Le Petit has started to talk.
Or, more precisely, he's started to speak our language, since he's babbled for some time in a language known only to him.*
I'm fairly sure he's started to talk, anyway.
Since he was thirteen months old, he's occasionally referred to my husband as "dada." But there are so many other things designated "dada" and so many other situations when the syllable "da!" was expressed, I wasn't sure if it was a true word.
Then we went on vacation and stayed on a farm with a flock of chickens. "'Cocorico!' says the rooster," we explained, and soon the rooster and the hens were "coco." But just when I was ready to officially designate "coco" a first word, it took on a broader and undefined meaning: all birds were "coco," or all animals, or maybe a selection of seemingly unrelated objects.
Last Wednesday we walked past a butcher shop in town that has a wooden sign with a rooster out front on the sidewalk. Le Petit pointed at it and said "coco!" That's it! I thought. Then, on our way back home, we passed in front of a lamppost. "Coco!" le Petit announced.
If I point at a rooster in a book or a picture of my husband taped to the wall, le Petit will often come up with the right word. But if I ask him to find the "coco" on a page, he points to different animals randomly, or if I ask him to find my husband in a group photo, he stares blankly.
It must be clearer than this, I thought. I waited for that "aha!" moment when I would suddenly know that he was speaking for real.
Meanwhile, le Petit became fascinated with a couple of carved wooden crocodiles at my in-law's apartment. Whenever we visit, he runs up to the shelf where they are displayed and demands to see them with a "Croco!" (It sounds an awful lot like "coco" to me, but I've no mastery of the subtle French "R".)
Recently le Petit and I examined a drawing of a family eating dinner in one of his bedtime storybooks.
"Baby," I indicated the elements of the picture with my index finger. "Mommy. Daddy. Food. Table." I then asked him to find them. "Where's the baby? Where's Mommy? Where's Daddy?"
He hesistated until the last question, when he pointed not at the book but out his bedroom door to the hallway where my husband had just disappeared.
"Dada!" he said, pleased with himself.
"That's right, Daddy!"
I guess that counts, doesn't it?
* His "best friend," the other baby who shares his nanny, seems to understand le Petit perfectly well. I've observed them babbling together and it looks for all the world like a real conversation. If only I had the Baby Rosetta Stone.