Monday, June 22, 2009

The Pa Pa Pa problem

The other day, Sonny managed to get his father skip-hoppity happy when he blurted out 'Pa' as the said parent was entering our flat after work.

"Aha, so he recognises me," said Pa, puffing up his chest ever so slightly and casting a pitying glance at Mum.

Strangely, Mum did not seem particularly put out. "Go on, ask him who Sonny thinks he is," she responded. So Pa poked the little fella in the chest and said, "And who are you?"

"Pa!" chirrupped our one-and-two-month old creature enthusiastically, causing a sneaking suspicion to dawn on his father.

"And who's this?," he demanded, pointing at Sonny's grandmother.


Apart from bruising egos, of course, the incident does make us wonder exactly what concept of identity toddlers can possibly possess. Could Sonny believe there is some sort of 'Pa' club to which both he, his father and his grandmother belong (Mum, typically, is addressed as 'Milk' or a garbled 'Mpagh')? If so, where could he have derived that idea? We've spent quite a bit of time pointing at ourselves and trying to attach the appropriate signifiers: Somehow, the signals got crossed.

Actually, it's even more confused than that. A couple of weeks back, Pa was able to get Sonny to thump his chest (that's Pa's chest, not Sonny's) by barking, 'Who's Pa?'. So, to all intents and purposes, he was clearly on the right track to recognition. Even more mysterious is why Mum should have been left out of the big happy 'Pa' club.

Apart from crossing our fingers and hoping the arrow signs get sorted out in his little brain, we're also now waiting to see when Sonny will call himself by his first name. This would seem to be a fairly significant moment, since it would clearly signal a deepening of self-awareness.

He'll probably start working on that knotty issue once he understands that he's not his father.