There’s been a bit of a breakthrough on the “mama” front.
First, let’s take stock of the kid’s cognitive and linguistic development. He’s picking up more words, for starters. He clearly understands the names of meals (he gets excited when he hears them, and makes an “eat” sign), various animal names in both English and Japanese, and some verbs including “give” – if asked to get something and give it to someone, he can complete the whole task without further prompting.
He’s adding more sounds and words to his spoken vocabulary as well. He’s incorporated spoons and other utensils into his “pen” rubric. He can saw “Wow!,” and uses it when discovering things. He learned “poo,” but uses it to describe anything diaper-related (including the diaper itself), which had us confused for a while.
He’s adding more whole (multi-mora) words as well. Earlier most of his words were the “b” sound plus a vowellish garble (“berry” is still something like “büüü”), and the most complicated structure he produced was “mama.” Now he can say “beep!” (learned from a truck storybook one of his uncles gave him) and even, when he’s finished eating, “done.”
Over the winter holiday, he met his extended family and (as expected) referred to both his parents, both his paternal grandparents, and his assembled aunts and uncles and their SOs universally as “mama.” He produced the “pa” sound, but only one at a time. When encouraged to call me “papa,” he gets stubborn and makes a point of saying “mama.” He knows full well what he’s doing, and asserts his chosen titles for us with some energy.
There’s one little episode I forgot to mention last time. It happened over Thanksgiving break; he slept with us in a double bed, between us. One night I woke up in the small hours of the morning to find him awake and sitting up between us. He reached over and touched his mother and said “mama,” as if to himself. Then he reached over and touched me and said “mama” again. He seemed to be confirming or reaffirming something to himself – our identities, perhaps, or our presence, more likely.
Recently there have been cracks in the armor. A couple of times he’s been coaxed into saying “papa,” although as soon as he’s asked to apply the word to me, he realizes what we’re doing and refuses to say anything but “mama.” And just yesterday morning, his mother asked him to give something to me, and he came over and said “papa” as he handed it off! Again, he realized his mistake and clammed up quickly afterward, but we were excited enough about it to, I hope, provide some positive reinforcement. Progress!