It started off simple enough. Stephen sitting on my lap, facing me as I laid back on the couch. Playing, having fun.

If you know anything about the goings-on in this house, you know that Stephen is turning into a very late talker. He’s nearly 17 months and he hasn’t said his first word. For “Dada,” he says “aaah-Da” most of the time, but there’s no consistency at all. He can say “mamamama” but he can’t say “Mama.” So anyway, we were on the couch and I just said “Stephen, say Mama.” Now, I wasn’t expecting him to say it correctly.. I just wanted him to say “rahrah” or “mamamama” like he usually does, about 50 times a day.

So, he refused to even try.. at first he was being cute and trying to escape, a smirk on his face the entire time. I just kept asking him to say “Mama” and he was getting more and more angry. Five minutes later, he was a crying, snotty mess trying to escape from my lap. I know for a fact that he knew what I was saying and that he can easily attempt to say “Mama.” In other words, I was certain that I was not being mean or asking too much of him.

At some point, I decided that it was time for Stephen to learn that his dad is stubborn, especially when he’s making reasonable requests. So we did this for fifteen minutes. By then his whole head/face was red, his hair was soaked with sweat, and he had collapsed onto my chest and was catching his breath. When I would say “Stephen, can you say mama?” he would whimper a little, but he was completely drained of energy.

After another five minutes, he was my best friend again. He attempted to say “mama” with a smile, and I let him down and gave him some milk. I’d like to think I was doing the right thing (being firm and following through while remaining calm), but sometimes it feels like I’m just asserting my dominance for no reason.

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