The youngest Randall has hit 8 months old and is cruising toward 9 with unabated haste. This has been a huge month in Hadley’s development. Huge. Her bottom front teeth have poked their way through, her mother has been looking into places at Hogwarts, and she has managed to say her very first word! Like hitting 2nd base for the first time, the floodgates are about to open. I still remember the day her sister said her first word, how special the occasion was, how it felt to see our little human growing before our very eyes, but mainly because she hasn’t been quiet since. We’re still a long way from holding a conversation regarding the economic and political consequences that have rocked Venezuela since the 2013 election of Nicolás Maduro and the heavy fall in oil prices, but she’s getting there.

Despite the other milestones that Hadley has met, this is one that I hold close to my heart. One that I cherish in particular. It warms the soul to hear those two little syllables, as I’m sure any parent will agree.

“Dada”

Though, I do feel like I’ve cheated my wife somehow. Like we’ve been partnered for a school project and I’ve let her shoulder the workload for the group, before jumping in at the last minute to steal the credit. Then again, I was always told to play to my strengths.

For weeks, Hadley has been cheerfully babbling to herself in a language that only she can understand, smiling infectiously and investigating everything with her mouth like a drunk teen at a house party. It’s been a joy to witness her reaction to me during our regular video chats. I don’t know if she recognises who I am or if it’s simply the bright colours, but one cheerful “dada” has all my doubts quashed in an instant. I know that my wife has had a huge role to play in this new step forward, and although it’s a natural step, I can’t help but feel that she’s given me a wonderful gift. She has been happily repeating “dada” to our daughter at every given opportunity, with often little to show in return apart from an abundance of cuteness. And yet it is her perseverance that has paid dividends in the end, something for which I am truly grateful.

Every conversation starts with the first word, and every journey starts with the first step. All these firsts will come in Hadley’s life and only she can choose when. With one box ticked, I look forward to all the magical words and phrases that she will pick up in the coming years, and sharing them with everyone here. After all, children do say the funniest things.

Until then, I will happily listen to my daughter repeat “Dada” over and over until my heart’s content, for there truly is no better feeling.

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