to be a bit slower than girls. So we waited…

And waited…

And waited…

By the time he was 10 months old, he could communicate incredibly well. Even complete strangers could understand him. The trouble was, he still wasn’t speaking. But when it came to hand gestures, nodding, shaking his head, and facial expressions, he was great. Words were bound to be just around the corner.  So we waited…

And waited…

And waited…

By the time he turned 1, he still wasn’t talking. People were starting to comment on it. We were getting suggestions that there might be something wrong. And while I didn’t think that was true, I was starting to get concerned. There was no Mama or Dada. I had a dream that his first word was photosynthesis. Clearly Big Brother’s lack of talking was weighing heavily on my mind.

Let me go back here and explain that Big Brother was never a particularly vocal child. When he cried (which was hardly ever), it wasn’t the air-raid siren of most babies. It was a quiet, questioning call for assistance. He didn’t  do the goo-goo, ga-ga chattering that most babies do. When we “practiced” making consonant sounds, he just stared at me like I was an idiot while I said, “M-M-M-M-M! D-D-D-D-D-D!” He just wasn’t interesting in making noise. He was more interested in watching and listening.

“It’s just a matter of time,” we’d say. “He’ll talk eventually.”

I talked to Big Brother constantly from the time he was born. I sang him songs. I told him stories. I pointed out everything around us, and said the name of everyday objects. And he watched me, looked at those objects, smiled, and took it all in. But he never said anything.

When Big Brother was 14 months old, I had a dream that he still wasn’t talking when it was time for him to start school. I was frantically trying to explain to his new teacher that “he’s really clever, and he’ll talk eventually,” but it wasn’t working. I woke up more worried than ever, and started to wonder if maybe we did need to take him to some kind of expert.

Later that day, I took Big Brother grocery shopping. As always, I sat him in the front of the trolley and talked/sang to him while we shopped. We were in the dairy aisle and I had stopped talking to consult my list when all of a sudden Big Brother made a noise. I looked up at him. “What did you say?” I asked.


I looked around. Sure enough, we were stopped next to the cheese. I looked back at Big Brother in surprise. “Cheese?” I asked.

“Cheese!” he exclaimed, pointing at the cheese.

“Cheese!” I repeated, grabbing hold of his hands and jumping up and down. “Cheese!”

“Cheese!” said Big Brother, pulling his hand out of mine and pointing into the fridge.

I did what any mother would do at that point. I pulled out my phone and called Husband.


“He said cheese!”

“He what?”

“He said cheese! Listen, I’ll get him to do it again. Big Brother, say cheese.”


“Cheese?” I prompted.


Big Brother stared at me like I’d gone insane. I possibly had. I said into the phone, “I promise. He really did say cheese.” We said our goodbyes, and I hung up the phone feeling like an idiot.

“Cheese!” said Big Brother.

“Cheese!” I repeated, my good mood instantly back. I started to push the trolley and Big Brother shook his head emphatically. “Cheese!” he said pointing.

“Oh. Do you want to buy some cheese?”

He nodded. “Cheese!”

Right. Cheese it is. I grabbed some cheese and put it in the trolley. Then I started to move again.

Big Brother shook his head. “Cheese!” he said, pointing.

“More cheese?”

He nodded.

“Right! More cheese!”

I went home with 5 blocks of cheese that day.


Filed under Life With Kids

12 responses to “Betting on the Underdog: Big Brother’s First Word

  1. Love it Jo (my little man is obsessed with cheese too!) My Son also didn’t talk for ages – although he did do the Mum and Dad thing he really didn’t communicate verbally at all until a few months ago (which would make him about 2 1/2) when suddenly he broke into completely formed sentences and he suprises me with a new word that he knows everyday now (todays was ‘Dreadful’ which is apparently the current state of his toothbrush!)

    • Apparently boys have a tendency to be slower than girls when it comes to talking, but it’s still kind of nerve-wracking, isn’t it? I’m glad to hear your son is now delighting you with his new words. Big Brother now talks so much, he barely pauses for a breath.

  2. Cheese is a fabulous first word and one of my favourite foods too! My two were very early talkers both well before the age of one but my two were both very late walkers. I can remember the ten month old next door walking and my one year old son didn’t even crawled at the time. Then he just up and walked one day around 14 months. Magic!

  3. That is so sweet! I was on the edge of my seat, hoping you’d buy the cheese. 🙂

  4. If only his first word had been ‘chocolate’ or ‘wine’ or even ‘french bread with melted butter.’

  5. As a father of a just-over-1-year-old… I totally felt for this. Dear little B.T. has more words than this, but most of them are very basic versions of actual words, and sometimes bear very little resemblance to the word he’s trying to say…

    • Thanks, I’m glad you could relate. 🙂 Those early days, all you want is to hear your little one talk, isn’t it? Once the words start coming, it doesn’t seem to take long before you’re asking for “just five minutes of peace and quiet”, though.

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