b Papa Dog's Blog: The Evolution of "Daddy"

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Evolution of "Daddy"

Mama Dog and I started trying to conceive back before we were even married. We used to have a joke about how we’d be able to call our child a little bastard and mean it in a strictly technical sense.* I used to play an imaginary scene from our future parental endeavours. Doing my best Foster Brooks (which isn’t very good – get Bernardo to do it instead), I’d say to our imaginary child, “Get Daddy a martini, y’ li’l bastard! And don’t skimp on the olives!”

When we got Doggy Dog, we made little effort to disguise his standing as a surrogate child. When speaking to him, we referred to one another as “Mummy” and “Daddy.” “Go see Mummy, Doggy Dog.” “It’s time for Daddy to take you for a walk.” It quickly became second nature to talk to him that way, but there was always a touch of ironic distance. The quotation marks never left “Mummy” and “Daddy.”

When at last our chances of pregnancy passed from the theoretical to the actual, we made some shy effort at removing the quotation marks. From time to time, I would address Mama Dog’s belly. “Hey, (Baby Dog), it’s Daddy,” I’d say. It seemed weird to be speaking to a belly, but weirder still to be referring to myself as “Daddy” to someone of my own species.

When Baby Dog was born, the first words addressed to her were spoken by me, and they were, naturally, “Hey, (Baby Dog), it’s Daddy.” We had read in all the books that you’re supposed to refer to yourself in the third person to reinforce your identity, pronouns being a touch too abstract for the developing mind. We inculcated the habit, trying to remember to narrate our actions to help develop her grasp of language. “Daddy’s going to put your diaper on now. Okay, now Daddy’s going to snap your onesie back up.”

What could never quite be achieved with the dog was quickly realised with the child. We referred to one another and to ourselves as “Mummy” and “Daddy,” and we misplaced the quotation marks. We had acquired an extra set of names. We were Mummy and Daddy.

Nowadays, one of Baby Dog’s favourite games is to call out in her throaty roar, “Da-DEEEEEEE!” I respond, “Bay-BEEEEEEE!**” She grins and replies, “Da-DEEEEEEE!” and I give it another, “Bay-BEEEEEEE!” and so on we go back and forth until some other matter of interest arises to distract her. In fact, I could happily continue with it indefinitely. She’s far more likely to lose interest.

Today at work, I had kind of a busy morning. I’d had one more cup of tea than usual and a pressing deadline was keeping me from a sorely needed bathroom break. When I was finally at a point where I could stop, I thought, “Okay, Daddy’s going to go to the bathroom now.” It was a few seconds before I realised that I’d done that – thought of myself in the first person, as “Daddy” sans quotes, entirely without affect or disingenuousness. I realised that at some point I had crossed a Rubicon or had perhaps (to muddle my allusive metaphors) become some sort of Daddy Kurtz, cut loose from the conventional rules of address I had always known. It seemed I could now call anyone anything and mean it. I haven’t yet said to a co-worker, “Okay, Daddy’ll have that for you by close of business.” But it’s coming. I can feel it.
*Kind of a family tradition there. One time after I made some smartass comment, my Mom said, “Oh, you little son of a bitch!” That left me in a filial quandary, of course; would it be more disrespectful to agree with her or to argue?
**Actually, I say the two-syllable diminutive of her given name, but I’m not going to type it here.


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